Business Meets Booze Mail

A quick primer for those readers who have yet to catch the Facebook bug

Written by Ian Portsmouth

July must have been a sad month for the many Torontonians who cling tightly to anything that suggests their city is king of the hill. Sometime during the week of the 16th, London, England surpassed Toronto as the largest regional member network on Facebook, the explosively popular social-networking site. Oh, the humanity!

Cynics might argue that joining a website where you can spend hours a day adorning your public profile with your latest family photos, clips of your favourite music and news of what you’re doing next weekend — or even what you’re doing right now — is just another manifestation of Torontonians’ need to be noticed. But I think the Toronto-area members of Facebook are onto something that could be great for your business.

Here’s a quick primer for those readers who have yet to catch the Facebook bug. Users start with a basic profile containing their contact information, education history, etc., then invite other members to be their Facebook “friends.” Once linked, friends receive regular updates on each other’s Facebook activity in their News Feed, such as what items they’ve posted for sale in the community’s classifieds or where they’ve been “tagged” in a photo posted by another member. Yawn.

So, why is Facebook’s membership of 40 million growing by 150,000 a day? Whereas membership was exclusive to post-secondary students when Facebook launched in 2004, a year ago it was opened to everyone. And, earlier this year, Facebook allowed third parties to create software applications that members can plug into their profile pages, enabling a wide range of amusing and/or useful activities, such as sending virtual drinks to your friends (Booze Mail) or asking multiple friends a question (My Questions). There’s now a lot more to do on Facebook than read about the raging kegger you missed in the quad last night.

Combine Facebook’s increasing functionality with the incessant viral marketing of the News Feed, and you can begin to see why it is so infectious. But there’s more. Facebook is an online publishing and content-management platform that strikes a nice balance between usability and functionality. Anyone can start and invite their friends to join an interest group, where they can post related multimedia, banter on a discussion board or organize in-person events. (On that note, I invite you to join the PROFIT Magazine group on Facebook.) And individuals and corporations alike are increasingly using the site for business applications, including networking, recruiting and sales. All told, Facebook is becoming a dynamic, hyperconnected, multimedia “who’s who of business” on steroids.

It’s exactly what today’s too-busy entrepreneurs need to succeed: a tool that helps them stay in tune and in touch with their staff, colleagues and business partners, while leveraging their personal networks to accelerate and even improve the process of doing business.

So give Facebook a whirl. Just try to stay off the Booze Mail.

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