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Facebook

What do eyeballs and friends have in common with each other? Except for the fact that your friends have eyeballs, not much. Or do they?

Let’s go back to the year 1999, the time the unshakeable belief that so long as you had “eyeballs” on your website, unstoppable riches awaited you. This was the age of web page “hits”, greedy (or gullible?) venture capitalists, and the 24-year-old vice-president. Sadly, it was not the age of business models, integrated marketing strategy, or prudent financial management. When the dot-com crash happened a year later, there shouldn’t have been a surprise.

I was there. I built my first company in 1994 and sold it in 2000. Like today, we were focused on helping traditional organizations with their Internet strategy and then implementing it. We did this for KPMG, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail’s Globefund and GlobeInvestor, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, what is now Workopolis, and many others. These venerable organizations are still around, and are highly reliant on Internet technology as a critical part of their real-world, revenue-focused business model. And as an advisor, we learned lessons along the way about building communities, discussion forums, relationships, and yes, transactions. Because our work was not rooted in “eyeballs”, but in real revenue and real expenses, we prospered along with our clients. Those agencies, consultants, investors, and companies who focused on eyeballs, crashed and burned.

Perhaps we’ve learned something over the last decade, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Instead of chasing eyeballs, people are now chasing Friends, Connections and Followers. We use terms like Twitterverse and Blogosphere, as if everyone truly understood what they meant. While it is true that the number of Friends may be a proxy for influence, unless there is a strong connection to the business model and bottom line, at best the chase is for a chimera.

And like the heyday of 2000, there is a sordid cast of characters who have become instant experts (Social Media Experts) who are whipping the gullible and the greedy into a frenzy. They used to be (and probably still are) experts in advertising, technology, selling information products, market research, and just about every other field. Some probably sold real estate, vacuum cleaners, and all manner of merchandise, before they too jumped on the bandwagon, started a blog, and are now the new gurus.

And what do we see when we look at the companies that are “successful”?  Twitter still doesn’t have a business model – yet they are able to raise millions of dollars without blinking. Groupon – which does have a business model, turned down a six billion dollar takeover bid several years ago.  Facebook, which does have a business model, is a public company with $350 billion valuation: incredible. And explain the 26 billion recently paid by Microsoft for LinkedIn?  (I did try in an earlier post.)  Beyond these players there are 500+ other Social Networking sites that are clamoring to be our Friends.  Its “eyeballs” all over again.

What does this mean? I may be proven wrong, but I believe we’re in line for another huge tech crash. Yes, there will be a number of big deals, but we can only have so many Friends. And investors will eventually wake up.

This week’s action plan:  Is your organization’s strategy dependent on any particular social site?  If you don’t have a plan to collect your relationships in an owned-by-you database, now would be a good time to start.

Action plan #2: It might also be a good idea to look at your stock portfolio.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com
:  Professional credentials site
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.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

For many individuals, Facebook is a way to connect with friends, family, and just possibly, play a few games. For professional marketers, Facebook is a way to grow the brand, nurture a community of interest, and just possibly, sell. But for senior leaders, Facebook might have an even more important role – and one that is too often neglected.

True, there are some who may argue that leaders should not be on Facebook for reasons of privacy or efficiency, but with the ubiquity tipping point long passed, this argument is silly. In addition, it makes sense to be on Facebook if only for defensive reasons: non-participation opens the leader to considerable risks.

  • Identity theft: It is too easy for someone to create a “fake” profile that is 90% accurate – except for several phony (and embarrassing) details.
  • Mistaken identity: It is too easy for a user to mistake someone else with your exact name for you. What if someone is considering you for a position or a board position, but is alarmed by something they see on this doppelgänger profile?

Beyond the negative, there are three key reasons to create a profile:
1) It is yet another leadership communication channel.
2) People can get a glimpse at the “you” beyond the job: they will have context to how you think.
3) It humanizes you. You’re more than just a title, and have the same personal wins (and concerns) as any “normal” person within the organization.

With all this being said, there are two key aspects to using Facebook as a leadership tool:

1) Watch for the creep-out factor… and respect other’s privacy. Just because you can look at others’ profiles doesn’t mean that you must act or react. There is a tacit social contract not to “creep out” others – especially when you are in a leadership position. On the other hand, showing interest in a person’s accomplishments can be highly motivating when done with sensitivity.

2) Monitor and manage your profile: it is semi-public. This means being cognizant that there are several different audiences beyond friends and family, including employees, members, job candidates, investors, the media, and more. Each of these groups (and others) will scrutinize your posts, comments, likes – and other people’s comments on your timeline. Govern your actions accordingly, as users’ reactions to what appears on your Facebook timeline will have a direct impact on your effectiveness as a leader.

This week’s action plan: If you aren’t yet on Facebook yet, find a person in your organization to be your mentor. If you do use the platform, look at your profile from the perspective of each of your professional audiences: what would the media think? What would the board think? What would a typical staff person think? If you are a bit uncomfortable with your answers, then spend time this week updating (or cleansing?) your profile for these groups as well.  Can Facebook be used as a leadership tool?  Absolutely yes – but only when used strategically.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com
www.108ideaspace.com
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com

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by Randall Craig September 5, 2014

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by Randall Craig October 4, 2012

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by Randall Craig March 29, 2012

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by Randall Craig February 23, 2012

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Access Assumptions

by Randall Craig January 17, 2012

One Billion.  You may think I’m referring to the number of Facebook and LinkedIn users, but I’m not.  I’m referring to the approximate population of India. While on a trip there, I decided to take pictures of local businesses, then compare the “real” with their Social Media presence.  Sadly, I was unable to find more […]

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by Randall Craig March 2, 2011

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by Randall Craig October 28, 2009

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Social Media Sinkholes

by Randall Craig October 13, 2009

There are over 300 web sites that have a Social Media angle to them. Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter might be the most familiar, but you may also spend time on FlickR, eBay, Plaxo, Orkut, and others. In fact, you may be spending so much time on these “Networks”, that you have little time for anything […]

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by Randall Craig August 25, 2009

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