Finextra reported on a survey that says about half of Facebook users (25 to 34 year olds at least) are interested in banking on Facebook.
The sponsor of the study, Worklight, builds secure Web 2.0 applications. (Such as, presumably, banking on Facebook. But also corporate collaboration on Facebook).
While I am skeptical of the value of some of the findings, in the absence of a lot more detail, this is certainly a clear indication of where things are headed. I'd like to put this in context for you, because we look at far too many of these things as isolated events. They aren't.
I did a major trend study in 2001 on wealth management on the web. At that time, banks were still hoping to become portals, a strategy I predicted would fail. (And it did.) I also predicted Yodlee and its aggregation strategy would fail, because of the security and privacy fears expressed by people. Despite, I might add, the real interest people had in aggregation. Well, Yodlee didn't fail.
Yodlee, as we now know, changed tactics, and became a platform for trusted front-end providers like Citibank, thereby neatly solving the security and privacy concerns for many. The build in the area of aggregation has taken a lot longer than many thought it would, however. Seven years later, it's still kind of leading edge. Perhaps because the FIs themselves are wondering what the real benefit is from their perspective.
We also investigated stock trading on your cellphone. There was a surprising -- at least surprising to me -- amount of interest. It wasn't high, but it was a lot higher than I expected for 2001. And everyone had the usual concerns. But this was before the smart phone as we now know it had really arrived. Cellphones are quickly becoming a communication hub for many, especially youth. As time goes by, people will wonder why they can't get SMS alerts on interest rates, stock price movements, and many other financial things. They'll want to transfer money to a friend by phone, instead of just by e-mail.
Small payments are a natural for the cellphone, and are hampered in their growth largely by existing stakeholders. Where there are fewer entrenched stakeholders, lower barriers to entry, and less built-out infrastructure, cellphone payments have taken off. Seriously, why would you want to dig around in your wallet for coins or cards for a can of liquid refreshment when you already have your cellphone on your hip or in your hand?
Finally, the ME portal
Facebook, and it's cousins, are becoming a kind of portal. As meatier applications are added, it's easy to envision a time when your Facebook account is open at least as often as your e-mail/calendar manager. Indeed, would I want Outlook if I could get that kind of functionality on something like Facebook or LinkedIn? Although some of the features on FB and its cousins are kind of clunky still, the trend is definitely moving in this direction -- the "me" portal.
Why wouldn't I want package tracking for FedEx in Facebook, instead of having to log in somewhere else? Sure I get e-mail, but then I have to manage it.
Why wouldn't I want E-Bay watch-list tracking in Facebook, instead of having to log in somewhere else? Again, the messages would be there when I want them, but I wouldn't have to wade through them.
Surely we could make this "Why wouldn't I" list longer. [What's on YOUR list?]
Will Facebook be the winner? Who knows. What we do know is that these applications are picking up steam, not slowing down. If you aren't thinking about social network strategy, you need to start. Because it isn't all about viral marketing. It's also about real functionality and access points.