Faceforce.com Pioneers Enterprise

Mashup of Social Networks and CRM Offers Glimpse of the Future: “Let Prospects Self-Report”

But Facebook Data Tickles Privacy Concerns—Will LinkedIn Seize the Day?

As a presenter at the Social Networking Conference, I was able to catch some excellent presentations, and one of the most eye-opening was Clara Shih’s “Enterprise Mashups: How Facebook Is Changing Sales and Marketing.” In a word, Clara and Facebook’s Todd Perry mashed up Facebook and Salesforce.com via AppExchange so that a prospect’s profile in Salesforce now includes select Facebook profile information in a separate pane (see illustration, right), providing a much richer “360° view” of the person to Salesforce users. The result is elegant, powerful and pregnant with social and business issues that I’ll explore briefly here.

Social Networking Conference Shows Broad Enterprise Case Studies: FaceforceFor starters on social issues, how about: “I’m not sure I want salespeople to have access to who my Facebook friends are, that some of my favorite cultural pursuits are, well, a tad risqué or that some of my photo albums show interesting tattooed body parts.” Called Faceforce, the mashup puts the professional you and the personal you side by side—it has definitely moved your cheese. But before you grab your shotgun, let’s look at some of the issues, tools and opportunities.

Generation Gaps and Privacy Concerns—Plus An Awesome Newish Facebook Feature

Much of Generation X heeds Scott McNealy’s famous quote (something like), “Privacy? You lost that a long time ago, get over it.” Generation Y is native with the realization. Most, er, executive Facebook users are not aware that Facebook’s default setting means that their friends, unlike in LinkedIn, are visible to all Facebook members, even though “full profile” information is only available to people with whom they are “friends” (this is customizable). Therefore, if you are a friend of the Salesforce user, your full profile shows via Faceforce. All Faceforce does is to access Facebook data automatically, within the Salesforce application, but said application presents a completely different social context around the information. “I can be sold to.”

adviceMoreover, most Facebook members (and members of most other social networks) do not understand the privacy and account settings tools, which give them significant control over what information is displayed and how. For example, Facebook offers a powerful relatively new feature, the ability to segment your “friends” with “lists.” That means you can arbitrarily separate your friends into different groups, each with its own access to your information—and most components of your Facebook profile are customizable individually (i.e. The Wall, Photo Albums, Minifeed, Education and Work). For example, your frat brothers have access to certain photo albums. Your banking “work friends” don’t know you go to Burning Man every year but other groups do (like your Burning Man friends). The rub is that most Facebook users don’t know about this feature, and all their friends sit in one big pool. The lesson here is, you have to keep up with the tools to be able to get the benefit of Web 2.0 without compromising yourself. The challenge is, all things Web 2.0 are fast-moving trains, and to keep up you have to, well, keep up.

Therefore, don’t unplug your Facebook account, but do make some friend lists

  • Tie the content on your profile to Friend Lists
  • To access Lists, go to your “Friends” page, and you’ll see “Lists” upper right; you can make as many lists as you want). For example, create a “business networking” list that includes people whom you do not know well. Give them minimum access to your personal life.
  • Parcel out other content accordingly. Facebook actually is far more flexible than LinkedIn in this regard. Use it!

Traditionalists, Boomers and many Xers grew up with the concept that work and personal worlds were very different, and Faceforce is certainly flushing out some heated reactions. In fact, some of the comments remind me of the other (Silicon) Valley privacy heater Jigsaw. The rules regarding the creation and use of social networks’ and Web 2.0 sites’ information are described in the privacy and user agreements, which most members don’t read.

In general, I have found that most sites give members significant control over their information, but the burden is on members to understand the intricacies of how their information is chunked (sorry, componentized ,^) as well as the tools and settings that control access to it. And the sites are very dynamic: Facebook is a hotbed of innovation, much of it introduced by members in the form of widgets (mini-applications), which offer new ways to create, capture, access and display information. So, it’s not just “work” and “home” anymore; the divisions are far more specific.

Will LinkedIn Capitalize on the Short Window to Become the Swiss Bank of Professional Profiles?

To recap, the concept is that enterprise applications can invoke external (professional) information to supplement the information in enterprise systems. This sounds like a perfect play for LinkedIn because, unlike Facebook, its profiles contain almost exclusively work-appropriate information. And, LinkedIn’s profiles are hived off from “Connections.” Theoretically, CTOs could think about invoking LinkedIn profile information without Connections. In LinkedIn, most of the sensitivity and privacy revolves around who knows whom. People rarely include personal information in their LinkedIn profiles.

Think about this for a minute. Many enterprises are building their own “Pfacebooks” using Lotus Connections or Microsoft Sharepoint, but these often have limited value because:

  • open_v_closed_socnwksTheir functionality is inferior to external social networks, which are not bolt-ons but pureplay social networks
  • Employees either do not spend the time to create rich profile information or their profiles are one-dimensional because employees are thinking within work roles and don’t want to piss off bosses by including information that could qualify them for roles in other areas (read “emerging enterprise needs”). The job description and organization are often strait jackets for innovation.
  • For more comparison, see illustration right

External social networks, on the other hand, are multipurpose; the employee owns his/her information and presents him/herself in the best light possible for myriad opportunities. Because there are many possible rewards, people are more incented to have better profile information externally. Therefore I hypothesize that:

External profile information will always be superior to internal information

LinkedIn Features

All LinkedIn has to do is expose profile information via RSS, and the game is over. LinkedIn can add tremendous value to the enterprise and itself by providing fantastic profile information to enterprise systems. Here are some more tweaks that would make the offering especially hard to beat:

  • LinkedIn’s agreement is with members, who own their information. Members have control over who may syndicate their information
  • Further componentize Profile information so that members could expose parts to different parties
  • Keep in mind I am only advocating sharing Profile information, not connections, which the employee shares in the usual way
  • If the employee allows other organizations to syndicate his/her Profile, either s/he can share part of the Profile and/or LinkedIn rules apply (only 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree members could see the profile at all)
  • The employee therefore only maintains his/her business information in one place and syndicates it out to others (university/association directories, etc.)

Golden Opportunity for Enterprise CTOs

socnwk_ent_mashupBefore seeing Clara’s presentation, I had prepared my own in which I recommended that enterprise “social” networks syndicate open social networks’ profile information (see illustration, right). The beauty is, from an enterprise perspective, Salesforce is syndicating the Facebook data from the prospect’s Facebook profile: enterprise data doesn’t get shared anywhere else. CIOs and CTOs should have learned by now,

If you build it, they will not come.

To add the most value, they need to invoke information from the best source, and better information will lead to increased enterprise performance because applying expertise to a challenge reduces risk. Right now, organizations are very inefficient and locating and invoking the expertise of their employees because it doesn’t exist anywhere. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention IBM Atlas, which offers enterprise-strength analysis to internal social networks (dive deeper here). But I can see no reason why Atlas couldn’t work with invoked external information as well.

External social networks will be the ticket to bringing superior information to the enterprise. Clara’s presentation was exciting because it’s working right now and shows the concept beautifully.

For Additional Reading

2 comments to Faceforce.com Pioneers Enterprise “Social” Network Vision, Exposes Massive LinkedIn Opportunity

  • By the way, I don’t mean to imply that I believe that there will be only one “Swiss bank” of profile information. However, in 2008, LinkedIn is the dominant site for enterprise executives’ profile information, and the information is already baked. Faceforce and Facebook can easily address the market need as well, but their users skew younger for now, and older enterprise employees have difficulties understanding Facebook’s plethora of moving parts. Of course, eventually the profile will be distributed, and its various components can live in many places, but from a user perspective, I believe that people will prefer to keep the information in one or two places. My Fortune 1000 consulting experience with Web 2.0 and social networks shows that employees have trouble wrapping their minds around the “ecosystem”; hence my hypothesis that a significant opportunity exists for the profile Swiss banks.

    What do you think?

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