Nov 26 2009

The Facebook Era: Useless for Intended Audience

Published by at 1:04 pm under book review,marketing

Clara Shih gives a good overview of what Facebook is good for in The Facebook Era (affiliate link). Of course, this book suffers from what all books, increasingly, suffer from: the fact that they’re books.  By the time they are edited and published, 25% of the information is outdated.

But apart from that, Shih does a good job running through the uses of Facebook and it’s potential meaning for business.  It’s a good primer if you are a small business that is trying to figure out what are some practical uses of Facebook in a business context.  Shih built the application that connects Facebook to Salesforce.com, which was very prescient, because the social CRM model is an extremely valuable usage of social graph information (if only we could get people to opt in!).

Unfortunately, there’s not much useful information for the two main audiences that this book claims to be for: C-level marketing executives, and digital marketers.

In the case of the former, there is too much hands-on tactical information, and waaa-aay too many screenshots walking the reader through the various parts of a Facebook page.  Not enough visioneering to make the whole book useful.  If this is you, read Marc Bernoff’s intro, then read chapters 3, 4, and 5, which discuss, respectively, the underpinnings of the social graph, social sales, and social marketing.

In the case of the latter, you don’t need to read this book.  First, you understand the importance in the rise of social media.  Second, you don’t need a primer on how to use Facebook – which is the entire third section of the book.  Third, you don’t need her advise to join Doostang to launch your career.  I did find chapter 1 interesting – it was a concise summary of 70 years of the computing industry, which made for a nice setup for where we are now with social.

Actually, since I mentioned it, she makes Doostang sound completely obnoxious, describing it as an exclusive venue where Ivy League grads find their first jobs out of college.  The home page of Doostang affirms this positioning, boldly declaring that “500,000 elite young professionals use Doostang to get hired.”  I believe that Doostang might have 500,000 user accounts, but how many of them were hired?  And, in this economy, recent grads are finding it ever tougher to get hired, Ivy degrees notwithstanding.  I think if Doostang were able to squeeze out almost the same number of jobs as $800BN in stimulus funding, we would be hearing more about it.  Also, if I recall, Facebook positioned itself as an exclusive, Ivy-only network when it was first built, but quickly found that opening wider and expanding was the only way to continue growing as a company.

Finally, please proceed with caution and common sense when using Shih’s actual marketing tactic advice.  She actually recommends that marketers anonymously pump their own products, and get others to do so without disclosing the relationship.  On it’s face, this obviously flies in the face of building genuine and trusted relationships between the brand and the customer.  Also, it’s illegal now, based on new regulations passed by the FTC requiring disclosure of any relationship between a brand and an online poster.

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