How Facebook Built A Competitive Advantage While Blocking Google

Author: Gab Goldenberg

Yesterday, I described what I saw as a trend towards content communities becoming commodified. We ended on the question – how do you build a competitive advantage in such a case?

One idea that comes to mind courtesy of both Inc magazine’s article on Yelp, and from Kyle Lacy is to organize offline meetups.

Make your community more than virtual – get your users to meet offline.

The closer the bond offline, the more they’ll frequent the site online.

As it is, the thing that brings people back to forums, Twitter, Facebook etc is the interaction with other members.

Domainers anxiously wait to hear whether their private message about selling a particular domain name got a favourable answer.

Hip-hop “textcees” (instead of being ’emcees’, textcees write rap battles in text; yours truly was one in high school) can’t wait to see how judges voted on their battle against other textcees.

Facebook is a particularly potent community in this respect.

Facebook members can’t wait to get comments on their pics – and it offers users plenty of ways to interact, like pic, wall, and other comments. The interaction itself is a mini-high.

This also plays on another universal trait – humans love attention, and what better way to get it than posting interesting pictures, videos, status updates, notes etc? Indeed – one thing that you see Yelp has done, as described in Inc, is to have certain members of the community go around giving encouragement to other members for their contributions to Yelp, giving positive attention to their reviews, pics etc.

Facebook does still more to draw people into its community.

…It taps pre-existing offline communities. This started by having people only join from American colleges, who then were their ‘network.’

Facebook developed the concept by allowing people to show their attachment to communities of various religious, political, social, work and other affiliations, and has recently reinforced that with the introduction of ‘fanning’ .

And as with forums, Facebook enables direct messaging such that you can’t wait to hear back from that cute girl you messaged after meeting her at your friend’s party.

Another thing that largely explained Facebook’s meteoric rise was that it adapted a dating site’s people search function. You could look for people – in your network (college / and later city) – by marital status, sxual orientation, age (I think) religion, relationship interest (serious dating, casual dating, flings, friendship and the pathetic-sounding “whatever I can get”).

Wanted a Roman Catholic from Ohio State University in Cincinnati who wanted a fling? Well, you’d obviously fail since Catholics never have sx before marriage, but you might find one interested in casual dating. 😉

(I’m not picking on Roman Catholics – I could just as easily say the same about Muslims, orthodox Jews etc.)


– Offer multiple ways to interact and communicate.

– Enable and encourage behaviour that draws attention. Give attention yourself.

– Facilitate and help offline meetings.

– Allow people to identify with large (city / college) groups they belong to and narrower groups too (fans of Rick’s driving school, a real self-organized group that Rick didn’t start but just reflects his numerous satisfied students’ affection).

– Toss sx into the mix.

This post was guest-written by Mark for Red Fly Marketing, an Dublin internet marketing company providing search engine optimisation services in Dublin and web design, too.

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  1. You make some very interesting points. How do you get people to meet offline, though, while also making them feel secure?

    Comment by Anthony - February 5, 2010 @ 4:36pm
  2. Facebook is taking over the world. In a good way though. Great job of dissecting all the areas of Facebook. What do you think will be next?

    Comment by Laura - September 23, 2011 @ 1:42pm
  3. Yes but in the long run, Google will be the dominant player in the market. facebook will be with us for am long long time. But if I were a betting man, Google baby all the way.

    Comment by Ross Canning - August 2, 2012 @ 4:14pm

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