The Facebook Era: A Practical Guide for Tapping into Social Networks for Business

Books about social media are currently popping up like tulips come springtime.

I’ve read a fair number of these titles. Many offer useful information and advice, though others look to be hastily dashed off by someone just wanting to catch a wave while it’s cresting.

A few truly shine above the rest. The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Build Better Products, Reach New Audiences, and Sell More Stuff by Clara Shih is among those gems.

Especially for corporate types

Anyone with an interest in social networks may learn from and enjoy this book, however, it’s aimed at folks looking to leverage social networks for business purposes. In particular, it’s a got a wealth of information pertinent to the corporate enterprise.

Shih is imminently qualified to write from this vantage point, because she created a successful Facebook business application (Faceconnector), and her C.V. includes stints at salesforce.com, Google and Microsoft.

In The Facebook Era, she goes deep with details, to include informative case studies and a plentitude of screen shots that help make things crystal clear.

About plenty more than Facebook

FYI, the content encompasses a lot more than Facebook. Shih delves into other social networks as well as associated tools and applications. In fact, it’s a real eye-opener in this way.

Shih covers corporate-centric tools like Hoover’s Connect, which helps sales reps understand complex organizational structures, and Yammer, for intra-enterprise microblogging. Much attention is paid to saleforce.com offerings — Shih was working at the company she wrote the book. If portions of The Facebook Era read like an ad for that company, well, it’s hardly the first marketing title to feature self-promotion.

Adios anonymous web

The book begins with an explanation of how the online social graph — the world wide web of interconnected people — fundamentally changes ways we relate, both personally and professionally. It examines the intricacies of how and why social networks operate, including sociological factors that come into play. This is fascinating stuff.

As Shih rightly notes, “We are moving from technology-centric applications to people-centric applications that conform to our relationships and identities…  It is the death of the anonymous Web.

Leveraging social networks for business processes

Shih breaks down how online networks can be a boon to the sales process. For instance, a sales rep can use LinkedIn to search out qualified leads and mine all kinds of information available on that site, as well as on Facebook, in order to prepare sale calls that are personal and relevant to individual prospects. In doing this background research a rep may discover similarities with a prospect; such as having attended the same university. This may seem a minor touchpoint, however as Shih observes, “shared personal experiences, even if they are small coincidences, can go a long way in establishing rapport and differentiating your deal.”

Other sections cover how to leverage social media for recruiting and product innovation, and again, Shih clues you into handy enterprise tools, like Connectbeam, a collaborative platform for building employee expertise profiles.

Step-by-step Facebook guide

Online networks dramatically change how we interact with brands and Shih asserts, “The new mantra is don’t advertise to people, advertise between people.”

That’s the heart of the matter when it comes to social marketing. Here’s where Facebook takes center stage. Shih shines a spotlight on the platform, via a step-by-step guide that digs into strategies, best practices, methods of engagement, hypertargeting, and more.

Facebook applications get a fair amount of attention. “Apps are the new ads,” Shih writes. “The idea is people tend to spend more time on apps — such as playing games, looking through slideshows and taking surveys –than traditional advertising, so apps might provide more memorable and lasting interactions with your brand.”

Shih cautions that creating your own app from scratch is risky business. You may be better off with sponsorship opportunities offered by existing apps that are popular with your target audiences. To help determine what these might be Shih conveniently mentions Lookery —a directory of ad network publishers, including Facebook apps, with analytics, demographics and other useful data.

In all, Shih covers a tremendous amount of ground detailing how to gear-up your business’ social media presence with a clear plan of action.

Now, if you want additional info, visit The Facebook Era’s Facebook page.

What are your thoughts on The Facebook Era? Do you any stories to tell about using social networks in the corporate enterprise environment? Comments welcome.