The Web has become social, we all know it. Just eight years ago, Facebook was nothing but an embryonic idea in a single sophomore brain at a dorm in Harvard. Today, it boasts 1 billion users. How do you archive such exponential growth? Clearly, having the “vision” is key; however, this was not a single man’s accomplishment. The power of the network, and more to the point, the power of a network of people, helped Facebook’s creator, Mark Zuckerberg, revolutionize the Web.
Oftentimes, tech vision alone cannot overcome human reality. Marc Andreessen is indeed a man of vision and little has escaped him in the new tech world order. An über tech venture capitalist and creator of Mosaic (the first Web browser and precursor to Netscape), Andreessen was asked about not having a social component in that first browser. Way back then, the Web was ruled by anonymity; hard to believe, this was less than a decade before Marc Zuckerberg first thought of Face-anything in Cambridge. Adding any sort of social component to a browser could compromise the user’s identity, so this created deep concerns for Mosaic’s creators. Thus, their social vision was purposely sent to the bench to allow anonymity to play the lead role in those early days of the Web.
How many of you remember your first Web pseudonyms? This was a thrilling new angle the Web brought to our lives. You no longer had to be plain old John, Mary or Mandy; you could recreate yourself on the web as MustangTuner, purrKitty14 or TrekCapt1981. Back then, our AOL or CompuServe usernames became our Web personas; allowing us to freely to roam the Web in chat rooms and bulletin boards without being recognized. Before any of this, pseudonyms were the refuge of covert action in history and literature in America: Publius secretly gave us the country’s framework in the Federalist Papers and Mark Twain still makes us wonders centuries later, if Mr. Clemens actually penned all those stories by himself ...
Today, we are different, as if by collective instant-dogma we decided to change (John Lennon would be mad; we’ve gone from instant-karma to instant-dogma in a generation). We have all decided to drop the façade, step in front of our pseudonyms and proclaim our true selves daily on Facebook, Twitter and blogs. We post our names, our pictures and our thoughts out there daily, or even by the hour like so many Twitter-philes do. Not only have we stepped out of the latent shadows of Web-secrecy, we have brought our businesses with us. Our companies are now very public signposts on the information highway. Why have we collectively agreed to do this? Publicity perhaps? I’m certain this is a big part of it.
The trick for us is in figuring out what to do with this newfound publicity. As business owners, we want to turn this publicity into more business; however, that’s easier said than done! Managing social sites in an efficient manner is no easy task. Starting a Facebook page is easy; turning that presence into more filter, harmonic balancer and coil sales is not. Coming up with a plan to leverage social media has spurred some interesting, complex and, oftentimes, passionate arguments in our company. I know we are not alone in this; similar debates are raging across the business world.
I have put myself squarely in the middle of this debate, not only in my business, but out here on the public stage as well. At times, this makes me a target for the opposing view; you know, the one that subscribes to hiding your company from Web users also known as customers. Turns out not everyone is ready to assimilate social media and have retreated behind a wall of privacy concerns. And guess what? Many of them are right with regard to privacy issues. “Guts and all” is not the best strategy for your company’s Web presence, but hiding in a brick and mortar cave is perhaps even more dangerous.
We all need to figure a way to drop the vestiges of the pseudonym era and let our customers find and engage us on the Web. Most customers already dropped their fake Web-IDs and are ready to engage us online on a new identity-based economy. Are you ready to identify yourself?
This is terra incognita for all of us, you are not alone in that. We just bolted out of the starting gate, so I say hurry up and get social before your customers start “socializing” with other companies. Learn by your online mistakes (just like in the real world) and collaborate with as many people as you can. This perhaps is the biggest lesson I have learned in social marketing: There is power in a group. The tech-intelligentsia will evoke Reed’s law again and again on this, which asserts that “the value of a network increases dramatically when people form subgroups for collaboration and sharing.”
Simply put, what MIT’s computer scientist David P. Reed tried to capture is the notion that the usefulness of social networks will scale exponentially with the size of the network. Now think about that concept, exponentially scaling up your customers. Tell me you don’t like the sound of that! Our customers, vendors and competitors are all in a mad dash to form groups, subgroups and online communities to flesh out a way to make sense of the social media opportunities now present in our businesses. Join the crowd and make sure you don’t leave your company behind a pseudonym.
Visit Mandy’s blog: www.mandyaguilar.com