Don’t look now, but Facebook, that social networking site that has long been the avenue for college kids to share those crazy pictures from last weekend’s party – is growing up.
What’s that mean for you? Maybe nothing. But if you are a part of a Fortune 500 company looking to build internal knowledge networks or training applications, assist employees in finding the internal subject matter expertise they need, or looking to drive shared services traffic to the lowest cost channel, odds are you’ll be dealing with Facebook or something like it in the next couple of years.
There’s a great article in the June 11, 2007 edition of Fortune outlining how Facebook is planning to hook up the world. From the David Kirkpatrick article:
"Last fall, Facebook announced two changes that are critical to its new strategy. First, it introduced News Feed, an automated flow of information into your Facebook home page that told you which friends had new friends and what groups they joined, among other things.
Days later, Facebook made an even bigger announcement. Henceforth, membership would be open to everyone. New members of any age could join regional networks solely based on where they lived. (High school members had been allowed since 2005. Today there are three million.) There was grumbling among the college kids that Facebook would no longer be cool. Similarly, my 14-year-old daughter is appalled that I am a member of Facebook, and refuses to let me friend her, lest her other friends find out via News Feed. No matter, says Matt Cohler, the vice president for strategy who joined the company as employee number five in June 2004: "One of the first things I ever heard Mark say is ‘We don’t strive to keep it cool. We strive to keep it useful.’"
Opening up the rolls gave an immediate boost to membership. Facebook is growing spectacularly in places like Canada, the U.K., Australia, South Africa, Norway, Lebanon, and Egypt. Work networks are exploding, with 14,000 at IBM (Charts, Fortune 500), 10,000 at Ernst & Young, 8,100 at the BBC, and 6,300 at General Electric (Charts, Fortune 500). The U.S. Army network has 43,000 members."
Applications like Facebook will be real social networking plays for large companies, both for employees and prospects. The numbers of employees already signed up and identifying themselves as employees of the companies above make Facebook a ripe play for the HR shops of those companies. Why not set up your top HR people with accounts and let them interact? Just another means of distribution in my eyes. It’s also easy to see online delivery of training activities migrating to the environment where employees are most comfortable and spending their time. Protection of Intellectual Property would be my biggest concern, but let’s face it – simply emailing IP is probably the biggest threat ever developed regarding IP.
This make sooooo much more sense to me then the hype about recruiting in Second Life. Someone please make the articles on having an Avatar in Second Life stop. Every time I see another media outlet pick up this story, I want to scream, "Why would we want to replace the phone screen with an interaction with an avatar if our goal is to find the best candidate?".
Facebook yes. Text messaging candidates, yes. Avatars? Please….