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What is Facebook worth to you?

I’ve followed the breathless tracking of Facebook’s valuation for several years now. Part of this inane banter has been around various attempts to place a dollar amount on individual Facebook fans. With last week’s IPO dominating the mainstream news, and the hit the stock price took the last two days, the question of whether Facebook is worth $100 billion is one that many are still debating.

Rather than debate this, the question to ask is what is Facebook worth to you?

I would argue that for most, it has not much, if anything, to do with “personalized” ads or sponsored stories from brands. It is based on what has made Facebook a part of daily life for almost a billion people. I bet it is along the lines of what it is worth to me.

Lifetime friend connections. I’ve always been a person that at any given time has no more than 20 people that I consider “close” friends — folks that I socialize with face to face on a regular basis, as well as online. Many come and go based on where life takes me professionally and personally. But I’ve made friends with hundreds of people going back to school age and high school. I lost complete touch with many of them to the point where I didn’t even know where they lived or their phone number or e-mail address. It just happens. Facebook helped me reconnect with those friends and it’s now the way that I can see and hear what their lives are all about and vice versa.

My life event reminders. I posted the following update last week in a half-joking way because of the debate about the valuation. At the same time, it’s entirely true. Forgetting birthday’s and anniversary’s always has been a major flaw of mine, something I’m not proud of. Not anymore. It’s nice being able to show someone you’re thinking of him or her. Yeah, it’s probably better to send a card, but I feel good when I get the flood of timeline posts on my birthday from people from all corners of my life.

A support network. This is a matter of preference for anyone, but I regularly see my friends deciding to post something when they’ve lost a loved one or are dealing with a family crisis. Examples include a friend and former work colleague last year whose daughter ran away and subsequently went missing in NYC. His first post about that led to an explosion of viral support that was instrumental in generating local television news coverage, which led to a tip to the police that allowed her to be found. Or a friend last week that decided that it was time to let his network know that he is getting a divorce. The outpouring of support was tremendous and he later posted how much it will help him.

A travel log. One of the best parts of vacations has been to show pictures to family and friends and relive it upon your return. Sharing them in real time is even better. (It’s just unfortunate that there are bad guys out there that take advantage of this.) As I love to travel, experiencing a friend’s vacation virtually is the best way to learn about new places to go, better than any travel book or TV show.

A cure for loneliness. Some have posed the question of whether Facebook makes us feel lonely, or contributes to the decline of the art of conversation. These are good questions and very debatable, but for me the answer to both is no. For example, I travel a good deal for business. I enjoy the comeraderie of professional networking and working with clients and colleagues, but being away from my family and close friends back home makes me feel lonely. Facebook is a perfect antidote for this.

As for the art of conversation, much of this is around how interesting you are and the quality of the interaction. You have better conversations when you are talking to someone who is interesting, when you have interesting things to share AND when you take the time to comment on what others share versus just posting, posting, posting. The same is true on Facebook — I am inclined to like and comment on posts from friends that share something interesting or witty that makes me
think and challenges.

It’s very hard, if not impossible, to put a dollar value on all of this. At the same time, if you are involved with brand marketing through it’s very useful to think about the value of your personal Facebook experience and factor this into your brand page’s Facebook content and engagement strategy. For example, I thought it was very cool to see my local insurance agency share a link to coverage that one of its clients received on the Today Show this morning. Celebrating a great achievement for a client is a terrific way to build client goodwill and loyalty.

What is Facebook worth to you?

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