During my consulting gigs to start-ups (and as I consider starting one of my own), I’ve recently noticed how often I think about how Facebook (the company) addressed particular issues and how often I come to the conclusion that their approach was brilliant. Here are a few examples that I feel demonstrate the brilliance of Facebook…
- Go-to-Market Strategy: For its initial go-to market strategy, I feel it was brilliant for Facebook to start with one very focused user segment – college students – even though their technology probably could have handled multiple user segments at the beginning. By starting with college students, Facebook was able to test out their technology with a pretty forgiving user base and build up demand as the buzz about their offering grew. Having this type of discipline is difficult for a lot of entrepreneurs, especially technologists. It is not uncommon to find technologists who like to expose all of the different capabilities of their technology platform to all types of users from the get-go. As well-documented by Geoffrey Moore in the high-tech marketing bible, “Crossing the Chasm”, this is usually not a very smart approach.
- News Feed – I think the brilliance behind News Feed is best illustrated by the fact that it has spawned a whole new product segment, called lifestreaming. With the development of News Feed, Facebook insightfully tapped into the voyeur in all of us. I always use Facebook as an example of a solution that doesn’t necessarily address a pain point but one that fulfills a psychological need. I think many of us – especially those who come from the enterprise software space – get too obsessed with addressing a pain point. In this day and age where individuals use multiple Web services regularly, not all services need to address pain points; it is okay if some of them just fulfill psychological needs.
- Beacon – Even though Facebook’s initial execution of Beacon was questionable and the jury is still out on its ultimate impact, I feel the concept behind the feature is brilliant. I do believe that certain recommendations made by friends carry more weight than those made by people you don’t know and Beacon attempts to make that real.
I hear from people who know him that Mark Zuckerberg is a person well beyond his years. The examples I described above demonstrate decision making that is creative and mature for a young company with such young people at its helm. I’m sure Mark has had a lot of help along the way but he needs to be given a tremendous amount of credit. Well done.