It is quickly becoming apparent that Facebook has more uses than previously thought possible. Companies are so smitten with this new social platform that they are centering advertising campaigns on driving consumers to their corporate Facebook pages. Dissatisfied populaces are using it to express political sentiments, rally citizens to their cause, and stage protests. And it may also become the focal point in negotiations for the liberalization of Chinese censorship.
The American government has always taken issue with Chinese limitations on freedom of speech. The Chinese government has erected hefty firewalls that block non-approved sites, information and content. The US government has protested this as a violation of human rights, but never taken a strong stance on the issue.
The Chinese government’s Internet censorship is now impacting on the American economy, the US has serious beef with that. This BusinessWeek article,
“China’s Facebook Syndrome” by Brendan Greenley and Mark Drajem, points out that Internet users in China represent the largest online market in the world, yet companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter are denied access to more than 400 million users. They ask how is this ban different than having American products stopped at the border by customs officials? Internet based companies are quickly becoming the life’s blood of the global economy, and inhibiting US companies from expanding into Chinese markets puts a serious crimp in domestic growth objectives. The US has historically fought for domestic producers, and it is likely that it will continue to fight for domestic service providers to have access to foreign markets in the future.
While Facebook may or may not play a prominent role in future diplomatic discussions is not the most interesting take away from this article. Rather, it is that products or services that are designed to encourage the consumer to innovate with the product can be put to unexpected uses and lead to extraordinary results. Facebook is one of many companies that use this concept to effectively leverage the wisdom of crowds and put product innovation in the hands of millions of people. It does not tell users the limitations of the product, rather empowers the individual’s innovation, leading to unexpected results.
Facebook is willing to experiment based user’s feedback, prompt to remove changes users don’t like, and will continue to adapt into the future. For example, perhaps companies will stop using their pages as extensions of their corporate websites, instead using Facebook as a means to connect to socially involved consumers. Perhaps Facebook will start up a Groupon-like structure for the corporate pages, and allow followers of a company to see and purchase exclusive deals. Whatever Facebook ends up doing, innovative users around the world will find uses for the new adaptations, and in turn continue to create global changes that were previously unattainable.