Last week I got to see a private screening of the film "The Social Network." It is the story of Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg is described as a hacker, a dropout and the world’s youngest billionaire. The movie will be released to the masses next month.
There is no doubt that Zuckerberg has programming skills, but his idea would not have gelled if he had not understood how a college campus works socially. Facebook was created for college students, and to join it members were required to have a ".edu" e-mail address.
The film depicts Zuckerberg hacking into the computers at Harvard University and collecting the names and the faces of his classmates. He used the data to conduct a kind of social experiment. The experiment generated so much traffic that it caused Harvard’s computer network to crash.
Even though he is a giant when it comes to writing code and, of course, hacking, what drives the network isn’t the code — it is the human interaction. Facebook is not about technology, it is about people interacting with each other. The technology is the facilitator.
His idea caught on because the site provides an easy way to connect people and help them stay in touch.
Zuckerberg resisted the idea of selling advertisements on the site or monetizing it in the early days, partly because it was a kind of social experiment. He watched it grow and evolve and was shrewd enough to understand that he would have to wait and see how people used Facebook and what it would become.
There are other brilliant people like Zuckerberg who have amazing computer skills, but they rarely become millionaires in their early 20s, and few become billionaires. I believe it is the social part of equation that made him rich, not the technology.
It is the understanding of how people interact or want to interact and designing a platform to support it. Social networks have never been about technology and it is a shame that they are viewed that way by some.
Using Facebook is not about being able to deploy a fancy page and it isn’t about marketing or advertising our businesses. It is, and always was, about interacting with others in a meaningful way.
It is about gossip and pictures of babies and parties. It is about sharing with friends. I think we lose touch with that as we scramble to use it for marketing.
The network has evolved, and of course grown, but when I look at the faces and pages of my Facebook friends it isn’t the people with the prettiest pages who are the most successful. It is the people who are social and who know how to interact with others through the platform.
Outside of Facebook these same people have a lot of friends. They use Facebook to stay in touch with those friends. They know how to make friends and how to be friends, and I have not found a course that teaches that.
There are classes and seminars on how to set up a Facebook account and how to use it for business. It is nice to understand how to use all of its features, but that is only a small part of the equation — a kind of beginning step.
Those who master Facebook do so because they have already mastered friendship and social interaction. They are simply taking those skills or abilities to the Internet.
Facebook isn’t just for Realtors and it isn’t just for marketing. Having a nice corporate look to a personal account may do more harm than good. We need to be sensitive to the fact that not everyone wants to be our friend and that many use Facebook just to keep in touch with friends and family and they don’t want to make us a part of that group.
When planning a Facebook strategy for a business, it might be a good idea to get back to the idea that Facebook isn’t about technology or marketing — it is about friendship and relationships and human interaction.
It is about touching and connecting to others in a meaningful way. People who use Facebook and do not recognize that fact won’t get much out of it no matter how nice their page is or how many seminars they attended on how to use it.