I took my girls to gymnastics last night. While I waited for them to finish, I eavesdropped a conversation between two grandmothers of the same girl, who earlier told me they were in town for Memorial Day and birthday festivities. I’ll guess they were in their late 60s/early 70s. One is named Carol; I didn’t catch the other’s name, but we’ll call her Mary.
They got to talking about Facebook’s IPO. Here’s a paraphrased version of what they said (let’s call it 90% verbatim):
Mary: You didn’t buy any of that Facebook stock, did you?
Carol: Oh my goodness no. (Laughs)
Mary: I didn’t either.
Mary: I know, right?
Carol: Do you have an account?
Mary: Yes I do.
Carol: I do too.
Mary: But I hardly use it.
Carol: I’m on it often. It’s handy.
Mary: Why? To keep in touch?
Carol: Yes, that’s right, our family is spread out. I like to see what everybody’s doing. I like to look at the pictures.
Mary: I just don’t understand it.
Carol: Don’t understand Facebook?
Mary: No, I understand that it’s good for things like that, but getting back to what we were talking about, I don’t understand what they were selling.
Carol: Well, it was shares in the company.
Mary: (Snippy) I understand that. I don’t understand what the company does. For those people who bought the stock, what exactly did they think they were buying?
Carol: OH! (Laughs) I see what you’re getting at.
Mary: I would never buy stock in somebody else’s photo album.
Mary: They say they’ve got almost a billion people on there now, but when I’m on I only care about 50 or so.
Carol: I keep up with a couple hundred.
Mary: My niece has almost 500 friends! But that’s still a lot less than a billion.
Carol: Well, I think it’s worth so much because of the advertising possibilities. When you have access to a billion people …
Mary: But how many times have you bought something just because of something you saw on Facebook?
Carol: Oh, I may have bought a book someone recommended. Or made a recipe. I sometimes will watch a TV show someone talks about.
Mary: That doesn’t help advertisers, though, does it? You didn’t watch the show because you saw a commercial, you watched it because a friend recommended it.
Carol: That’s true, but a billion people is still a billion people.
Mary: I don’t think it’s a billion people. That makes it sound like we’re one big group they can talk to. It’s more like a billion individual people who are all listening to people they want to listen to. That doesn’t help advertisers. They’re not going to get my cousin to sell me insurance.
Carol: And didn’t some company stop all their Facebook advertising?
Mary: Yes, Ford. It was Ford (My note: it was General Motors.)
Carol: Well, I do like it. I use it more than once a day.
Mary: But you didn’t buy stock.
Carol: No, I like it, but I won’t invest in it.
Find Dave Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.