Again, my blog entry for this week is inspired by Tony’s blog of last. He raised the question, ‘why are all new technologies automatically assumed as time savers, when most are just time wasters?’ As a constant point of conversation within our office, I thought I’d apply this test to Facebook – Time waster or Time saver?

If you were talking amongst a group of 18-25’s, I would bet that at some stage Facebook would come up in the conversation. It is rumoured to have up to 30 million users worldwide, with 150,000 new users signing up every day. Apparently approximately 10-15% of Canada’s entire population have a Facebook profile.

For those of you who haven’t had an encounter with Facebook yet, it is basically a social networking website (although they describe themselves as a ‘social utility’) where you set yourself up a profile. Within your profile you can have photos, videos and other information about yourself, which is viewed by your list of friends. Your friends are other people with facebook profiles which you allow to see your profile. Once you are friends, you can exchange photos, write messages to each other, and even slap each other with fish; drink a beer with; and give flowers to (the latter are examples of the time wasting side of Facebook).

If you ask me, Facebook has its good and bad points. You can find people you haven’t seen for years and have an on-line conversation with them. You can exchange photos and videos with friends. You can keep in touch with people who might be travelling, or otherwise uncontactable via traditional methods. Thus, this all adds up to saved time, and essentially saved money. But, you can get stuck there for hours, doing things that are, in hindsight, completely ridiculous, and yes Tony, absolute and utter time wasters.

So much is Facebook accused as a time waster that companies are reportedly losing millions of dollars in staff time spent on the site. Others argue, however, that if they’re networking whilst spreading the name of your company around in a positive light – it’s just word of mouth (there is always the risk of them saying bad things about your company however, and we know how quickly that spreads!)

In a marketing sense, there are numerous advertising opportunities for businesses, and I encourage you to view to read about some of the unique options available. It can be really useful for recruitment, and we at Jack in the box have our own Facebook page for this exact reason (if you’re on Facebook, join up!). My biggest criticism of Facebook from a marketing sense is privacy. You’d have to be very careful you don’t intrude on your target market. After all, they’re in a private world, doing and saying private things. Having a company intrude on that private space can be a little invasive, if not just plain creepy.

So the verdict? Sorry all Facebook fans (including the ones in our office), but it is definitely a time waster. I also question its longevity – I can’t imagine it staying around for more than a year or two. Perhaps 2008 will see the introduction of Mobile Facebook, where you can access a simplified version of it via your mobile phone? At least then you could hide it from your boss when he walks in…

Stay tuned for next week’s blog, where I’ll be dedicating it to some ingenious (and idiotic) new advertising opportunities to think about for 2008.