When Clara Shih set out to write a second edition of her bestselling book, The Facebook Era, she had her hands full trying to keep up with all the changes happening in the social media sphere, especially among the big three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. So much so, Clara had to change the publish date of the new book just to keep current.
Clara did more than just touch-up the first edition: She added case studies, new chapters and a bunch of guest-written expert opinion sidebars.
All About Using Social Networks for Business
It’s all geared to helping businesses and entrepreneurs learn how to tap into social networks to market, sell and innovate.
Clara has plenty of first-hand knowledge in this regard — she created the first business application on Facebook (Faceconnector), which integrates Facebook with Salesforce.com. More recently, Clara started Hearsay Labs, a provider of social customer relationship management software.
I enjoyed both Facebook Era editions (yes, I read the second one cover to cover, too). And so it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to chat with Clara, to talk about her new book as well as the social media landscape in general.
Interview with Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era: Part 1
We had a nice long conversation, enough that it makes for a nice two-parter on this blog.
Here in Part 1 we discuss how Facebook and other networks are altering fundamental social norms.
You used social media to help determine some of the content of the book. Can you elaborate on how that process worked out?
Clara: The innovation in social media is happening from the bottom up. It’s happening in the groundswell from these grassroots initiatives that people are taking for their organization and their companies and in their personal lives. I really wanted to source these ideas and these best practices directly from the innovators in the space. And so I used my Twitter handle and my Facebook page as well as my personal Facebook profile to ask people what their ideas were. What were the things they were living and experiencing themselves? And I had a phenomenal response. A lot of the best material in the book came from people that I interacted with on Facebook and Twitter.
Are these people you knew?
Clara: What does it mean to know someone these days? I mean, many of them I’ve never met — they’ve connected with me and they’re following me on Twitter and vice versa and now I feel like I do have a relationship.
The idea of what is a “friend” changes a lot in these contemporary times.
Clara: That’s really at the heart of everything that I write about. I mean, yes, there are a lot of business implications, but at the heart of it is human relationships and how we interact with each other and connect with each other. How we connect with our customers. And that drives all the business use cases and opportunities.
One of the reasons I was so enthusiastic about your first edition is that you really delved into a human part, the sociology, the social ethos — whatever you want to call it — and then applying that to social networks and the new social norms, as you refer to them in your second edition. You explain it so clearly. So how important is it understand these social norms when, as a business, you’re engaging in this context?
Clara: I think it’s the most important thing you can do. Understanding human behavior and how your customers and clients think. What makes them happy? That’s really the key to success for any business. Regardless of what product or service you may have.
In the last 13 years the internet gave us tremendous efficiency between buyers and sellers and giving everyone access to information. But as Jim McCann [founder of 1-800-Flowers.com] writes about in the forward to this book, the efficiency came at a great price. Oftentimes what we sacrificed was human connection. The feeling that customers had that they were actually special and valued by your company.
The great thing about social networks is the idea that we can regain some of that connection, without losing any of the efficiency. We can still connect to large groups of people. We can still market to and prospect to large group of people. But because there’s more information about people and relationships and connections we can still have that bond and invest in that customer loyalty.
Right, and on the flip side, it humanizes a business, too. Companies can seem like monoliths, even if they’re small, if you don’t have any communication with what appears to be a real person.
Clara: Exactly. And there’s nothing like putting a human face around a big company. Especially if it’s one that people don’t traditionally find very sexy. That just changes the whole set of interactions. We’ve seen great examples like Frank [Eliason] at Comcast, to show someone who really cares and be the face of a large institutional brand.
So whether you’re working externally with your customers, or internally with your employees, it’s human nature to want to connect with people and facilitating that process makes way for better business.
In your book you talk about how seemingly non-important details – for instance someone says they play soccer — can end up making a difference between how people interact with one another and possibly be a factor in how a business deal happens.
Clara: People are always looking for common ground. Especially when you meet someone new. You’re trying to figure out if this person is trustworthy and whether you want to do business with them. Whatever business you’re in, people always prefer to do business with people they know and like. And they refuse to do business with people they don’t trust. And so to the extent that Facebook can help you see similar interests, hobbies, and friends. That carries a lot of weight in being able to establish trust.
Right, but five years ago people didn’t have that ability and yet business still occurred. Do you think that it will change, such that it will be incumbent on someone to be participating in this way, even with business people, on this level? How do you see it evolving?
Clara: I think we’re seeing it already. Because before five years ago, it was 15 years ago where we didn’t have the internet. And certainly before there was online a lot of business got done for a long time… and we see these technology cycles: first the mainframe, then the personal computer, then the internet and now the social web, where it doesn’t happen all at once, but certainly for many industries, it can give you a huge leg up to understand this new communication and technology paradigm and use it as an additional way to get customer connection and loyalty.
Stay tuned for Part 2
There’s more, folks: My next post will be Part 2 of our conversation about The Facebook Era.