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Risk

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
www.108ideaspace
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

If you’re reading this, the chances that you are on Facebook are relatively high. And sadly, the chances that you personally will duplicate Mark Zuckerberg’s business success are relatively low. Very few of us will take our companies public, let along profit so handsomely during our careers.

What we can do, however, is learn from this success. And particularly, learn from the Facebook IPO.

The key to this is the prospectus. This document gives a prospective investor all of the information they need to make a knowledgeable investment decision.  Unfortunately, most investors – or members of the general public – never see the prospectus. Test this amongst your friends and family: how many of them have personally reviewed the Facebook prospectus, the most publicized IPO in the history of the world? Likely, very few.

If we dissect the prospectus document, there are three items that are highly relevant – and that most “non-IPO” leaders should consider:

1) Risk Factors:  This is a multi-page, open-the-kimono look at everything that might possibly go wrong.  Everything from tech trends to competitive threats to internal weaknesses, and then some.  Insight:  How often do companies – or people – openly and honestly look in the mirror?  (It’s easier to believe your own PR.)

2) History:  For several years prior to an IPO, the company must run their organization in a squeaky-clean, financially-sound manner, and their audited financial statements in the prospectus must reflect this.  Insight:  It is impossible to turn back the clock.  Three years from now, if you want to look back at a history of great results, then the great results must start in the present.  Interestingly, this is also true of our reputations, something that many people and organizations forget when it comes to Social Media.

3) Transparency:  If the goal of the prospectus is to ensure that all investors have what they need to properly make their investment decisions, then there should be no “hidden” areas of nondisclosure.  Within the document, you can find details on the controlling shareholders, executive compensation, legal considerations – and more – on 186 pages, plus exhibits.  There is complete transparency.  Insight:  Many organizations aren’t particularly transparent, instead rationing information to their employees, clients, suppliers, and other stakeholders.  Or worse, “spinning” it.  While not advocating the words of Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg (“privacy is a thing of the past”), what’s the worst that could happen if those around you knew “too much”?  Perhaps alignment, accountability, and better decision-making?

This week’s action plan: While writing a prospectus is probably not top of your to-do list, spending a few minutes on one of Risk Factors, History, or Transparency is probably doable.  Answer one of these questions this week:  What are the Risk Factors in my organization?  History: is there anything we should do now (or stop doing now) that will be important several years from now?  Transparency:  Where can we be more open with our colleagues, clients, suppliers, and other important relationships?

Postscript:  If you are interested in reading the Facebook IPO prospectus, it’s available here.

 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
www.108ideaspace
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

Viewpoint: Planning for an Uncertain Future

by Randall Craig November 23, 2011

In 1997 there was no Google. In 2002 there was no Facebook. There was no Twitter in 2004, and the iPad only made it’s debut in 2009. There is no indication that the pace of innovation will slow, so how can you plan for the future when the target is moving , and moving quickly? […]

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Viewpoint: Risky Business

by Randall Craig October 26, 2011

Picture this scenario: An employee gets charged with a serious offense and the company’s name gets mentioned repeatedly in the news reports.  The reporters found the connection to your organization by scanning through Social Media. Or this scenario: A subcontractor tweets (or posts pictures) celebrating the conclusion of a major, confidential project. This alerts competitors, […]

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Social Media Risk Takers

by Randall Craig March 17, 2009

Just about everybody has heard about Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. Avid users talk about connecting with family, networking with past colleagues, and meeting new contacts. Social media sites allow this to happen, and much more. You can post photos, blogs, “status updates”, job history, family relationships, event listings, and just about anything you can […]

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Nickels and Dimes

by Randall Craig August 7, 2007

If you had a choice to be paid either $50 or $100 for a service that you performed, which would you choose? Most of us would choose the greater amount; after all, if we have to do the work, why not be paid as much as the market will bear? Take the money and run! […]

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