Facebook – online business communities and playgrounds

Facebook, an online social networking site that’s attracting a huge amount of attention, has been playing on my mind.
In particular it’s got me thinking about whether there is any longer a …

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26th June 2007 at 6:04 pm

Facebook, an online social networking site that’s attracting a huge amount of attention, has been playing on my mind.

In particular it’s got me thinking about whether there is any longer a need to distinguish between a business network like LinkedIn or Ecademy and an ostensibly more social network like Facebook?

The old adage ‘don’t mix business with pleasure’ springs to mind. But blogs, podcasts and social networks are helping to break down artificial barriers between the personal and the professional.

Alex Bellinger's Facebook profile

Some would argue this is a bad thing. You’ve only got to look at the home-wrecking potential of the ‘crackberry‘ to see why you’d want to rebuild a wall between your personal and work life. But I’m not advocating an infiltration of business into home life. Quite the opposite. I believe the personal, the home, the playground should infiltrate business.

Business is, after all, about us. Individuals with passions, anxieties, frailties, strengths, families and friends. Whether we’re customers, staff or entrepreneurs, the more of our flesh and blood visible at the organic heart of any business, the better.

Steve Rubel made the following observation recently:

To thrive in this new distributed environment, the PR community must step out in front of the curtain, become a bit more technically adept and participate transparently as individuals in online communities. We will have to openly collaborate and add value to the network and help the companies we represent do exactly the same.

If this is the case, after a little guidance and observation, businesses may be better off getting transparently involved in online communities themselves, disintermediating PR altogether.

So, we’re getting back to being individuals rather than cogs in a machine. And it’s interesting that Facebook allows you to mash up your favourite pictures, blog feeds, music, films and books with friends, work colleagues and contacts, private groups and easy meeting management.

But all is not perfect in the walled garden of Facebook. It’s still a silo – perhaps with Hotel California tendencies. It’s not open and privacy is an issue for some. Arguably business and individuals can do all of what Facebook allows you to do using free, open tools. Dave Winer, for example, feels that:

Eventually, soon I think, we’ll see an explosive unbundling of the services that make up social networks.

I’m sure Facebook will eventually open up its doors and free its data, which is after all our data, so we can use it as we see fit elsewhere online.

Whatever its future Facebook has potential as a business network, suited to an era where we’re reminded that human beings run business, not machines.

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Alex is the founder and editor of SmallBizPod, the UK's first podcast dedicated to small business, start-ups and entrepreneurship. Alex writes about topical small business issues, entrepreneurs and anything else that catches his eye here on the small business blog. http://www.smallbizpod.co.uk

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  1. Andrew says:

    Facebook is the wave of the future…

  2. Hi Andrew, just curious to know what relationship, if any, you have with Mike Sandy’s new book?

  3. mr mo says:

    Facebook the wave of the future….I beg to differ. They are evil and they steal you private info. They went too far and it’s downhill from here.

  4. I don’t think Facebook is evil. And let’s face it, they’re only in possession of the private data you choose to give them!

  5. Nicole says:

    To me, Facebook is a little too informal for business (I don’t really want to poke any potential future employers, to be honest). However I do think LinkedIn is limited in the socializing you can do… just making a connection is a bit boring. I like http://www.octopuscity.com since it combines the business focus of LinkedIn and the sociality of Facebook.

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