“Facebook is like God!”

Written by on May 25th, 2009

What does Facebook mean to you?

And what does it mean to your college or organization?

About 4 years ago I was conducting a focus group at a New York state college.

Apparently the yearbook was no longer produced at their college. (A combination of cost and lack of interest Image of Godamong graduating seniors.) The alumni director was concerned because she found herself ever more dependent on yearbooks to find out which alumni were in groups and organizations so she could hold campus reunion events around their participation. In phone conversations I had with her, I suggested she consider taking the yearbook online. As more students spend more time online and share more content, I suggested, all we need to do is organize the data and she would have instantaneous access to al l the data she needed.

There were 20 people in the room, faculty, students and administrators. When the discussion came to Facebook, one of the students said, “Facebook is like God to me”. I learned later that she came from a small town that graduated less than 100 students each year and didn’t appear to be the type of person that fit into the most popular click at the school. She went on to say she had over 600 friends on Facebook that she was able to connect and engage with at anytime. (Keep in mind this was in the spring of 2005 and Facebook had only been out of the gate for about a year.)

I was taken aback as I didn’t know how to respond. I immediately flashed to a moment over 3 decades earlier when John Lennon suggested in a 1966 interview that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus! Silent, I continued to listen as she talked. I realized she was a very religious and passionate person and Facebook had shown her the way she could break out of her small town environment and regardless of her social economic conditions, regardless of her physical appearance, on Facebook she was accepted by a large number of people. Facebook gave her a social life; it enriched her life, made her popular and gave her a new found sense of worth and value.

This was the first of a series of meetings where I was beginning to understand that the behavior of consumers were changing. Social networking was going mainstream and occupying consumers time and grabbing a larger mind-share. While I was unable to convince even the students that an online yearbook would be a useful tool, I walked away from that meeting with an understanding that Facebook was going to become a major resource for me in the future. What it was, wasn’t exactly clear!

Now, four years later, Facebook has grown from about 3 million users to over 225 million users. There are many business, brands, religious organizations, non profits, government organizations and associations who are embracing Facebook in an attempt to get closer to their customer base. While many have not found the “silver bullet”, they are on a path of exploration to find out what Facebook means to their organization and how they relate to their customers.

Facebook is rapidly becoming the “social utility” it’s founder had hoped it would be.  With the introduction of Facebook Connect, the Facebook Platform and now Facebook Open Stream, it has become the world’s largest phone book that your business or urbanization can tap into at any time to acquire, retain and engage your customer base.

  1. Colleges can adopt the Facebook Platform for recruitment, retention, student services, alumni and even fundraising
  2. Businesses can adopt the Facebook Platform to survey customers, handle customer service issues, spread the word about their brand and increase sales
  3. Religious organizations could communicate more frequently and learn more about about how to engage their members.  They could move their church out of the physical building and into a 24/7/365 environment – reaching their members where they are at!
  4. Non profits could expand their brand worldwide and reach their contributors networks for more contributions

There are enormous opportunities available for all organizations.  The really good news is that Facebook will  let you tap into their databases for free.

Not exploring a Facebook strategy in light of these revelations would be foolish!
So what does Facebook do for you and your organization?

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