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The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Build Better Products, Reach New Audiences, and Sell More Stuff
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The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Build Better Products, Reach New Audiences, and Sell More Stuff [Paperback]

Clara Shih
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

“People in all demographics and regions of the world are more connected than ever before to the products, issues, places, and individuals in their lives. This book recognizes that we’ve come to a place where people can represent their real identity--both personal and professional--and use the social filters on the Web to connect with the world around them.”

--Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook


“...A must-read for CEOs and other executives who want to understand Facebook and more importantly take the right actions to stay relevant and stay competitive.”

--David Mather, President, Hoovers, Inc.


The ‘90s were about the World Wide Web of information and the power of linking web pages. Today it’s about the World Wide Web of people and the power of the social graph. Online social networks are fundamentally changing the way we live, work, and interact. They offer businesses immense opportunities to transform customer relationships for profit: opportunities that touch virtually every business function, from sales and marketing to recruiting, collaboration to executive decision-making, product development to innovation. In The Facebook Era, Clara Shih systematically outlines the business promise of social networking and shows how to transform that promise into reality.


Shih is singularly qualified to write this book: One of the world’s top business social networking thought leaders and practitioners, she created the first business application on Facebook and leads’s partnership with Facebook. Through case studies, examples, and a practical how-to guide, Shih helps individuals, companies, and organizations understand and take advantage of social networks to transform customer relationships for sales and marketing. Shih systematically identifies your best opportunities to use social networks to source new business opportunities, target marketing messages, find the best employees, and engage customers as true partners throughout the innovation cycle. Finally, she presents a detailed action plan for positioning your company to win in today’s radically new era: The Facebook Era.


Join the


Fan the


Right this minute, more than 1.5 million people are on Facebook. They’re interacting with friends--and talking about your brands. They’re learning about your business--and providing valuable information you can use to market and sell. In the Facebook Era, you’re closer to your customers than ever before. Read this book, and then go get them!


Clara Shih offers best practices for overcoming obstacles to success, ranging from privacy and security issues to brand misrepresentation, and previews social networking trends that are just beginning to emerge--helping you get ahead of the curve and ahead of the competition, too. 

  • Includes a practical 60-day action plan for positioning your company to win in the Facebook Era
  • For companies of all sizes, in all industries--and business functions ranging from marketing to operations
  • By Clara Shih, creator of Faceconnector, the first business application on Facebook

Learn how to…

  • Understand how social networking transforms our personal and professional relationships
    Why social networking will have business impact comparable to the Internet
  • Use online social networks to hypertarget your customers
    Hone in on precise audience segments and then tailor custom campaigns with powerful personal and social relevance
  • Define and implement your optimal social networking brand strategy
    Ask the right questions, set the right goals and priorities, and execute on it
  • Implement effective governance and compliance
    Understand and mitigate the risks of social networking/Web 2.0 initiatives


About the Author

Clara Shih is the creator of Faceconnector (formerly Faceforce), the first business application on Facebook. In addition, Clara is the product line director of AppExchange,’s online marketplace for business Software-as-a-service applications built by third-party developers and ISVs. (Editor’s note: Upon completing this book, Clara has created a new role and team at focused on enterprise social networking alliances and product strategy.) Previously, Clara worked in strategy and business operations at Google, and before that as a software developer at Microsoft. She is the founder and serves on the board of directors of Camp Amelia Technology Literacy Group, an East Palo Alto, California-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that develops and distributes technology education software and curriculum. Clara holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in economics and computer science from Stanford, and has a master’s degree in Internet studies from Oxford, where she studied as a United States Marshall Scholar. Clara is a frequently invited speaker at social media conferences around the world, including Web 2.0 Expo, Enterprise 2.0, Netgain, Social Ad Summit, and the Social Networking Conference.


Clara’s first book, Using New Media, was commissioned by UNESCO to help teachers, parents, and school administrators in developing countries use digital media to adopt best practices and distribute high-quality content and curriculum. Clara is an immigrant to the United States from Hong Kong and learned English as a second language.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.



“I am a firm believer in the people.”

—Abraham Lincoln

It was the spring of 2007. Smoking indoors hadn’t yet been outlawed, though this place might not have cared either way. These two older men, clearly regulars, sat in the back corner, bare, lanky arms hanging out of their wifebeaters, cigarette dangling out one side of their mouth and a toothpick out the other. They were gesturing animatedly, laughing, eating, smoking, chattering away in loud Cantonese about this and that.

I tuned them out to focus on my steaming bowl of wonton soup. Just then, out of the corner of my ear, I heard them just barely: “...blah blah blah Facebook.” I instantly sat up to listen. I had not been mistaken—these two men slurping down their congee at an anonymous diner tucked away in a corner of Hong Kong where foreigners never go, and probably don’t know about, were talking about Facebook. Their children who were in college abroad got them into it, and now they were hooked. I was floored. It was the moment I realized that if Facebook was not already mainstream, that it would become so very, very soon.

I flew back to San Francisco the following week and attended the first f8, Facebook’s developer conference. There, they unveiled a new platform that would allow third-party developers and software vendors to build applications that Facebook users could add to their Facebook pages, such as their profile. The keynote presentation and product demonstrations were novel and interesting—new Facebook applications such as iLike for sharing music and concerts with friends, Slide for sharing photos and videos, and so on and so forth.

Still, I felt like something was missing. Games and SuperPoking are fun, but where were the business applications? I was working (and still work) at an enterprise computing company,, which made its name developing customer relationship management (CRM) applications. But wasn’t relationship management at the core of what Facebook was offering, albeit in a more fun and casual and modern way?

That night, I went home and sketched out an idea for bringing Facebook to business. As a product marketer, I had been spending a lot of time on sales calls and saw that the most successful reps established immediate rapport with their prospects and had the strongest personal relationships with their customers. Meanwhile in my personal life, I saw Facebook help establish faster and better rapport with people I had just met, and help me maintain closer relationships with my friends. So I decided to bring Facebook to CRM.

With my friend Todd Perry’s help, I developed Faceconnector (originally called Faceforce), which pulls Facebook profile and friend information into Salesforce CRM. Instead of anonymous cold calling, sales reps and other business professionals could get to know the person behind the name and title, and even ask for warm introductions from mutual friends.

Fortunately, Todd and I weren’t alone. Enterprise start-up companies like WorkLight, InsideView, and Appirio evolved their products to include Facebook and other traditionally “consumer” social media. New companies emerged, like Mzinga, Socialcast, and Small World Labs, to build enterprise social technology from the ground up. My employer,, brought voting, tagging, profiles, feeds, and other Web 2.0 capabilities into its IT platform and CRM applications. Oracle announced a strategy around “social CRM.”

Our idea—bringing the power of community, trusted online identity, and user data on social networking sites to business—was a simple one, but has had powerful consequences. But it represented a paradigm shift: Facebook isn’t just for kids anymore.

Why You’re Reading This Book

This book is meant to help you understand online social networking and what it means for your company. Perhaps these situations sound familiar:

  • You know online social networking is a big deal but don’t know what to do about it.
  • You use Facebook in your personal life but aren’t quite sure how it fits with your professional life.
  • Your boss has asked you to create a Facebook presence for your company ASAP, but you don’t know how or what to do.
  • You are the boss and want to understand the social networking phenomenon and what it means for your bottom line.
  • You want to hear how real companies are succeeding at sourcing leads, engaging new audiences, and transforming customers into a sales force on social networking sites.
  • You understand that whether it’s looking for a job, closing a deal, or advancing your career, a lot of it comes down to who you know in your social networks.
  • Increasingly, you’re being asked to do more with less, and want to leverage the power of your networks, your colleagues’ networks, and your customers’ networks to get the job done better, faster, and cheaper.

There are three main premises that motivate this manuscript. First, organizations are inherently social because organizations are only as good as their people and people are inherently social. Whether it’s relationships between a sales rep and prospect, recruiter and candidate, vendor and procurement personnel, or other partners, business success has always come down to personal relationships. Second, recommendations and referrals from those you know and trust are powerful influencers of purchase decisions. Last but not least, research shows that weak ties, rather than your most intimate circle of friends and family, tend to carry the greatest amount of social capital in business contexts. It is precisely in weak ties where Facebook and other online social networks can often make all the difference.

Welcome to the Facebook Era

We are witnessing a historic movement around the online social graph—that is, the map of every person on the Internet and how they are connected. It is the World Wide Web of people, a reflection and extension of the offline social graph—the friends, family members, colleagues, mentors, classmates, neighbors, and acquaintances who are important to us, who help shape us, and for whom we live. The online social graph empowers us to be better, more effective, more efficient, and more fulfilled doing what is inherent to our nature—communicating who we are, and transacting and interacting with others. Data from social networks, such as where people are from, what they are interested in, and who their friends are, with the right privacy controls in place can then be implicitly or explicitly mined to make business interactions more tailored, personal, and precise.

With the lightning pace of technology, we are living in a very different world than a few years ago. Today’s college students don’t use e-mail except with “grown-ups” like professors and potential employers—they send Facebook messages and write on each other’s Facebook walls. But it’s not just college students. Although Facebook may have begun after office hours, its power extends far beyond our personal identities into our professional ones.

150 Million and Counting

This very moment, over 150 million people around the world are logged in to Facebook, updating their status, interacting with friends, interacting with brands, providing valuable information for you to be able to understand them better, and learning about you in return. As a business person, you need to be where your customers are, and increasingly, customers are spending time on Facebook.

We can learn a great deal from Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, which used Facebook, MySpace, and other social networking sites to rally millions of supporters and help raise nearly $1 billion in grassroots campaign contributions. According to the Pew Research Center, ten percent of Americans (and one-third of Americans under the age of 30) used Facebook or another social networking site to get information about the presidential election. How many people will use Facebook to learn about or become engaged with your company and products?

It’s All About the People

Perhaps the online social graph was inevitable. Technology shouldn’t be—was never meant to be—an end in and of itself. It is only interesting and meaningful and valuable where and when it serves people. Technology-centric technology was the result of an immaturity of our systems and thinking. The online social graph provides us with a new way, a way to bring what most defines and differentiates each one of us—our history, our relationships, our memories—into all aspects of our lives, including the way we experience technology.

What the future holds is anyone’s guess, but what we do know is that business will never again be the same—whatever your industry, wherever you work, whether you are in sales, marketing, product development, recruiting, or another corporate function. We were in a very similar place of anticipation back in the early days of the Internet, and the PC and mainframe computing before it. Then, as now, some companies jumped blindly on the bandwagon, investing a tremendous amount of time, energy, and capital to implement technologies they did not understand, with no clear strategy and, ultimately, little to show for it. Others dismissed the Internet a...

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