Lessons Learned from Facebook

Posted: December 28, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

If you’ve seen the movie The Social Network (and you should, its great), then you know that the Facebook story is pretty interesting. Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you’ve got a Facebook (and probably only found the blog through our Facebook updates).

The stats are shocking. From its initial launch, Facebook didn’t have the biggest total user base, but it instantly had the highest usage per user (think about how many times a day you check Facebook compared to any other site). Even today as it carries over 500 Million users, over 50% check Facebook at least once a day. In business, there’s no greater satisfaction than being right, and the youngest billionaire alive, Fbook creator Mark Zuckerberg, was right about one thing: The World is Social.

He hedged his bet completely on the addictive and engaging experience of doing something socially. I’m not talking about Facebook/Twitter in particular, or even the broader buzz-word “social media” (I hate that phrase). The social experience is something every business needs to consider – regardless of the industry. It seems simple doens’t it? How much fun is it to eat lunch alone? Does it matter how good the food is? What about your first thought when you travel to a beautiful region of the world…do you find yourself instantly thinking about how much more fun this would be with personX?  The social experience transcends anything that technology can provide, which brings us to our first Rollin’ With Sabi – Case Study: Facebook Photos.

Imagine yourself in Facebook HQ only a few years ago. You’ve got a booming website that allows users to create ‘profiles’ and ‘friend’ other people. How can you enhance the customer experience? Looking back, Facebook Photos are an obvious success, but the answer was not so clear back then. Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg only had 2 employees on the project of creating Facebook photos – nowhere near enough marketing/programming/support for a huge feature like Photos.

Not only that, but Flickr was the giant in the industry at the time. Now I can’t exactly call it David vs. Goliath but still, 2 employees vs. A hugely successful and established company looked pretty uninspiring.

Now here is the key moment for any company. You’re the founder. You’re smart enough that you can justify either end of the decision making spectrum. It would be easy to say:

Yes! – We’ve got a huge user base in place, and they spend their time browsing around trying to catchup with old friends, and keeping them up to date with their life travels. Right now its all text-based, so lets bring the proven element of a Photoalbum into Facebook…we’d be stupid not to do it!

No! – How can our 2 employees compete with a company that already has market share? Not only that, but we can’t offer High Resolution uploads or fancy slideshows – meaning we have inferior features. Not only that, but we can’t monetize our efforts because we don’t offer digital printing! So we’re just draining our own resources to create and support this inferior feature…it’d be suicide to do it.



The great thing about starting a business is that you have full decision making power. The bad thing about starting a business, is that you HAVE to make decisions. Decisions that can make you look really smart, or really dumb but you’ll never know until you do it. We’ve faced this hundreds of times already, and our restaurant isn’t even open. Should we serve inside-out rolls (rice on the outside) or stick to our Chef’s signature huge rolls (tons of flavor in every bite, less rice, but seaweed on the outside might scare newbies off)…Should we offer frozen yogurt with fresh-fruit toppings or are we going to be crushed by the Pinkberry’s of the world? I could list a hundred debates that we have every single day, but the point is – its tough to know what will work. That’s why its important to learn from those outside of your own industry. You can learn from how insects act and figure out a better way to improve the assembly line production model that Subway and Chipotle have been doing for years (we did.)

So here we are, looking at the case of Facebook Photos, and seeing what their thought process was, and why it worked. It turns out that the social aspect of sharing photos on Facebook with friends immediately, as Zuckerberg puts it “was the ONE feature that was more important than all the other features [HD pictures, printing options etc…] combined.”

The next question came into play with what we now know as ‘tagging’. Industry experts urged Zuckerberg to consider implementing the latest facial recognition software to ID who was in each picture. However, he knew that the social model of ‘work’ could be the answer. If one member does the ‘work’ of tagging their friends, it turned out to not be as much of a hassle (because going through pictures is fun) and the personal touch of sharing the pictures with your friends attached a more powerful social value to the Facebook Photos experience. Technology is great, but its not the answer. Focusing on what will make the experience better for your customers is the key.

The lessons learned? When you can easily see both sides of the issue being right, its key to take a step back and learn from others successes and failures. Learn that business is changing, Facebook has opened the door for us to realize that the World Is Social. This is why news gets spread faster through Twitter than through traditional outlets (I’d rather hear from my friends what’s going on than from a fake-smiling news anchor). This is why Wikipedia was a collaborative effort that people trust more than they ever did Encarta or Encyclopedia Brittanica. This is why Farmville and Mafia Wars- Social games with poor graphics and rudimentary strategy – have led Zinga (the Social Gaming Company on Facebook) to become the fastest video game company to a $1,000,000,000 Market Cap – already worth more than the long time industry giant E.A.

In fact – after I post this blog, I’ll be checking to see how many people “like” it on Facebook.

Hell, I’ll even take a poke.

Well played Zuckerberg.






  1. Jim says:

    A bit long – but interesting! Keep it up guys

    Ps. Frozen yogurt for sure! Pinkberry is way overpriced

  2. Sarah Newell says:

    1.) Inside out rolls are the best, and yes. seaweed will scare newbies away. 2.) fried banana bites. Ya.

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