Lessons From Facebook

by Dan Blank on September 5, 2008

Several weeks back, I wrote about how Facebook changed my life, and how it can change your industry. A recent discovery has me taking another look at how Facebook can connect people. I want to share the story of what a high school class from 1988 is doing to leverage Facebook, and explore the lessons that businesses can take from this.

This is their story. But it could easily be yours.

After Lisa King, a co-worker at RBI “friended” me on Facebook, I noticed her alumni group – The Framingham North High School Class of 1988 – and decided to check it out. Now, I love photos, and I was amazed at the 700+ photos that were uploaded to that group.  Here are a few of them to start things off:

 

 

So what is so special about these photos, and more importantly, how is it relevant to the ways your industry can leverage social media, and connect in new and important ways? Let’s take it apart:

  • It’s easy to share.
    Facebook makes it ludicrously easy to share information and media with each other.

  • It’s easy to connect.
    There are various tools built into the site that allow you to easily discover which people you may know that are active on Facebook.

  • It expands even tenuous relationships.
    Over time, we tend to keep a circle of friends that are the most meaningful to us. But Facebook allows you to have easy but meaningful interactions with that second tier of friends – acquaintances, co-workers, people you sort-of know, but haven’t had dinner with.

  • It extends relationships.
    Once you are connected to someone, you begin receiving small updates on their status, and content they add to the site. Suddenly, someone who you may barely know, becomes a three dimentional person, with common interests. As you "friend" people from different stages of your life, you experience an odd mashup of eras and contexts, creating something entirely new.

  • It creates conversations.
    Many of these photos have extensive conversations beneath each of them on Facebook – as people chat about the photo, what it reminds them of, sharing stories, and trying to track down those who are not yet on Facebook.

  • It makes it easy to interact.
    Unlike phone calls, face to face meetings, or even email, adding a note or comment is a simple, stress free way to stay connected, without much effort or pressure.

  • It turns static content into something interactive.
    Everything you add to Facebook is somehow shared, and has the potential to create a new connection or conversation, be it a photo, status update, or note on your Wall. These photos sat for decades in shoeboxes – but suddenly, they are alive again.

  • It’s fun.
    Not only are the photos funny, but the comments and conversations that accompany them are just hilarious.

  • It creates a shared experience.
    Uploading old photos, and reconnecting with old friends is not just a trip down memory lane. You find that Facebook itself becomes an important shared experience among you and your firends.

  • It’s expansive.
    Joining Facebook can be lonely at first, as you find friends and become comfortable with sharing. But once you do so, you will be surprised at the connections you make.

    See what else is going on here? A complete suspension of ego! They are uploading silly photos, embarrassing photos, photos that don’t seem to mean anything, photos where they are wearing outfits and sporting hairstyles that they would never wear today.

    Why is this important?
    Because it’s authentic.

    For me, it is like watching a reality show, piecing together their story, finding out what happened to everyone. It is as if they are creating a living documentary of their lives. And what is more incredible, is that it is so easy to do.

    When I spoke to Lisa about her experience on Facebook, she expressed something I have heard from others:

    For most of these people, she may not have been close to them in high school, or even knew them at all. But TODAY, she has a relationship with them. Because of Facebook, they are getting together, and even planning a reunion.

    So How Do We Relate This to Business – To Your Industry?
    What if you were the catalyst of sharing experiences within your industry. Photos – stories – connecting people. Some ideas:

    • Find a compelling topic.
      What stories do people talk about at industry events? Companies, people, places, products, events? Over the course of careers, these shared experiences are meaningful and bring people together. Find a way to aggregate this history.

    • Connect.
      Connecting and networking is a critically important to everyone in your industry. Find ways to engage people to connect. Perhaps it is a professional interest, a shared history, or even personal hobbies that people may share. Take chances – don’t worry about only connecting to people who are blood-related or you shared an office with for a decade. Friend people, upload photos, start groups on Facebook or your own site. When you do connect with people, comment on their profile, and be sure to share more of yourself.

    • Share.
      Every photo you can find, story you can uncover, and connection you can make. You may be surpised what old piece of paper, catalog, logo, or photo people in your industry will find interesting. Also, from now on, take tons more photos, and ask people you know to do the same.

    • Have fun.
      While everyone wants to be "professional," keep in mind that your colleagues and customers are human. Tap into their passion.

    And no, this doesn’t have to be on Facebook – it can be on another social network, or on your own website. The goal is not the technology – it is helping people have a richer experience in their lives and business.

    Looking at Facebook, and how the web is reshaping our culture, the main lesson I take is this:

    The goal is not "content."
    The goal is "connection."

    Of course – the content is critically important. But we now have tools to expand the effects this content has on our lives – on how it helps us to find new opportunities, and new ways to smile.

    (A huge thanks to Lisa King and her Facebook alumni group for being good sports about this, and being so open about sharing!)
    A few more of my favorite photos:


    Scanned notes from grade school. As one person commented under this: "Things were so easy back then."


    There is no such thing as oversharing: posting the list of top boys from the 7th grade started quite a conversation – 50 comments – with the adult boys arguing about positioning!


    Love the sun flash in his eyes – on top of the world!

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