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TechnologyOct 31, 2012

The Real Facebook Killer

Tim Sporcic

Imagine you are the owner of a wildly popular local sports team. You have your official website, but you also have a Facebook page to share information with loyal fans. Being wildly popular, you soon get over two million “Likes.” You now have a way to instantly share updates with two millions fans and engage in real social dialog. At least you thought you did. You see, Facebook has pulled a nasty bait-and-switch, which has left a lot of people dismayed.

The short story is that Facebook now expects you to pay to communicate with your fans. Using the example above, that owner is Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and the extortion by Facebook is very real. Facebook has decided to make their money by charging people to communicate with their fans. There is a great write-up available on Dangerous Minds.net. It now costs real money to ensure your wall updates get seen by all the people who “Liked” you. Facebook is using some voodoo algorithms to only share updates with a limited group of your followers that it selects. If you want to communicate with all fans, it will cost you. In Cuban’s case, he would have to pay over $4,000 for a single wall update to be broadcast to all the Dallas Maverick fans that follow the team on Facebook.

While this kind of self-inflicted wound will certainly contribute to Facebook’s downfall, I believe the real Facebook killer will be another piece of widely available technology: WordPress.

WordPress has been the underdog of the software world. It powers millions of sites worldwide, including numerous Fortune 500 sites. So, how does a simple blogging software package kill Facebook? The answer, WordPress is not just a blogging engine. Rather, it is a content publishing powerhouse with an enormous developer ecosystem that has extended the WordPress core to handle nearly any task imaginable.

If I were Cuban or any other business user being extorted by Facebook, I would start asking myself if there are better options for communicating with my fans. Cuban mentions Tumblr and MySpace, but I suspect both will have their own host of issues and hidden surprises. Controlling your own destiny is the best way to ensure success.

Branding is obviously important, so Cuban needs a technology platform that can perfectly match the high-energy feel of the Dallas Mavericks. WordPress is easily themeable with thousands of free themes available and also top-rate professional themes, such as Theme Foundry, WooThemes or Standard Theme, on which to base a completely custom site. There are also highly skilled designers building WordPress sites that knock peoples’ socks off. Credera’s User Experience Practice does it every day.

Community is critical too. WordPress is a content management engine at the heart, so it natively supports the concepts of posts and comments. Via the BuddyPress plug-in, WordPress can be transformed into a complete social media platform. Event management can even be added with great plug-ins like EventEspresso or Eventbrite.

Maybe you also want to sell T-shirts, stickers, or other swag. No problem. WordPress has a host of eCommerce plugins with payment integration such as WooCommerce or Jigoshop.

To make sure the new site makes it to the top of search engine rankings, you need to pay attention to SEO. WordPress makes that easy, too, with plug-ins like Yoast SEO or the All-in-One SEO Pack. You can also easily share with other social media channels via plugins like the Social Media Toolkit.

The real killer behind WordPress is something that has been baked into the core: RSS, which is for syndication of site content in a standard XML format. Users have typically subscribed to content via Google Reader or other RSS readers. However, the application that really puts RSS on the map is Flipboard. This is now the most used application on my iPad and is essentially an RSS feed viewer. An optimized RSS feed coming from the Mavericks’ WordPress blog into a Flipboard channel would be fan heaven.

Depending on Facebook to control your brand and the communication channel to your fans is not an ideal situation. Brands need to start taking control of their destiny. WordPress offers all the tools available for a compelling brand experience that will allow you to have a conversation with your customers or fans, and do much more. If you have quality content to go along with your brand, there is no reason you need Facebook to be successful.

If you have questions about WordPress or anything related to social media, contact Credera or check out other topics on our blog.

update

For the sake of accuracy, and to be fair to Facebook, I need to correct one inaccuracy. In the Facebook timeline, up at the top, you can make a selection for how to display the timeline. If a person’s timeline is set to sort by Top Stories, which is the default, than the above scenario applies. Business pay extra to have their status updates show up on the Top Stories filtering. If a Facebook has instead set their timeline to sort by Most Recent, they will always see the updates of every person or entity they have “Liked” on Facebook.