Facebook: Friction-Free Friendship

facebook friction free friendship
In a recent post in his From Where I Sit blog, Thomas Nelson Publishers CEO Michael Hyatt shares his frustrating experience in a couple of bookstores, where “friction” created by long lines and lack of available personnel caused him to abandon his purchases and instead opt for the friction-free environment of Amazon.com. He also relates his good experience at the Apple store, and how it is set up to make it easy to buy, with roving cashiers ready to swipe a credit card so you can be on your way.

Interestingly, the absence of friction is exactly the quality I used to describe Facebook earlier this month when I said it had reached a Tipping Point (and interestingly that judgment was affirmed in the last two weeks by a cover story in Newsweek and another important article in TIME.)

Facebook isn’t intended as a place to make friends, but it does eliminate a good chunk of the effort involved in maintaining the relationships you have with people you already know. If you are Facebook friends, you’ll see their birthdays, and occasionally some of their activities, in your news feed. And they’ll see some updates about you. All this happens without any effort at all. You can send them a message spur-of-the-moment message in a few seconds without having to look up their current address, phone or email, and you don’t need to worry about it getting stuck in an overactive spam filter.

Likewise, Facebook groups can make connecting with your business and professional colleagues easier. If you have key vendors, suppliers, customers or sources, you can send them a friend invitation (perhaps with access to your limited profile.) But another good alternative is to invite them to join a group, without them necessarily becoming your “friend.” You can use the Message All Members function to broadcast a message to all of them, or you can engage in a private conversation with any.

Because they’ve either opted in as your friend or as a member of your group, you can have priority access to each other. If you have the Facebook Mobile application installed, you can be alerted by text message on your cell phone whenever someone sends you a message in Facebook. That can enable you to provide the highest quality service and personal attention to people who are most important to your business or professional success.

Facebook is a slick tool for taking the friction out of maintaining relationships and exchanging information.

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Facebook: For Business Use ONLY

You may have heard people say Facebook shouldn’t be used for business or professional networking because it’s a personal social networking site. They say personal and professional spheres shouldn’t be mixed.

But if you haven’t started using Facebook yet, that’s a non-issue for you. You don’t have any personal relationships in Facebook, so you have a blank slate. There is nothing to mix with your professional or business relationships. You could use Facebook for purely professional reasons, and keep the personal out of it.

I got to thinking about this when I looked at some of the friends highlighted on my Facebook profile. Most of them joined at my invitation. I have blurred the names to safeguard their identity.

Facebook Business Use Only
They haven’t put pictures on their profiles, which is why they are represented by big question marks. They haven’t sought out high school or college classmates. They haven’t added personal information about favorite movies, books or activities. They have blank slates.
What you put into your profile, the applications you add and the friends you seek and accept are up to you. There are lots of great potential uses for Facebook in business networking, and I’ve written previously about ways to separate the personal and professional here and here.

But if you’ve gotten this far without having a Facebook profile for your personal life, and if keeping personal and professional separate is important to you, you may well decide to leave the truly personal information out of Facebook. You can have Facebook for business use only.

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Crisis Communications and Social Media

Crisis Communications Social Media
I met Dennis McDonald in Washington, DC a month or so ago. He has written an interesting white paper on the role of social media like Twitter, Facebook, blogs etc. in disaster/crisis communication. Here’s his conclusion:

In this paper I have recommended that social media and social networking should be incorporated into how schools plan for their response to disasters and emergency situations. As the reports I cite here demonstrate, this is part of a much larger and more complex situation. It is also a changing situation given that technologies and usage patterns continue to evolve.

Fundamentally, to me this question is really a no-brainer. Young people use these systems day in and day out. They blog, they use social networks, they constantly are text-messaging, and they know how to exchange information and share files. Such systems are second nature to them.

To fail to take the existence and potential value of such systems into account in planning for what to do in case their lives are threatened would be irresponsible. But we do need more thinking, research, and experimentation before we know what makes the most sense.

Dennis wrote his paper in the educational context, but I think his conclusions are more broadly applicable. His main thought is that in various recent tragedies no one method was sufficient to communicate with affected communities, and you never know which means will be knocked out, so you need multiple systems. Given the fact that these means will in fact be used (see the Virginia Tech and Minneapolis Bridge Collapse examples), these media should be part of your crisis plan, too.

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MySpace Spam from Alla to Zada

I mentioned in an earlier post that all of the friend requests I get in Facebook have been legitimate, while all but one of the friend requests I’ve received in MySpace have been porn spam.

Update: see the bottom of this post for the updated list of MySpace spam friend requests I’ve received.

The most recent MySpace spam came from “Alla,” and when I went to check my MySpace inbox I found there were two others in the last 24 hours, from “Norine” and “Jaymie.” And interestingly, “Alla” is supposedly an 18 year-old male.
MySpace Spam

This week’s Time magazine article on Facebook explains why spam isn’t a real problem there (just like viruses don’t typically affect Macs.) I thought it would be fun and informative to catalog the spam I get in MySpace, and all the invitations I receive from supposedly different people, but that have exactly the same language, in one of these two formats.

“Norine” followed the “Zada” formula:

MySpace Spam

…while “Alla” is more verbose, using the same language as “Jaymie”

MySpace Spam

So, I’m going to update this page periodically with all of the spam come-ons I get in MySpace. It’s this kind of garbage that explains why Facebook will be a place for business and professional networking and information sharing, and why (unless it cleans up its site), MySpace will not.
Here’s the list of MySpace spam so far (at least since I started keeping track):

  • Alla and Alyson (10/29/07) and Anna (1/3/08)
  • Clarice (8/26/07)
  • Esperanza (10/8/07) and Estella (10/26/07) and Evelyn (1/3/08)
  • Gertrude (9/19/07)
  • Ivy
  • Jaymie (and Judy 9/24/07 and Judith 10/14/07 and Jennifer 1/1/08)
  • Karan (and Keeley 11/30/07)
  • Mertie (8/30/07) and Michaela (9/25/07) and Maritza (11/1/07)
  • Norine (and Nisha 9/5/07)
  • Patricia (10/31/07)
  • Ramona (10/13/07)
  • Traci (10/9/07) and Thelma (11/27/07)
  • Vanessa (10/20/07) and Valeria (1/2/08)
  • Zada

Update: the ones listed above were in the original post. As new MySpace porn spam friend requests come in I will add them in appropriate alphabetical order, but with the date of the message.
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Facebook in Time Magazine

Facebook in Time Magazine
Time magazine keeps up the pace with Newsweek in having a significant article about Facebook, as Lev Grossman writes, “Why Facebook Is the Future

Facebook’s appeal is both obvious and rather subtle. It’s a website, but in a sense, it’s another version of the Internet itself: a Net within the Net, one that’s everything the larger Net is not. Facebook is cleanly designed and has a classy, upmarket feel to it–a whiff of the Ivy League still clings. People tend to use their real names on Facebook. They also declare their sex, age, whereabouts, romantic status and institutional affiliations. Identity is not a performance or a toy on Facebook; it is a fixed and orderly fact. Nobody does anything secretly: a news feed constantly updates your friends on your activities. On Facebook, everybody knows you’re a dog.
Maybe that’s why Facebook’s fastest-growing demographic consists of people 35 or older: they’re refugees from the uncouth wider Web. Every community must negotiate the imperatives of individual freedom and collective social order, and Facebook constitutes a critical rebalancing of the Internet’s founding vision of unfettered electronic liberty. Of course, it is possible to misbehave on Facebook–it’s just self-defeating. Unlike the Internet, Facebook is structured around an opt-in philosophy; people have to consent to have contact with or even see others on the network. If you’re annoying folks, you’ll essentially cease to exist, as those you annoy drop you off the grid.

That’s right. Because it’s opt-in, Facebook is the Spam killer. It creates a whole new class of email, because the messages you get are from people you know. Anyone who is in Facebook can send a message to any other member, but those who repeatedly send unwelcome messages can be blocked or reported to be bounced from the network.Those who complain of the “walled garden” nature of Facebook should remember that sometimes walls are helpful: they keep the bad guys out.

Here’s a related interview from last month with Mark Zuckerberg. I highly recommend you read this as well. Here are some highlights:

TIME: Is Facebook’s popularity connected to its focus on authenticity? On your site, misrepresentation of your real self is a violation of company policy.
Zuckerberg: That’s the critical part of it. Our whole theory is that people have real connections in the world. People communicate most naturally and effectively with their friends and the people around them. What we figured is that if we could model what those connections were, [we could] provide that information to a set of applications through which people want to share information, photos or videos or events. But that only works if those relationships are real. That’s a really big difference between Facebook and a lot of other sites. We’re not thinking about ourselves as a community — we’re not trying to build a community — we’re not trying to make new connections.
TIME: Why do you describe Facebook as a “social utility” rather than a “social network?”
Zuckerberg: I think there’s confusion around what the point of social networks is. A lot of different companies characterized as social networks have different goals — some serve the function of business networking, some are media portals. What we’re trying to do is just make it really efficient for people to communicate, get information and share information. We always try to emphasize the utility component.
TIME: The frenzy surrounding Facebook seems to have intensified quite dramatically over the past several months. What do you think is behind the company’s newfound cachet?
Zuckerberg: I think the most recent surge, at least in the press, is around the launch of Facebook Platform. For the first time we’re allowing developers who don’t work at Facebook to develop applications just as if they were. That’s a big deal because it means that all developers have a new way of doing business if they choose to take advantage of it. There are whole companies that are forming whose only product is a Facebook Platform application. That provides an opportunity for them, it provides an opportunity for people who want to make money by investing in those companies, and I think that’s something that’s pretty exciting to the business community. It’s also really exciting to our users because it means that a whole new variety of services are going to be made available.

TIME: With more than 40 billion page views every month, Facebook is the sixth most trafficked site in the U.S., and the top photo-sharing site. What are your international expansion plans?
Zuckerberg: Right now a lot of our growth is happening internationally. We have more than 10% or 15% of the population of Canada on the site. The U.K. has a huge user base. We haven’t translated the site yet, but that’s something we’re working on and it should be done soon. What we’re doing is pretty broadly applicable to people in all different age groups and demographics and places around the world.

This is great weekend reading, as is the Newsweek article, to give background on why Facebook will be such a force in the future of the internet. And I’ve written a few things about Facebook, too, particularly how it can be used for business.
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