Time magazine began choosing their Person of the Year (formerly the Man of the Year) in 1927 with the selection of Minnesota native and famous aviator, Charles Lindbergh. Since that time, the list has been predominantly filled with politicians and world leaders. It’s rare to see someone from industry make the list. In fact, in the past fifty years only two people from the private sector have been chosen – and they weren’t Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. So, it came as a great shock to many when the 2010 recipient was the creator of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.
However, choosing the inventor of perhaps the biggest change in how people communicate since the telephone came as no surprise to me. I’ve known about Facebook since my now 26-year-old son opened an account in his first year at college. That was back when Facebook was only open to people with a valid email address from a college or university. A lot has happened since then. I knew that Facebook was much bigger than a toy for 20-something students and computer geeks when my 81-year-old mother-in-law opened an account, “friended me,” and starting writing on my Wall. It was at that point when I realized just how pervasive Facebook had become in modern culture.
As 2013 reaches its midpoint, Facebook has over 700 million users and supports over 70 languages (including pirate). Facebook has a market capitalization of 61.53 billion dollars. That’s quite the feat for a company that basically offers its services for free and whose owner and founder is less than 30 years old.
So, how does this relate to you as a business owner, executive, or plain old decision maker? First, consider these facts. The Generation Y’ers (those born between 1980 and 2000) outnumber baby boomers. 96 percent of those of Gen-Y have joined a social network and they account for a purchasing power of $200 billion a year influencing half of all spending in the United States. Your business ignores this huge demographic at its own risk and peril.
Generation Y aside, the way people learn about and interact with a company has changed tremendously over the past few years. When we want the phone number or an address to a business we don’t open up the Yellow Pages – we search for it online. When we want to know what people think of a company’s products, we do a Google search for the company followed by the words “reviews” or “complaints.” When we like a company’s products or services, we literally “like it.” These days I would venture to guess that more people “like” Nike on Facebook than walk around wearing Nike t-shirts.
If I’ve learned one thing in all my time in this industry it’s that there is always another “next big thing” just around the corner. Therefore, nimble companies must be prepared to understand and adapt to changes that come their way. In terms of social media it means that you must add the foundation for IP communication and web interaction into your communications system today. Despite newcomers such as Kik and Snapchat, Facebook is still the king of social media. Twitter rules the world of mass consumption sound bites. Skype is the de facto way that we make online voice and video calls. Of course, that’s the face of today. Who knows who the next Mark Zuckerberg will be, but I will put money down on the fact that he or she will build the next big thing on web-based technology that comes into the world on an IP connection.
Will you be ready for the next new thing? Are you prepared to meet the expectations of the web-based consumer? Do you have a social media strategy? What are you doing with WebRTC? Have you upgraded to SIP? If the answers to these questions are important to you and your company (and they should be) then now is the time to take a serious look at how you support the new paradigm of doing business with businesses. Remember, it’s not social…it’s business.