Setting Up Facebook
In our previous post, Twitter Don’ts, we said farewell to our Twitter series with our list of Don’ts for your Twitter account, or what we like to think of as the things to avoid on Twitter.
In this post, we introduce our series on Facebook. We’ll start with an overview and history of the social media giant, with specific focus on why they’ve been so successful.
Setting Up Facebook
“Communities already exist.
Instead, think about how you can help
that community do what it wants to do.”
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook
Talk to the average adult about Facebook and you’re likely to hear it dismissed as a place for the kids. Yes, that was its beginning — as a way for college students to find out who was that cute guy or gal on the quad. But today the site is much, much more.
You may know the lore: In early 2004, Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg started — or stole the idea for, as subsequent lawsuits by the Winklevii have alleged — Facebook in his dorm room. Like a lot of origin stories this one’s not 100 percent true. And neither is the movie, The Social Network, by the way.
In fact, what Zuckerberg originally created was called Facemash, and, rather than mimicking a traditional face book — a printed pamphlet with pictures and names of students — the site was basically a knockoff of the then-popular picture-rating site, Hot or Not. Instead of asking visitors to rate the hotness of a single portrait, Facemash’s innovation was displaying two pictures side by side, and asking users to rate the hotter person.
Actually, there was one more innovation: Zuckerberg got the pictures by hacking into Harvard’s dorm ID photo database. Harvard shut down the wildly popular site within days, and, in a harbinger of things to come, charged Zuckerberg with violating students’ privacy. The college threatened to expel Zuckerberg, but eventually dropped charges.
After putting up another unrelated site later that semester, Zuckerberg released thefacebook.com in February, 2004 as an online face book. The domain name used today — facebook.com — was not used until it was purchased for $200,000 from the Aboutface Corporation in May 2005.
Figure 56 — Thefacebook.com’s 2004 Main Page
Originally encompassing only Harvard, within three months, thefacebook’s membership expanded to other colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League, and, in 2005, to other colleges and universities and even high schools. During the early years, a potential member had to have an educational email address (one ending in .edu) to join the site, effectively keeping the old folks out. But many (like your humble correspondent) found a loophole — using an alumni email address — and it became popular for parents to log into the community to see what their kids were up to.
So what’s the real story here? That a smart college sophomore first rips off a popular photo site, then takes a standard college staple — the face book — digital, quits school, moves to Silicon Valley in mid-2005 with no car, no house, no job; lands $12.7 million in venture capital; a year later turns down a $1 billion offer from Yahoo; a year after that sells a 1.6 percent share to Microsoft for $240 million (valuing Facebook at $15 billion); and, in July 2010, his site surmounts the half-a-billion member mark, making it the largest social network by a very substantial margin.
It’s enough to make your head spin.
When we started training on social media in 2008, we heard a common refrain from business people: Facebook is for kids. I don’t think there’s any need for us to be there.
Today, an Edison Research/Arbitron study found that nearly a quarter of social network users indicated that Facebook is the social site that most influences their buying decisions. No other site or service was named by more than 1% of the sample, and 72% indicated that no one social site or service influenced their buying decisions the most.
Next up: The History of Facebook
Setting Up Facebook is the 116th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). We’re just past page 317. At this rate it’ll be a long time before we get through all 430 pages, but luckily, if you’re impatient, the book is available in paper form at bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson and you can save $5 using Coupon Code 6WXG8ABP2
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 This is a great story in its own right. Zuckerberg was behind in his studies due to his work on the Web. He needed to be able to discuss 500 images from the Augustan period for his art history final. Up against the deadline, Zuckerberg built a Website featuring the images and a place for comments. Then he invited his fellow class members to share their notes on the images, like a digital study group. Not only did he do well, Zuckerberg claims so did the rest of his classmates. This is not only a slick Tom Sawyer move, but a great example of the power of social media. This story and other great info about the start of Facebook can be found in a 2007 Fast Company article: bit.ly/bEkRUn