Friday, May 25, 2012

What Small Businesses Can Learn from the Rise of Facebook

By Brent Barnhart
SOURCE: www.chamberofcommerce .com

It started out a fad. Something for kids. Something meant for the underground. Today, Mark Zuckerberg's seemingly innocent social experiment has exploded into a business phenomenon that has taken over the world; quite literally. Hundreds of millions of unique visitors per month in the United States alone. It's been estimated that over 40% of the country has a Facebook account. And it's only going uphill from there.

With founder
Mark Zuckerberg taking the company public and introducing a multi-billion dollar IPO, one can't help but drop their jaw. How did one college student's seemingly innocent idea transform into this; an integral part of our Internet experience, both socially and economically?

It all started with an idea. A seed.

Perhaps it's corny, and perhaps it's overdone. But we all start somewhere. An idea. A plan. It's how we execute and evolve which determines the speed and direction of our growth, especially when it comes to our businesses. Zuckerberg faced his fair share of twists, turns, betrayals, lawsuits and setbacks. And he's overcome them all, never slowing down. He keeps moving forward. Where is he now?

“We don't build services to make money,” Zuckerberg states in Facebook's SEC filing. “We make money to build better services.” Zuckerberg certainly has plenty of money to work worth today; yet how did he manage to get Facebook where it is now? What's his secret?

There's no secret. Sure, maybe a bit of luck involved. Right place, right time. But no secret.

There's so much than small business owners can learn from the rise of Facebook. Zuckerberg's story in and of itself is enough to make you want to stop reading and getting down to work. It's these sort of stories that light the fire under us, and push us to work for something greater.

Something greater. That's what businesses are always striving for, aren't they? A better project. More reach. That's what Facebook has always been about; seemingly constant updates in features and functionality to keep up with the times and offer something fresh. Never jarring, always on the cutting edge. Better features and functionality results in more reach, and more reach results in more buzz. Are you taking leaps to improve your own products and services? What does your reach look like?

Facebook also managed to take advantage of its growth by observing the behavior of their growing user-base. They learned what they liked and what they didn't. They tested. They observed. They came to conclusions. Are you doing the same when it comes to your customers? How well do you know your average buyer, really? Understanding behavior became key in Zuckerberg's masterplan; likewise, understanding customer behavior is incredibly important to any thriving SMB. The more you know, the more you may be able to appease and provide for your base. From there, the buzz will continue to grow.

There are many Social Media sites that have come and gone over the years. There's only one Facebook. Zuckerberg managed to slay MySpace as the “hip” place to make friends on the web, meanwhile the “Facebook killer” in Google Plus still hasn't come to fruition. Facebook's dominance of the social space didn't happen overnight; it took time, understanding, and patience. Time to grow the buzz, understand the weaknesses and flaws of competing sites, and the patience for new users to arrive. And they most certainly did. Could you pick apart your competition if given one shot to do so?

One of Facebook's biggest strengths comes through its ability to diversify. The social giant isn't only making money from ads, games, and integration with other big brands and sites. It's this sort of diversity that allows Facebook to become such a phenomenon. While perhaps it’s not so easy for the average small business to diversify, there are probably more ways you could be bringing in revenue than just one product or service. Be creative and don't be afraid to branch out.

There are certainly good things in Facebook future. What about your own business? Maybe you don't necessarily strive to be a multi-billion dollar marketing machine, but you may always strive to build your
small business into something better. If not, why get into the game at all?

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