"Should Your Business Be Friends with Facebook?" Webinar reflections.

On 25 June the{app}gap broadcast a webinar on Facebook in business. The slide deck, a link to the audio, and the questions and comments submitted by attendees are here. Many thanks to the{app}gap for their support and facilitation of the webinar. Join us at their site for ongoing Q&A.

As a panelist I had the opportunity to listen to everyone else and I have a few reflections to share.

First, some background. The Facebook Groups in Business Investigation (FGIBI) was a short empirical study of how a small number of businesses used Facebook Groups as part of their business strategies. It was a completely volunteer effort, convened by Jenny Ambrozek and Victoria Axelrod from 21st Century Organizations, and Bill Anderson from Praxis101. Jenny started with one known Facebook connection and within a few weeks we'd gathered 10 participant groups from 6 countries on 4 continents, established a set of research advisors, and a process for ongoing data collection for 12 consecutive weeks. Speaking for myself I was prepared for the effort needed to keep it going, but pleased that sharing the effort among the three convenors, and with support from the advisors, made it tractable. This was a collaboration, and couldn't have been done any other way.

Three of the study particpants were able to participate as webinar panelists and provided thoughts on their own business use of Facebook groups. In addition to the material in the slide deck, the following ideas stood out to me.

Eric Edelstein's Facebook Group eSquared Fashion focused strictly on marketing and sales. Eric's very honest assessment of Facebook groups in business? It's more work than you think. Facebook Fanclubs might be a better internet marketing venue. The best outcome is when the fans pitch in on marketing and promotion. Eric's experience is that internet marketing gets more exciting the more you put into it. So, get out there!

Kimberly Samaha ran five different groups focused on energy and sustainability (The Bordeaux Energy Colloquium was one group). She experimented with several innovative activties and interventions, as well as learning to weave networks from existing groups. The slide deck has the details of the activities, outcomes, and conclusions. Kimberly mentioned that social networking behaviors are often not viewed as business and professional behaviors. Is this changing? What are the contexts? These kinds of distinctions need more research and discussion.

Francois Goisseaux's Marketing 2.0 Facebook Group was the largest and, because of its size, quickly ran into Facebook group communication limits.* Francois attributes the growth of his group to providing a weekly event, what he called a "heartbeat" (a word with many associations). He also speculated that the name "Marketing 2.0" also attracted people who wanted their Facebook profile to be associated with the moniker "Marketing 2.0". Names matter, and the impact of identity politics on business uses of social networking platforms is another area that deserves further research.

Jenny Ambrozek summarized the shared investigation experiences noting that social networking and group work is never free. And even though I often expect activity to just happen, someone (or some ones) need to "architect the magic". By themselves, new tools, concepts, and work practices can't make anything happen. We need to "architect the magic". Now that sounds like fun.

Let us know your thoughts.

* In an e-mail yesterday from the American Association for the Advancement of Science Facebook Group I learned that the Facebook group messaging limit has been increased to 5000. (The networks have ears.)

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