Facebook closed out 2010 gracing the cover of TIME magazine with Mark Zuckerberg chosen as their ‘Man of the Year.’ By year’s end, the company was managing a membership of over 550 million. And on December 29, 2010, Facebook overtook Google for the first time as the most visited website on the web according to hitwise.com.
It then started 2011 with a $500 million investment by Goldman Sachs and a Russian investor that puts its value at $50 billion. To put that in perspective, that estimate makes Facebook more valuable on paper than eBay, Yahoo and Time Warner, and has them quickly catching up on Google.
By any measure, 2011 is the year Facebook must be taken seriously by each and every brand. Not because of what it’s worth as a company, but because of how that valuation reflects the potential impact of Facebook on every industry including entertainment, advertising and sales of all types.
“But we already take Facebook seriously!” brands retort.
Scrambling to get a million Facebook followers just to show you have a sizable social footprint is not taking Facebook seriously. Launching a Facebook Fan Page that serves as just another broadcast medium is not taking Facebook seriously. Orchestrating social games only to get someone to “fan” your brand without any follow through interest, is not taking Facebook seriously.
The power of Facebook is the relationships it fosters and how that gives individuals and brands influence over their fans and friends. Variously called social capital or influence, this ability to exercise influence means that brands become day traders in social emotion and continually manage their reputations.
So, this being the time for New Year’s resolutions, what should a brand do to take Facebook seriously? How can they adjust their thinking and behavior towards this network to capitalize on its success and impact? Here’s a few suggestions.
1. Stop treating your friends and fans as customers and re-frame them as human beings looking for a decent relationship and meaning in their lives.
2. Accept the fact that people don’t owe your brand any loyalty or deference simply because you’re a household name. Trust has to be re-earned and maintained.
3. Take the time to listen to what your community (and the community of your competitors) are saying. More often than not, when they ask you a question they are really telling you something.
4. Slow down and take the long view. As we all know, lasting relationships can’t be rushed .
5. Tell us a little about yourself. Not what your brand makes, but what you care about and how they affects what you make. People buy the ‘Why’ before the ‘What.’
6. Embrace your inner amateur. You may have been a market leader in your category before but those days are over. And they’re unlikely to return as technology changes too quickly.
7. Be grateful (rather than annoyed) that these social platforms, tools and technology exist and that they can drive your business further and faster at lower cost than ever before.
8. When something works for you or another brand, ask yourself why? Then don’t copy it but think about what you can do that’s unique to you and better.
9. Find the human in the technology. The currency marketers trade in has not changed even if the methods have. Emotion is what we exchange.
10. Mean it. If the growing demand for transparency, authenticity and accountability has only made your brand more guarded, cynical and duplicitous, walk away from social media. The same dynamics that can fuel your success can destroy your brand image and customer base just as quickly.
Some brands may yet dismiss Facebook and its valuation as hype and hysteria, but one fact is undeniable. The ability to connect that many people instantaneously as they move around the world, to exchange their own currency, to buy and sell real and virtual goods, and to share their lives using words, photos and video is unprecedented, transformative and bound to reinvent the way we do business. That’s what’s truly breathtaking. The valuation is simply market proof.
Do you think Facebook is worth its $50 billion valuation? Do you think it will become more important than Google in your life?