Better than Facebook?


MarketPlace on American Public Media had the following exchange between Kai Ryssdal and Phil Fernandez regarding Facebook’s pre-Initial Public Offering roadshow:

Ryssdal: But if it goes bad in one of these 10 to 15 minute meetings, you’re probably have like nine more set up that day, right?
Fernandez: Nine or 25 or something like that. I’ve done them from San Diego to Los Angeles to Denver to Minneapolis to New York, all in the same day.
Ryssdal: Yeah, sounds grueling. Sounds like not a whole lot of fun.
Fernandez: You know, it’s an incredible high because what you’re doing is one of the most exciting things in a career, and at the same time, it’s about as hellish as anything I’ve ever been through.
Ryssdal: This might seem like kind of a rookie question to ask, but why do we need roadshows? Why do you guys have to go do this? Isn’t there a better way?
Fernandez: You’d sure like there to be a better way. In all things, there’s this adage that says ‘people buy from people.’ And I think this is exactly what this is — it’s people looking people in the eye and choosing whether they’re going to do business with them.
The interview highlights a fundamental point that people connect with people.  A corporation, (even Facebook) cannot create an emotional reaction by itself and with all it knows about us.  The people involved with a cause are the ones who ultimately give it a heart and soul.  This is why direct mail campaigns rarely move the needle when it comes to participation and transformative giving.  It is easy to ignore or select a token gift in response.  However, when your best friend takes you by the arm and says you have to have a very specific experience that resonates with your belief system, it can generate a chemical, biological, and physiological reaction.   If you are moved emotionally, you are ready to do what you can in your power to make a difference.
So often we are afraid to meet face-to-face with another person and ask them to take action.  We hide behind envelopes, emails, websites, and proxies.  This offers a massive advantage to those who are willing to step forward and connect with a peer.  Our fear keeps us off the stage and withholds our greatest gift, the ability to facilitate a shared experience. 
If you are better than Facebook than perhaps avoiding face-to-face meetings is a realistic business strategy.  For the rest of us, maximizing a human connection is the greatest act we can take on behalf of a cause we support.

This is the Place

Some social sector causes are evaluating putting their entire online presence on Facebook.  Instead of trying to bridge their followers between Facebook and an organization’s external website, these enterprises are using Facebook as the platform from which to manage their entire online presence.  This is not a strategy for everyone but may be viable for those with the right needs.  Facebook controls 16% of the US share of all time spent online.

Post-Post Update: Interesting data about Facebook users and their propensity to “like” you organization.

Facebook vs. Google

How quickly can your competitive advantage erode?  A Wall Street Journal article detailed the steps that Facebook and Google’s Gmail are taking to customize their features to look more like their their competitor.  Changes to status updates, email inbox and their respective layouts are starting to erode the competitive advantage between the two companies.  It appears that once one company started to cross the design lane that separated the two, the other company moved immediately moved closer.  Competitive advantage is not a protective blanket if it can be easily duplicated.  Real competitive advantage needs to have a serious moat in front of a castle.  Force a competitor to swim across and try to scale the walls.  If you have a well designed competitive advantage then you will force another organization to expend significant resources to try and challenge your position.