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Clara Shih On The Facebook Era (Part 1)

Posted on Saturday, Apr 4th 2009

[For the next two weekends I’m featuring excerpts from a new book about using Facebook and Twitter for business: ‘The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Build Better Products, Reach New Audiences, and Sell More Stuff’ by Clara Shih, creator of the first business application on Facebook. According to Shih, Facebook is the new CRM. Online social networking is resulting in a sociocultural transformation in individuals’ behavior, expectations, and relationships – with important implications for sales and marketing. The book is available on Amazon; more information and Clara’s blog are on thefacebookera.com]

It is an honor to be invited by Sramana, who has been my role model and source of inspiration for many years, to share excerpts from ‘The Facebook Era’. Because the idea of using Facebook and Twitter for business is still relatively new, I thought I’d first explain how I came to write this book, and why I believe Facebook represents a historic technology revolution similar to the Internet ten years ago, the PC Era in the 80s, and the mainframe revolution before that.

In 2007, I developed Faceforce (now called Faceconnector), the first business application on Facebook, with the help of my friend Todd Perry as a weekend project. Faceconnector integrates Facebook profiles and friend information into Salesforce contact, lead and account records. Here’s an example:

What I realized was that Facebook is CRM for individuals. Facebook has indeed enabled us to become more capable and efficient at maintaining larger networks across our personal and professional lives. But it’s even better than traditional CRM, because Facebook is searchable, bidirectional (not only can I view your profile, you can view mine back), and provides active reminders to stay in touch (like birthdays and news feed updates). What happens when you give CRM to 200 million people around the world? Well, there are important implications for our relationships and interactions—both with one another and with brands.

Why did I write ‘The Facebook Era’?

Developing Faceconnector and being the first-line support to help customers install, troubleshoot, and customize the application, I came across hundreds of examples of how people are using social networking services in creative ways throughout their organizations. I was inspired by these examples and wanted to share their stories, as well as Todd’s and my experience of helping kickstart the enterprise social applications movement.

Also, as individual users, we experience and appreciate Facebook very viscerally—sharing a photo, wishing someone a happy birthday. Facebook developers may experience Facebook more tactically, continually optimizing based on new features that become available. What I have spent the last year thinking about in ‘The Facebook Era’ is articulating why Facebook is so universally appealing and how it is transforming our culture, including new expectations and possibilities for business. My hope is that with a clear articulation and common language for us to describe these profound changes taking place we can develop better understanding of and strategies for ourselves and our companies.

What is the Facebook Era and why does it matter?

The Facebook Era is a new technology model, way of thinking, and cultural phenomenon. Whereas the last decade was about the World Wide Web of information and the power of linking web pages, today, we are seeing a World Wide Web of people emerge. All of us who are on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn have experienced the power of the social graph—that is, ubiquitous trusted online identity, and knowing who knows whom and how.

I started out wanting to write a book about business and technology. ‘The Facebook Era’ is both of those, but it’s also about a sociocultural transformation that requires a change in our thinking and a new language to articulate our strategies and observations. I look forward to hearing your feedback and invite you to participate via Facebook Connect on the book’s website.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Clara Shih On The Facebook Era
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