It’s the conversation

Last weekend, I spent some time with my wife Iris, discussing the right Facebook strategy for her program Apps for Good that teaches young people how to create apps that change their lives.

Iris wanted the ability for her organization to talk directly to their target audience. In order for this to happen, you need to be in the news feed of the relevant people on Facebook which is where these kids spend most of their time. Facebook allows organizations to communicate directly with individuals, but you cannot initiate a request. Individuals have to become a fan of you site and once they are, then you can communicate with them directly. This is obviously there to minimize spam. Nonetheless, this makes is tricky to approach the right people that you care to contact. Facebook is all about conversation. Why is there not some ‘networking’ ability to start talking to people whom y0u don’t know, yet?

At the same time, I had to think of a blog entry by Bruce Cleveland of InterWest Partners on the Mythical VP Sales & Marketing. The rationale of the article was that there are very few great VPs of Sales & Marketing in the world, because these two disciplines demand very different skills. To summarize it briefly:

“Sales is a 1:1 game”

“Marketing is a 1:many game”

I have now come to see the conversations on Facebook or Twitter as essentially a new category of interaction between a company and a potential customer. Let’s call it:


Companies actually want to talk to the people that they care about. Not in the sense of selling them something, or in the sense of marketing something to them. But rather in the sense of conversing with them, befriending them to their course. This is a different skill set from both sales and marketing. If sales is the realm of the “oral communicator” and marketing is the realm of the “verbal/written communicator” (Bruce Cleveland’s words), then social networking is something of a personality/chatting communicator. I think this is very different from the others.

Why can’t Facebook and Twitter set up accounts that enable this kind of communication to happen? Give free accounts to individuals and paid accounts to companies. Simple. People who spam get shut down. This would enable companies to have meaningful conversations with people. People obviously have to opt into these discussions. If they stop liking them, they can opt out again. This prevents spam from the start.

Doing a rough back of the envelope calculation, I think this market is easily in excess of $10bn per year.

For me personally, I now class company / customer interaction into three categories:

Sales – 1:1

Social networking – 1:some

Marketing – 1:many