To be or not to be…. the question of the ages has been answered–by Facebook. The social network is dropping the word “is” from that status bar, making you not “to be” anymore. Now before you have an existential dilemma, realize that you can always add “is” when you fill out your status (i.e. “is reading PSFK”). The change came after a group called “Petition to Get Rid of “is” from Facebook Status Update” caught their attention when it amassed over 170,000 members. We bet there was a good deal of cross-pollination with the group “I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar.” Members were likely having meltdowns when statuses like “Allison is is happy” or “Piers is hates his iPhone” popped up in their newsfeeds. Now the grammarians have prevailed!
Facebook groups are the perfect medium for “Crowd Clout” wherein buyers, not sellers, are calling the shots. Some sites like Eventful, Sellaband and Threadless are built on this principle. You want Ron Paul to speak at your school? Want a band to get signed? Want that t-shirt with a punked out rooster? You got it (if enough other people do to). In China, there is the tuangou (‘team purchase’) phenomenon, which adds a flashmob layer to crowd commerce. Sites like TeamBuy, Taobao and Liba let people organize online around a certain product or service, then descend on the retailer at a given time to negotiate a group discount.
This concept was pioneered by sites like moveon.org and is finding its groove in Facebook. Its audience wants to beef up their profiles with their personal causes and interests. Meanwhile, these beliefs are affecting real change (beyond points of grammar). Cadbury recently brought back its Wispa candy bar thanks to a facebook group, for example.
Indeed, companies that are successful listen to the wisdom of crowds. This is a working business model for many a web start-ups: They ask their users what they want, then build it. What better formula is there? More traditional companies are catching on, relying more on customer feedback to build better products (instead of just playing defense against the bad ones). They are even using new product review engines like Relevant Mind and PowerReviews to aggregate these online opinions (check out this recent article in the New York Times on the topic).
Now if only a Facebook group could get Stephen Colbert on the ballot.