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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 to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
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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 to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)


Viewpoint: The End of Twitter?

by Randall Craig March 25, 2016

Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: Twitter is in its death throes. It won’t be around in just a few short years. And when this happens, there will be no shortage of pundits who: “saw it all coming”, or perhaps “Twitter is dead – long live Twitter!” It wouldn’t be the first Social Media death. Consider those who […]

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Identifying and reducing Facebook risks

by Randall Craig October 23, 2015

While many people enjoy Facebook for personal use (connections to family and friends, posting photos, playing games), does it really have a role in business? Whether the answer is yes or no, one thing is certain: Facebook represents a risk vector that must be considered.  In no particular order, here are five risks to consider – […]

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Social Media: Buy or Rent?

by Randall Craig September 5, 2014

What do houses, cars, and Social Media all have in common?  For one thing, they all share a primary question:  Buy or Rent.  Buy a house, or look for a rental?  Buy a car, or lease it?  And should we rent our Social Media, or build our own? Most leaders don’t even think about this […]

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Viewpoint: Facebook – Billions Served

by Randall Craig October 4, 2012

Facebook just announced that it now has one billion users – an astounding number. On the other hand, you (or your organization) may have but 1000 or 10,000 – hardly a dent, and at best, a rounding error. Whether your number is on the lower side or hovering at a billion, this singular measure of […]

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Can you ever have too many friends? (yes)

by Randall Craig March 29, 2012

Do you play the milestone game with your Social Media accounts? When you first sign up, you aim for ten connections.  Then 50, 100, 250, and finally the coveted 500 – you’ve arrived.  And then you aim for 1000.  How many is too many? As I look at my own LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, it […]

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Seven Social Media Job Search Steps

by Randall Craig March 8, 2012

Even from the most committed employees, one question comes up over and over again: how to use Social Media to find your next job.  It might be couched in different language (How do I develop professional profile/How do I take advantage of Social tools for support, etc), but the question remains.  How can you use […]

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Three lessons from the Facebook prospectus

by Randall Craig February 23, 2012

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 […]

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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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Innovation and the Facebook Generation

by Randall Craig June 14, 2011

There is nothing as humorous – or sad – as outdated laws. Every jurisdiction has them: No cow or sheep grazing in public gardens All businesses must provide rails to tie up horses No walking backward while eating chestnuts Unfortunately, many organizations face a similar problem: rules and regulations that have far outlived their useful […]

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Viewpoint: Will Facebook Take Over the World?

by Randall Craig March 17, 2011

You may not know it, but the game playing, ad-serving, stalker-friendly site called Facebook is poised to bust out of it’s walled garden and move into the “real world” in a very big way. And when it does, it will have profound implications for government, other businesses, and each of us as individuals. Unless you […]

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Gutless and Spineless…

by Randall Craig March 2, 2011

…and afraid of the marketplace of ideas.  These are not exactly the attributes that most organizations (or people) aspire to. Yet most have a Social Media strategy that conveys precisely that.  Here’s the case: Many organizations now have Facebook “Fan” pages.  Some of them have invested significantly in nifty functionality that runs contests, quizzes, and […]

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Location or Credibility?

by Randall Craig December 28, 2010

With so many Social Media sites out there, where should you spend your time? In the “olden days” of just a few short years ago, it was fairly simple: For business, spend time on LinkedIn. For personal, use Facebook (or in the “real” olden days, use MySpace). If you have videos, then go to YouTube. […]

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Personal Blog Branding

by Randall Craig October 6, 2010

“You only have one chance to make a good first impression.” This is the siren song of personal branding, and is what causes millions of people to think carefully about what they wear each day. Too bad though, that in today’s too-fast social media world, the first impression does not come from your clothing, but […]

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Too Many Friends?

by Randall Craig October 28, 2009

Can you ever have too many friends? In real life, the answer is no, but when we’re talking about social media, the answer is definitively yes. If you have been collecting so-called friends, contacts, connections, and followers online, then you probably notice that some are more valuable than others. Others have very little value at […]

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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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September Social Media Tune-up

by Randall Craig August 25, 2009

Your car needs a tune-up every once in a while. As individuals, we go to the doctor or dentist on a regular schedule. But how often do we do a social media tune-up? Rarely if ever. We sign up to a number of sites (LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Plaxo, and maybe others), use them freely, and […]

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