Facebook: Moving into Business Directory Territory

March 5, 2009

I saw “Facebook Creates New Profiles for Public Figures and Organizations” by Nicholas Kolakowski here. The write up struck me as important and indicative of a content processing opportunity. Facebook.com is one of the two online services that have managed to defy Googzilla. The other is the leader in real time search, Twitter.com. Facebook, according to the eWeek story:

Facebook announced on March 4 the launch of new profiles for public figures and organizations. These profile pages might belong to a large company or famous politician, but nonetheless will function like the “regular” user pages already present on the site. These new profiles will let their administrators post status updates, videos, and photos, as well as provide information via a real-time news feed to users.

When I read this passage, I thought business directory. The “old” Hoover’s pointed toward a new, more useful type of business directory. Dun & Bradstreet (quite a url the dnb.com moniker) dominates this sector. Hoover’s disappeared into the D&B combine and its usefulness has deteriorated. The void has not been filled on a large scale. The eWeek story sparked the thought in my addled goose brain that Facebook.com organization pages could revivify the business directory business.

Why? Three reasons:

  1. User generated content plus content generated by the system (in this case Facebook.com) may provide a nice mix of subjective and objective information, particularly for publicly traded companies.
  2. The possibility of linking Facebook.com users to a particular organization is a potentially useful tool for text mining and relationship analysis.
  3. The updating problems of the traditional business directory companies could be eliminated. Facebook.com’s could update pages in near real time. A Twitter like function for news about an organization would be a boon to researchers, analysts, job hunters, and law enforcement.

What will Facebook.com do? People are now worrying about what Google would do a decade after the company began its run? A 20 something might want to ask the question about Facebook.com-like outfits. And D&B? I am not sure the company is aware of Facebook-like companies and their potential in business directory information. My hunch is that a Facebook-like business directory could erode traditional business directory revenues. Maybe I’m off base, so set me straight.

Stephen Arnold, March 5, 2009


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