Social Media Integration: Look Before You Leap
by Linda Goin

Over the past few weeks, you may have noticed how far Facebook has gone in integrating with other platforms across the Web. LinkedIn , reportedly, is following suit. What do you do when total integration becomes available between businesses and social networks? This article looks at how some social media integration could cause problems for business owners – the advantage, however, is that you can look before you leap.

Facebook Connect

In a previous article, I made mention of using Facebook as a personal site where you can connect with friends. After all, you need one safe place to hide away and just be yourself, right? Facebook has provided that privacy and security (if you applied their privacy and security features) for many people.

But, with the addition of Facebook Pages for business, Facebook began to reach out to a more professional crowd that wanted to go public with their Facebook updates, photos and more. Now, Facebook has reached out to developers and to other Web applications and venues to help spread the Facebook brand across the Web through Facebook Connect.

Facebook Connect states in their opening page, "Facebook Connect is a powerful set of APIs for developers that lets users bring their identity and connections everywhere."

In some cases, you may find yourself caught in a dilemma about whether to go totally public or to avoid using some apps simply to remain incognito. In other cases, you may ponder whether to build a brand based upon using Facebook Connect. In all cases, you may wonder whether you really need to tie into Facebook or whether to wait to see how this blend of businesses and Facebook really pertains to a solid branding idea.

My suggestion is to wait for Facebook to iron out some of the wrinkles, but read further and then make your own decision...

Facebook and Huffington Post

I've used Huffington Post (HP) several times here at DMXZone as an example of an aggregated news site. Now, the liberal HP has aligned itself with Facebook in a rare partnership called "HuffPost Social News."

This site aggregates HP even further by pulling together news stories that Facebook friends have recommended or commented upon while reading through the regular news site. In the process, it also shares a given user's Facebook profile picture with a link back to that user's page when sharing comments.

Was this partnership a good idea for HP? Was it a good idea for Facebook? Was this partnership, above all, good for users? According to Cnet News:

This use of Facebook Connect is unusual because Facebook typically does not undertake many official partnerships with third-party sites when it comes to its developer APIs. And this particular partnership may come under some scrutiny: The Huffington Post, which began as a political news site and has since expanded into many other areas of coverage, is controversial – not only in terms of its partisan leanings (it was co-founded by left-of-center pundit Arianna Huffington) but because the majority of its bloggers are unpaid and because some critics have argued it relies too heavily on third-party content that it doesn't always pay for.

This concept, according to Cnet, is similar to TimesPeople, a social network that The New York Times launched last year:

I agree that the concept is similar – and, therefore worrisome to businesses – for two reasons:

1.Both HP and the Times have political leanings (I firmly believe, after working in the newspaper business for several decades, that no news coverage is totally unbiased);

2.Both venues may prove to be largely unwieldy and, therefore, ineffective.

Fortunately for other business owners who are new to Facebook Pages and other social networking sites, Facebook has jumped into a liaison with HP that is at once seemingly politically motivated and, in addition, a move that appears to make journalism seem less important than reports from people "on the street." According to Facebooks COO, Sheryl Sandberg:

"The Huffington Post has led a revolution in how people discover and consume news. With the integration of Facebook Connect, HuffPost Social News is now leading the way to make news even more of a social experience, giving people new ways to share and filter news and current events through their networks of friends on Facebook."

The warning bells should be going off in your head right now. First, what if you despise the Huffington Post for their political stance? Secondly, what if your market does not agree with the Huffington Post? Are you going to visit HP and comment?

Even if you align your idealism with HP and you want to appeal to people with that same ideology, do you want to brand yourself and your business with both Facebook and with HP?

This is one issue that's on the table – whether or not to comment on HP stories (whether you agree with them or not) using your Facebook identity. If you can answer the questions immediately above, then you have your answer.

Linda Goin

Linda GoinLinda Goin carries an A.A. in graphic design, a B.F.A. in visual communications with a minor in business and marketing and an M.A. in American History with a minor in the Reformation. While the latter degree doesn't seem to fit with the first two educational experiences, Linda used her 25-year design expertise on archaeological digs and in the study of material culture. Now she uses her education and experiences in social media experiments.

Accolades for her work include fifteen first-place Colorado Press Association awards, numerous fine art and graphic design awards, and interviews about content development with The Wall St. Journal, Chicago Tribune, Psychology Today, and L.A. Times.

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