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Facebook and The Social Loyalty Network

I’m trying to make the world a more open place by helping people connect and share.

– Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook was born in a Harvard University dorm room, fathered by a techie with minimal social skills who wanted to give partying college students an online home.

Seven years and several big-time lawsuits later, Facebook is a smash on the big screen, topping box office lists with “The Social Network,” a less-than-flattering exposé of its checkered early history. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, no?
Not so much. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is today, by most accounts, a billionaire many times over. More than 500 million users have signed up and use the site to link up with friends around the globe. Having long since exploded beyond its initial college-age demographic, something like one-third of Baby Boomers now are enrolled. And Facebook has transcended its personal-networking roots as well, becoming a popular business too – roughly 4 in 5 American marketing execs use Facebook, outstripping both Twitter (69%) and LinkedIn (56%).

So how does a twenty-something CEO who apparently has broken every rule in the “Loyalty for Dummies” playbook manage to command the loyal attention of followers and the flow of advertisers to the now well-monetized web phenomenon?

Size Matters

First of all, any communications vehicle that reaches half a billion people is bound to command the interest of corporate interests who desperately seek credible and affordable access to the masses. Zuckerberg made a strategic decision early-on to defer monetizing the Facebook franchise in favor of growing it, first, to monster proportions.

Rule No. 1: If you commercialize your product too quickly, you run the danger that you’ll “stop being cool.”

Due Diligence

Facebook is a phenomenon because it broke the mold. Its structure, business plan and marketing strategy defied conventional wisdom.

But to this day, the franchise makes use of traditional loyalty strategies as well. Just this month, for example, a customer-satisfaction survey asked users for their opinion on Facebook features and backed it up with a contest offer. Facebook has faced challenges from users concerned about privacy issues, stepping in quickly to beef up its security protocols. In short, the Facebook giant found itself well-served by tactics employed by smaller, more traditional counterparts.

Most of all: Stay cool!

Size, monetization, promotion, dependability – all are factors that blend into a frothy mix in Facebook’s loyalty menu. But most of all, Facebook is cool. Who would have thought, 10 years ago, that teenagers would routinely share massive photo albums with their friends online and (with the exception of those naughty “party books”) just as routinely send them to parents and grandparents alike? Or that crotchety old 60-somethings would leverage Facebook’s ubiquity when organizing a 50th High School Reunion?

Legendary Hollywood actress Tallulah Bankhead probably said it best:

“I don’t care what they say, as long as they talk about me.”