Friends Reunited and the importance of relationships

I was interested to read in today’s papers about the sale of Friends Reunited by ITV for a sum of £25 million. Sounds like a lot of money, except when you realise they bought it in 2005 for £175 million! Friends Reunited has been losing share in the on-line social networking market for some time – three million users at the moment compared with Facebook’s 200 million. And of course Twitter’s star is rising even faster right now.

Murad Ahmed writes an interesting piece in The Times (Aug 7 2009), observing that, “Friends Reunited was a good idea but it was not built upon. It provided an appealing service but once Mary found her childhood mate Sally the usefulness of the site ended.” Ahmed claims that Facebook, with its photo sharing, add a friend, group forming facilities, “gave a reason to keep coming back. It was good at maintaining relationships, not just resurrecting them.”

For me, this mirrors an important principle in business – to build long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships. The traditional ‘smash-and-grab tactic’ (where you fleece a customer, in the knowledge that there are plenty more out there to replace him) really won’t wash any more. You need to establish trust and longevity in a relationship, so you’re not relying on finding new customers all the time.

It remains to be seen if the likes of Facebook and Twitter are successful in actually creating real value in the relationships they claim to build.

BTW, lovely cartoon in the Telegraph yesterday (Matt, I think – he’s a genius). Two snails are ambling along, one looking rather unhappy. The problem? “My broadband connection is just sooo slow!” A nice observation on the pace of modern life.

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