Home Weekend Reading: The Facebook Era by Clara Shih

Weekend Reading: The Facebook Era by Clara Shih

We’ve been on a “leveraging social media to boost your brand” trend lately with our Weekend Reading series here at ReadWriteStart; we previously brought you Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crush It! and just last week we covered Butow and Bollwitt’s Blogging to Drive Business. This week we continue this trend and additionally narrow our focus to social networking with the latest book from author Clara Shih, The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Build Better Products, Reach New Audiences, and Sell More Stuff.

“Online social networks are fundamentally changing the way we live, work and interact,” the back cover of the book touts. “They offer businesses immense opportunities to transform customer relationship for profit: opportunities that touch virtually every business function, from sales and marketing to recruiting, collaboration to executive decision-making, product development to innovation.”

Author Clara Shih worked previously for both Microsoft and Google before creating Faceconnector, an early Facebook application for businesses. More recently, Shih directed the product line of AppExchange, a marketplace for third-party SAAS business apps run by Salesforce, but has since left Salesforce to run her own social media business software company, Hearsay Labs.

The first third of Shih’s book provides a basic background history of social media online, from the first networks of the early days of the World Wide Web to today’s powerhouses like Facebook, the book’s namesake. Shih believes that three factors helped separate Facebook from the herd of social networking sites: trusted identity, exclusivity and the news feed. Facebook has become a trusted directory because users display their real name that in the early days was verified by having a valid university email address. These addresses also clearly placed users into a network making the site feel better organized instead of creating a service wide free-for-all. Though restrictions on networks and university email addresses have been lifted, the sense of “trusted identity” still prevails on Facebook.

In the second part of the book, Shih breaks down how Facebook and social networking is “transforming the way we do business” with topics like using Facebook as a CRM and recruiting online. One suggestion she has for building an online business is to find inspiration from real-time trend feeds.

“By investing in building out entrepreneurial networks on social networking sites that cut across different homogeneous networks, product managers can increase the chances they will be exposed to radically new thinking,” writes Shih.

Shih then provides a “step-by-step guide for using Facebook for business” in the last portion of her book. Among these steps is engaging the audience, delivering your message and building customer relationship through continued interaction. Strangely, though, Shih suggests that businesses only need to be be in the habit of using Facebook “at least once a week,” which seems like a low goal to aim for. As we learned from previous books, building a loyal audience on the Web requires tenacity and a frequent online presence. Once a week will suffice for some, but the real game changers are interacting with their customers daily.

Web savvy readers may find The Facebook Era to be less for them and more for the inexperienced Web user looking for a crash course in online social marketing. The book is heavily sales oriented, as is to be expected from an author with Shih’s backround, but does provide some healthy insights for the average entrepreneur. Coming in right around 200 pages, this book is a little longer than some of the book’s we’ve previously recommended, but a deep index will help you find exactly what you’re looking for.

Disclosure: A review copy of the book The Facebook Era was provided to ReadWriteWeb by Pearson Education, Inc.

Photo by Flickr user Gauldo.

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