What ‘Facebook Connect’ Means for Corporate Websites

I’m here in SF at the F8 developer conference sponsored by Facebook. While the primary thrust of F8 Facebook announcements was for developers, I mentally translate what this means for web strategists at brands at Fortune 5000s.

One key announcement is Facebook Connect which allows for authentication on 3rd party websites. Then users can visit third party sites, login with their Facebook ID, connect with their friends and update their Facebook newspage –all without visiting Facebook.com

[Facebook Connect will allow corporate websites to allow users to authenticate, interact, and share with their Facebook network –all without leaving the corporate website]

Essentially, the Facebook experience extends further into the web –beyond their walled garden.

Facebook Connect allows users to authenticate using their Facebook ID
Similair to OpenId (which coincidently was adopted by competitor MySpace) third party developers can allow website visitors to login to their website using their Facebook ID. This “Passport” system (much like what Microsoft tried to do) will let members leave comments on third party sites –as well as identify their friends on these sites.

Facebook Connect Will Allow third party sites to update Facebook Newspage
Facebook Connect allows applications, devices, websites to allow third party sites to embed a small piece of code on your site. Then, as users come to your site, (assuming they are Facebook users) could login to Facebook from your site and choose to share activities that would be shared on their newsfeed on Facebook.

Example via Techcrunch: “Mike Philips from Citysearch is taking the stage. He says they are launching a new site, where sharing information is a big piece. They are integrating with Facebook Connect. When a user looks for a hotel, restaurant, etc., Citysearch already has lots of reviews and data, but not a way to link up reviews from friends.”

[Boring, static corporate websites can now become social]

Recommendations for Brands
Interestingly, I talked to some Facebook employees, and they weren’t even looking as far as I was, (which means I’m doing my job well) so this prediction is something to still watch.

Brands should watch how this impacts the few launch partners first, let them sort out the bugs, and put this on the roadmap. Brands that have websites that have social actions (such as buying a product, rating, ranking, or leaving comments) should keep this in mind, as they can now extend the actions to Facebook streams.

Brands that are already trying to reach the Facebook audience (white collar workers and college students) should plan on experimenting with Facebook Connect as it can bring additional social functionality to corporate websites. First, start with use behavior: Use this interactive chart, the behavior is a cross between “Joining” (a social network) and “critic” (commenting, voting, rating) content. In this case, joining is a prerequisite for being a critic, so the actual participation level will be less.

Your logins could become less relevant if Facebook adoption continues to take off in particular markets, for example, brands that are already trying to reach this segment should be ready to adopt Facebook Connect. I ran this Tim O’Shaughnessy, CEO Living Social, who agreed this is a big change.

Update: After talking to others, like Dave McClure, it quickly was realized that this is just one more in a trend: OpenID now on MySpace, Google Friend Connect, LinkedIn’s ties with Businessweek and NYT are all examples of our social graphs (relationships) leaving the social network and spreading to third party sites.

Also, White label social network vendors (community platforms) should be thinking about how to integrate all of the above.