Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an interesting article about Facebook's F8 Development Platform. Facebook has been praised for opening up their API to third party developers, something that it's largest competitor, MySpace, has not offered.
Blue Nile Diamonds, one of the top online retailers of 2006, is one of the first etailers to take advantage of Facebook's open API. The Blue Nile Wish List has just over 400 users to date in just one week.
How it Works
First you'll need to add the Blue Nile Wish List to your Facebook applications. Logged in Facebook users can access it here.
Then sign up for an account with Blue Nile (if you don't already have one), and make sure you use the same email address as your Facebook account or you'll have to sign up twice. Then just browse the site, and when you see products you like, add them to your wishlist. When you're done browsing, with one click your wishlist syncs to your Facebook profile, visible to your network, and your friends may see it in their newsfeed.
And this is how it appears in your profile:
This type of application is great branding for Blue Nile, and shows the potential of brand evangelism and the evolution of word of mouth marketing.
The Evolution of Word of Mouth
Word of mouth used to work like this:
Jill buys a watch. Jill wears watch and bumps into Jane at a party. Jane notices watch and raves, asks Jill where she got the watch. Jill says "I bought it at Blue Nile, in Los Angeles." Jane is a bit disappointed that there is no Blue Nile in Seattle, and she's not headed for LA anytime soon.
Jill buys a watch. Jill wears watch and Jill bumps into Jane at a party. Jane notices the watch and raves, asks her where she got the watch. Jill says "I got it on Blue Nile's website." Jane goes home and Google's Blue Nile, then browses thru eons of watches. She can't find the watch that she admired on her friend, but finds something similar and is somewhat satisfied.
Jill likes a watch on Blue Nile's website. Jill likes the watch and hopes "someone" will buy it for her (hint, hint, boyfriend Joe). Jill adds to her Blue Nile wishlist, and posts it on Facebook. Boyfriend Joe receives notification that Jill posted a wishlist to her profile. Joe visits Jill's profile, sees the watch and thinks "oh crap, $500." Boyfriend Joe, remembering the look of disappointment after the Valentine's gift, does not want to go through that again, and buys the watch. Ex-college-volleyball-teammate-now-living-3,000-miles-away-Jane browses Jill's profile and see's her wishlist, loves the watch, and orders one for herself through a direct link from Jill's Facebook profile. Without even making a purchase, Jill has influenced two others to buy a product from Blue Nile.
Essentially what Blue Nile is doing is it's allowing users to create customized advertising for Blue Nile as a form of self expression (or hinting), and passively broadcasting it to their personal network. A reall-time conversation is no longer necessary, creating many more opportunities for exposure. And because Facebook users are actively engaged when browsing friends' profiles, this is far more effective marketing than banner ads, which generally users are conditioned to ignore.
The Right Target Market
At first I wondered if Facebook was the right demographic for luxury goods -- high school and college students? Well, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg's F8 keynote presentation, the fastest growing Facebook demographic is 25 and older, and currently 60% of its users are outside of college. College/high school graduation is also a great opportunity for gift-giving. And this is the age where many are getting engaged and married. In the last 3 months that I have been using Facebook, I have seen at least 3 friends' relationship status move from "in a relationship" to "married," including EP's own Jason Billingsley.
The F8 Platform is a great opportunity for any online retailer, but of course it works best for etailers with the resources to do so. I'm excited to see what other applications beside social wishlisting will pop up in the days ahead. Social bookmarking sites Ma.gnolia and Del.icio.us have already built apps for Facebook. I predict social shopping bookmark sites like ThisNext, Kaboodle and Wists will follow suit very soon.