Very few people, if any, understood the true potential of Facebook when it first launched more than 4 years ago (back when it was still "thefacebook.com" and Mark Zuckerberg was literally the face of the website). On the marketers' end, we know that Facebook offers geo- and demo-targeted advertising opportunities that are unprecedented and unparalleled anywhere else. But what is it about Facebook that will really set itself apart from other social networking websites in the future for its users?
A new Facebook application called MyMoney developed by Fiserv Inc. is now available to members of participating credit unions who want to manage their finances without having to navigate away from Facebook. The application boasts several layers of security on top of Facebook's own sitewide measures, including a picture and phrase recognition test, security questions, and 128 bit data encryption masking every piece of information you send through the program. With MyMoney, users can check their account balances, account activity history, and even transfer funds between accounts. Though it is currently only available to credit unions, develops expect the program to eventually expand to larger banks and offer a greater range of services.
When I first heard about this application, my first inclination was of course to question its security; but beyond that, I personally would never feel comfortable signing into my bank account through Facebook if only because I very much see Facebook as a social networking tool and nothing else. Yet the truth of the matter is that Facebook is quickly becoming so much more than that, whether we are conscious of it or not. Imagine posting wall-to-wall with your friends working out the details your spring break vacation, buying your plane ticket, and then checking your savings account balance all from one site - that is the potential future of Facebook. MyMoney is just one of the first of its kind to really break through and expand the site's offerings beyond our traditional understanding of a social network's functions.
The question is whether or not the idea will catch on and to what extent can financial institutions take advantage of Facebook's unique advertising capabilities? I think that Facebook Beacon's underwhelming protests are evidence enough that users are not as concerned about security and privacy as we might imagine. I see the automatic benefits available to a financial institution just for being available through Facebook, where much of their coveted 20-something target demographic spends a great deal of their time - but can they really make full use of Facebook's special brand of personalized advertising? I don't mind if "Devin just added the MyMoney application" pops up in my friends' newsfeeds, but I certainly don't need them knowing that "Devin just transfered $1500 of her savings to her Citibank checking account!" Additionally I wonder if larger banking institutions would really go through MyMoney instead of creating their own applications once MyMoney has successfully paved the way. Truth be told, if I'm comfortable banking through my phone and online already, why should I feel any differently about my own bank's Facebook application?