Sandwiched between her flights from Madrid and for Hong Kong, Clara Shih CEO of Hearsay Labs and author of The Facebook Era, Tapping Online Social Networks to Build Better Products, Reach New Audiences, and Sell More Stuff,
took a few moments to be interviewed by Social Media Today. I was interested to speak to Clara after having heard her keynote at a recent Conference Board meeting in New York; since that time she has keynoted Enterprise 2.0 in San Francisco and no doubt will continue to lead the charge in our understanding of how facebook â€" and other social networks like twitter and LinkedIn â€" will evolve as a business tool.
What's really different about the facebook era? According to Clara, "In previous technology revolutions these originated in the workplace, then pervaded consumers; in social media the reverse is true. The power is in the people, it's in individuals." And it's so easy to use that that's why "technophobic people like my mother are on facebook."
Of course, my mother would have been appalled by facebook and the willingness of her own grandchildren to cough up their most intimate details on a ubiquitous platform. Does this new sharing take guts or just less concern for privacy? "At least in America, it's the latter....There are three inherent qualities in the human condition: community, connection and attention. We all want the feeling of being loved and cared about - the big departure is that rather than replace relationships, facebook from the beginning communicated that it is an extension of real-world relationships.... That's why it's thriving where myspace
is not." Clare's company has done qualitative research that backs up what we've suspected here as well: that networks which survive on virtual-only relationships tend to deteriorate over time.
In BtoB sales, how does facebook change the way that the complex sales works or doesn't? "The successful btob sales person is one who embraces the new technologies - but in a time-efficient way." Oops, there go my month-long scrabulous games with a client. "Social networks are invaluable for navigating the organizations, understanding the power dynamics, the implicit data ... like data about a prospect or client's vacation schedule." And in an age of higher-pressure, content-based selling, social networks, paradoxically, encourage the alternative of relationship-based selling: "Social networks encourage us to invest in the long term... relationship selling... versus maximizing the benefits of the product ... at the end of the day you're comparing vendor a and b and you're going to to prefer to do business with people you trust."
What about what social networking has done for CRM already... and where is it going? Clara headed up the facebook/Salesforce initiative (the name was blessedly changed from "faceforce" to Facebook Connector
) that broke new ground in bringing the "unstructured data" of facebook into the non-interactive framework of CRM. "A lot of social networking is around internal and external - internally it's about allowing sales teams to collaborate better, externally it's about better pulse on the customer .. not just data you bought from a marketing list. And what about analytics? "Hearsay is working on what actions and what behaviors revealed in networks mean to sales, to help our customers prioritize their time... it's what we do at Hearsay Labs, it's a lot of our artificial intelligence getting smarter over time."