I was taking a look at some of the comments on my Facebook post the other day and there were two comments that echoed each other — “It seems to me that there is some indecision including on the part of Facebook itself about whether it’s social networking or professional networking.”
This is an interesting comment for a number of reasons … but the primary interest for me lies in the underlying assumption that Facebook is, in fact, in command of its own strategy.
Facebook have done a pretty good job of creating a friend-2-friend community enablement platform … they have some nice tools, an open and relatively transparent technology base and a growing developer base who happily build widgets until the cows come home (purple or otherwise). And while this is all very Web 2.0 … it is also very “Enterprise 2.0″. By opening up the platform in the way that they have, Facebook have taken the bold leap into strategy by community. There are some keen advantages to this:
- Sampling — Some of the brightest minds in the business are experimenting and performing R&D on Facebook’s behalf. Not only are Facebook benefiting from this, they are also able to observe and analyse the outcomes of these efforts as strategic initiatives are rapidly exposed to the marketplace. This allows for both niche and broad market trial of concepts and technologies.
- Adoption — Passionate groups are activating and driving participation of the Facebook platform. This is proving particularly effective in those people (such as myself) who had thus far been resistant to Facebook.
- Self segmentation — Of course there is a wealth of information in the demographic data, in the self-profiling routinely performed by Facebook participants. At the very least it provides deep insight into trend-related information in a very usable format.
And while these are all powerful benefits, there is another that, in my view, outweighs them all — they have a ZERO RISK strategy-execution model in place. Because the various communities plan, implement and activate initiatives, Facebook is able to watch and learn. There is no IMPERATIVE for them to decide whether they are a professional or social networking platform — that decision will be made for them by the communities. And because we all flock to the network that provides us the most value, you can bet that there will be a market value to it.
Do you think Facebook is concerned about this open source strategy? I bet no one on the Board loses a wink of sleep thinking on it.