Friction, Facebook and the future of the web

I recently read a great article in GQ entitled “The Viral Me.” It’s a pretty wide-ranging piece, but in summary it’s Devin Friedman’s look at “the barely pubescent geniuses of Silicon Valley”–and what everything they’re working on means for someone like him who doesn’t have a “natural hunger for” social media.

My favorite topic was the idea of “friction”–what it is, why it’s bad, and why Facebook has thrived because of friction:

Okay, people want to share stuff with the world…That’s what Facebook made easier. You’re not in charge of doing anything besides populating the fields on your profile page, uploading some pictures, typing some words into the status-update box. You don’t have to be saying anything besides “At O’Hare,” or “Mayonnaise is awesome.”

Friction is what you don’t want. Friction is what keeps people from signing up for your site or downloading your app. Because it’s too expensive, because it’s too embarrassing, because it’s too difficult, because it’s difficult at all. The Internet has been working to reduce friction. To make everything easier to use, easier to sign up for, easier to navigate, cheap, free, freer than free. In a perfect world, there’d be friction if someone didn’t sign up for your thingy. Again, FB has it right: It’s frictive to not have an FB account; just ask anyone who has to explain six times a day why he doesn’t have one.

The concept of friction is worth considering by anyone who’s trying to build an audience, but it’s especially important when you’re trying to get traction on the web. What can you do today to make your social media presence, your website or your online customer service channels less frictive? And is there anything you can do to make it frictive for your audience to miss out on what you have to offer?

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