Is Facebook the new age model business?

Is social need replacing greed? Given Mark Zuckerberg’s recent comments it seems it is. Mark has stunned City folk and ‘greedmunsters’ across the world with his reply to the question “how and when will Facebook make money?” He isn’t really interested in making money, he openly admits money isn’t high on his agenda, as long as he has enough to get by. What drives him is a personal ethos to connect people.

The idea that the man behind one of the most successful ideas of the last decade isn’t driven by money is a good thing. It shows that greed isn’t always a driving factor. His supporters would probably put his success down to this very factor. Mark wants to build a great social site. His motivation is to bring people together – so far he’s got 110 million and growing. Half of the internet population of Chile are on Facebook. Spanish sites are exploding across Latin America. Sites are springing up across the globe, in part to it’s clever design, local people can set up their own language version.

Teenagers are abandoning emails (due to too much spam) and only using Facebook to talk to their friends. In the UK over 12 million (1/5 of the population) are on Facebook.

Facebook is the best thing since…well there isn’t anything to compare it to.

At just 24, Mark is one of the youngest CEO’s in the world and powerful with it. If he decided to get a God complex he could use Facebook against anyone with devastating effect.

That’s the power of social networking. Thank God he doesn’t.

Mark likes to keep it simple (using an open platform means others do a lot of the work). And simple means being focused on people and values not shareholder value. Mark is probably one of the most eco-ethical leaders about.

The basis of any great business is putting its ethos and values first. Without compromise. That’s what creates reputation and makes it a success. Look at Innocent, Body Shop or Green & Black. Then of course, inevitably, it gets bought. The ethos is replaced with different values –make more money, feed the shareholders – and it evaporates. Everything is about cost not quality or values. Craik Jones being an example.

As soon as any business loses its ethos it loses its focus and success.

There’s two great business quotes that come to mind, “cutting costs is not the same as making money” and “If you set out to do something well you’ll make money. If you just set out to make money, nothing great will happen.”

Brands in trouble (or Blands – brands who have lost their core identity) should get back to their ethos, not spend fortunes on ad campaigns or worse still, rebranding agencies. Nice graphics isn’t the solution.

Abbey was nicknamed ’Shabby National’ because of its poor staff. Millions of pounds later it had a new logo (even if it was a crap one), a new ad campaign and even a new retail environment. But the people were the same. The public wasn’t fooled. The reputation remained the same because it hadn’t really changed.

Ethos is what drives us all. It encompasses our values, our emotions and our purpose. It defines WHAT we do, it’s the WHY we do it. It dictates our behavour. And that’s where so many brands fail. When they lose their ethos they start to behave badly and soon get a bad reputation and the customers flies away. If your only value is make a quick buck you son start to exploit people.

You don’t care what damage you do. “People? Planet? Screw them just give me the profit.”

The current recession has stimulated much debate about ethics and money. The triple bottom line is people, planet and profit, but most shareholders just want the one. One politician commented on Radio 4 recently, “the problem in the City started when people got so seduced by bonuses they left their morals at home”.

“Greed is good” was Thatcher’s slogan. Now it’s a damnation. “”Need is good” is the new slogan.

The need to look after people and the planet. We are about to enter an era where ‘greed’ is fast becoming an anti-social word and ‘profit’ just means profiteering. Now we ask not HOW much did you make but HOW did you make it? At what cost?

All of us are asking what price are we going to pay for the reckless City types who gambled billions, expecting to profit in good times and expect us to pick up the tab in bad.

Making money was seen as successful, but not anymore. Success in the future will be about values and ethos. Winning over 110 million people to an idea is success at the highest level. How much Facebook makes in money terms is irrelevant, it’s just a number. What difference it makes in the world is worth far more.

Those brands that like to brag about their profits, especially the daily sum they make, will be well advised to stay silent.

They may think it’s a measure of success but profit is not a measure the public respects anymore. Brand reputation is built on WHAT you do, WHAT positive difference you make. Not WHAT you make.

I for one would give Mark Zuckerberg my vote for man of the decade. Not because he has created an amazing socially empowering idea but because he has stayed true to his values and not been corrupted by money.

Somehow, we all know that he’ll be still around when all those City kids have vanished, and long term he’ll do well. It doesn’t matter if he ends up as rich as Bill Gates, you can only spend so much in a lifetime. His real riches are the people he connects. The difference he’s already made in the world – many social campaigns have started on Facebook like ColaLife.

As the Beatles said, money can’t buy you love. It also doesn’t pay to have it as your only value. Does money make the world go around? No it doesn’t, people do.

  • Jacquie Bowser

    My vote is for Zuckerberg too! Lets hope he maintains his stance.