Facebook, a Company without a Vision

Mark zuckerberg f8 a l
Image via TrueRep

Facebook quietly retreated from its passive sharing model two weeks ago representing a departure from its current vision.

For those unfamiliar with passive sharing, it was originally and controversially dubbed frictionless sharing when Timeline was introduced by CEO Mark Zuckerberg one year ago. Frictionless sharing applications share every read or view of a site, whether or not the person is on Facebook.

Zuckerberg’s vision of every aspect of peoples’ lives shared with their friends included frictionless sharing as a core component.

This very same vision was dealt another blow two weeks ago when European regulators struck an agreement with Facebook that forces the company to delete facial recognition data garnered from public surveillance cameras.
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The Big Facebook Screw

Screwed
Image by El Tel63

Since Facebook’s mandatory Timeline conversion and IPO last spring, we’ve been screwed.

In what can only be described as the coup d’etat of strategy plays, Facebook got the world and businesses hooked on its network. Then the social network leveraged its monopoly power, and pulled the ultimate bait and switch in history. Facebook implemented its Timeline interface.

Timeline sabotaged traditional brand page performance, created a money generation vehicle, and sacrificed its users privacy for business purposes.

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Lost in a Digital Nightmare

#nightmare hashtag project
Image by Misspixels

Attention and reputation. That’s what we fight for online, particularly those of us vested in building personal identities and businesses through social media.

By doing so we sacrifice more than we possibly imagine.

We’re wild animals caught, caged and put on display at the zoo. Every check-in, status update, photo, error, and other digitized personal detail will be housed in a database for mining, extrapolation and exploitation to benefit commercial interests.

“I update, therefore I am.”
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5 Facebook Futures

Facebook Jumps the Shark

The recent Facebook IPO filing and its expected $100 billion valuation dominated recent headlines. Much of the speculation was about profitability, and how the new public structure will change the company. Since my Mom is a nationally renowned astrologer (Jacqueline Bigar), I decided to pick up the IPO crystal ball and offer five Facebook futures. Here we go:

1) The Rise of Sheryl Sandberg

Want to know who the real CEO of Facebook is? Look no further than the IPO filing. Facebook pays Sheryl Sandberg a whopping $31 million. Certainly a high fee, but given her role in developing the company into a profit maker it’s no surprise. It’s also the salary of a large public company’s CEO.

As profit expectations grow (see next prediction), expect Zuckerberg to take a back seat over the next few years, graduating to chairman. In his wake Sandberg will become the leading lady of Facebook owning the role that already matches her compensation.

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5 Challenges for Google+ Business

google plus
Image by Sean MacEntee

Chatter about Google+ for business is abound, but other than the SEO benefits, arguments for a pro offering have not been compelling. In reality, there is no formal business offering yet. While Google+ is at or close to 30 million members, they are distributed globally, and are largely technologists or social media wonks. At this early stage, consumer businesses, nonprofits and non technology B2B plays have little to gain from Google+ other than SEO (can you say Squidoo II?).

Moving forward, Google+ needs to provide a substantive growth curve and a robust business offering to effectively complete. Here are five challenges facing Google+ for businesses:

1) Beyond SEO

It’s great that bloggers and corporate content producers can yield strong search results using Google+. It makes a compelling case to integrate +1 technology and sharing within content marketing initiatives. But beyond SEO, most of the business chatter about Google+ is, well, bloggers talking about setting up personal profiles. Businesses need more than that. They need paths towards tangible outcomes and ROI.

Until Google+ launches its business solution, there really is nothing for businesses and nonprofits to do other than to experiment with the existing personal features. The one exception is technology companies marketing to early adopters. Having your social media team get active on Google+ as individuals makes total sense. Dell is an early leader in this sense.

2) Geeky Is Great, But…

It’s nice that the social media and technology communities are enthused about Google+. For many, it makes life easier and more public than Facebook. But the non-indoctrinated “normal” person isn’t using Google+ yet.

Until wider stakeholder groups adapt Google+, most companies and nonprofits will find themselves marketing to the virtual wilderness. Instead, they should wait for core stakeholder groups to come to and stay on Google+ for a sustained period of months. When that happens, businesses and nonprofits should set up serious outposts.

3) Facebook Isn’t Giving Up

Zuck

Ironically, the most followed person on Google+ is Marc Zuckerberg. Strange as that may seem, it is emblematic of Facebook’s staying power.

Facebook’s continuing evolution sacrifices individual privacy to serve the larger business community. And make no bones about it, Facebook definitely offers the business community quite a lot. The offering rages from free community pages and social ads to customized contests and promotions and deeply integrated applications.

The most important part of Facebook’s offering is its widespread, global consumer appeal. The social network has more than two times as many active bodies in one place than LinkedIn, Twitter and the fledgling Google+ combined.

Facebook has yet to respond to the Circles challenge to its user interface. It would be surprising if the network that likes to opt in social technology challenges ignores Google+’s innovation. It’s very early in this competition. Really, the thing that Google+ can always beat Facebook on is privacy and an insistence on open commentary.

4) Twitter and LinkedIn Have Mature Offerings

Both of these second tier networks have more than 100 million active users, and are very mature with loyal communities. Twitter has finally figured out its business model with its new advertising package that retains 80 percent of customers. LinkedIn is an extremely strong B2B-only play with robust Groups, strong HR offerings, and increasingly well-used business profile pages. Google+ needs to determine where it fits in comparison with these two growing proven offerings.

5) No Proof of Concept

This one really isn’t fair given that the professional offering has yet to launch, but there’s no proof that Google+ will be a good play for businesses. Any company or nonprofit that participates in the initial offering will be an early adopter, experimenting with the medium. Most companies don’t feel so publish about testing a new medium with their precious dollars. Instead, they prefer to wait until the medium is proven. And that won’t happen until the end of the year.

Conclusion

Google+ is likely to succeed so stay tuned, but hold onto your wallet until 2012. There is still a lot of hype and uncertainty when it comes to Google+ for business. The exceptions to the rule are those marketing to the early adopter community and content marketers who can benefit from an uptick in SEO courtesy of Google+.

The Danger of Auditing the Echo Chamber

Conversations at Ignite DC 5 (@ignitedc)

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man,” Heraclitus.

I recently sat at an event in the back row. Two gentlemen in front of me were listening to the speaker, commenting back and forth in a critical way. While it seemed cruel, it also seemed familiar, something I and many others on the Internet have and continue to do every day.

We audit thought leaders, friends and others opinions, and then reinvent the ideas, bandy them back and forth, and sometimes evolve them. It’s human nature. Consider the many conversations that are occurring this autumn about Mark Zuckerberg and his character as depicted in The Social Network, or the criticism and debate about Malcolm Gladwell’s recent New Yorker article on social change via social networks.

Assuming right and wrong, black and white can be a dangerous game. We assume a correct approach, a finite method, a sure answer based on our instincts, experience, and what we have heard. As a result, we can find ourselves disappointed as a result of expectations that may not have be grounded in the current factual reality.

Things change. Nothing can be the same as it was.

One can make educated judgments and decisions based on these assumptions, and often be correct. But at the same time, it is important to be open to change and new realities. Remain teachable as they say. This ability to adapt keeps us relevant.

Consider our theories and ongoing debates about influence. Who holds sway may change because our collective actions move towards the positive and negative. Some give influence to the popular, while others say influence ties to how many times your comments/content are shared with others. Perhaps it depends on the person.

The dynamics of social network technology continue to evolve. What gives someone clout can be taken away or impacted by new networks, capabilities and influences. I remember how in 2007 bloggers were pre-eminent. By 2008 Facebook and Twitter took hold, and comments began to occur on social networks. New voices arose to become influential, people who for whatever reason did not blog. While bloggers still hold a prominent role in these social networks, popularity via follower counts, retweets, links, and more became critical (and debatable) criteria for influence.

Today we are in the early midst of the mobile revolution. Frankly, we are just beginning to understand how pervasive mobile web access has become, much less how this burgeoning trend impacts our community behavior patterns.

There are eddies and pools, dynamics of social networking that reflect our true human nature. This sociological phenomena has yet to be truly grasped. Empirical scientific studies have just begun.

While we try to enforce finite concepts on this zeitgeist, we are at the same time evolving the way it works, changing our own information patterns as we seek to understand, evolve and grow this evergreen world. Because we are in constant flux, there exists a real danger in sedentary thought, and finite peanut gallery criticisms. It’s the danger of being left behind.