Tag: facebook

Don’t Be Afraid of Competition

I just got back from a trip to New York.  While I was there, I met with a promising entrepreneur who has a great startup that has been pretty successful so far.  He is in the middle of expanding his business nationwide.  We came upon the topic of competition and how to deal with it.  I realized that many people have some misconceptions about competition.

My advice was “don’t be afraid of competiton.”  I learned this lesson when I was running ExchangeHut and talked about it at last year’s Entrepreneurial Deli event in Madison.  While we were running ExchangeHut’s trading platform for college students, our biggest fear was that Facebook would launch a marketplace that would crush our competitive advantage.  When we heard that Facebook was launching its marketplace, we changed big parts of our strategy to react to the new competition that had yet to launch.

Big mistake.  When marketplace first launched, it was fairly useless and was not a competitor to our business.  We had changed some of our bigger plans because we were afraid of competition and did not expand as quickly as we had planned because of it.  Our competition did not hurt us.  My point is that you never know if your competition will actually be successful.  If you have a great idea, don’t immediately change your plans if you hear about competition.  Execute on your ideas and let the chips fall where they may.  If your idea is good and you execute well, you will be successful.

Another point on competition:  Don’t be afraid to get in contact with your competition.  This isn’t t say that you should tell your competitors (or the world) every last detail of your plans to conquer the world, but you should be on good terms with the other people and companies in your space.  We found that it paid off to get to know the other startups that were in our market.  We talked to just about everyone in our market.

We even ended up being able to work out some great deals with competition because we were on good terms with them and they knew we existed.  There really is no downside to being on good terms with the others in your market.  You never know when a great opportunity will present itself to you or one of your competitors that will be beneficial to both of you.  Plus, if you plan to start another company, these contacts will be valuable later.  If we had been afraid of competition and not talked to them, we would have missed out.  Moral of the story: don’t be afraid of competition, get to know them, but don’t tell them everything!

The Curious Case of Internet Anonymity

Marcus Fitzgerald, the younger brother of NFL star WR Larry Fitzgerald apologized for writing disparaging remarks about QB Kurt Warner on his Twitter account.  LB Nick Barnett, LB Robert Henson and C Kevin Love have their own Twitter snafus.  Two Wisconsin Deputy Sheriffs burn a dummy wearing a co-worker’s uniform and post the video on Facebook, leading to their dismissal.  Employees at the National Science Foundation were fired for looking at porn at work for 331 days.  What do these incidents have in common?  They are all examples from the last week of people doing something stupid on the Internet and being SHOCKED when they are caught.

It seems like I hear about another story like this every day and I can’t seem to figure out why.  When the Internet first starting becoming popular in the late 90s, it was not uncommon to hear about people being fired for looking at porn at the office, buying illegal items over the Internet or trying to meet up with underage children.  I chalked that up to stupid people bringing their shady offline behavior to the Internet and not understanding that the Internet is basically public.   I figured that people did not realize that pretty much anyone could find out about what they were doing since the Internet was new.

Fast forward to 2009.  It’s been a decade since people started to become familiar with the Internet.  Everyone in the United States should have heard hundreds of these stories in the last ten years.  It wouldn’t surprise me if most Americans know at least one person personally who has done something stupid online that has led to adverse consequences.  Why does it continue to happen and why are people who slap videos up on YouTube shocked when they are discovered?  Why do people have a sense of anonymity and privacy with the Internet, when in reality, the Internet is probably the least private place in the world?

Why do underage drinkers post pictures of themselves on Facebook for the police or school officials to find when they would not post those pictures on their lockers?  Why do teens send nude pictures of themselves to their classmates over their cellphones or on Facebook when they would never give pass around a hard copy?  Why do grown men go to chat rooms and try to proposition children and go to meet them, even after the popularity of Chris Hansen’s To Catch A Predator, when they would never approach a child on the street (or even on the phone) with the same advances?  Why do people post rants on their Facebook or Twitter pages when they would never put the same information into a newspaper or say it to the person’s face?  Why do people do illegal things and post them on Youtube or Facebook video when they would never send them to their local news station?  Why do people post all sorts of things online that they would be mortified to do in real life?  Why are they shocked when they are caught?

I truly don’t understand it.  They have to know better.  They have to have seen examples of people getting into trouble for posting things online.  I cannot figure out why people have a sense of anonymity online when in reality it is the exact opposite.

I think about 20% of the people who do these types of things are just stupid.  They are equivalent to the guy who walks into the grocery store and waits for an employee to walk by, then shoves a frozen turkey under his coat.  They just don’t get it.  There is another 5-10% of people who just want to be “YouTube famous” and will post just about anything to be popular.  There is no helping these people.

My hypothesis for the rest of the population is that people who are posting these types of things online are generally alone, in their office or their home, and are lulled into a false sense of security.  They think that they are alone at home, so how can anyone else see what they are doing?  I don’t think that they are crying out for help or trying to get caught.  I think there is something about the isolation that is caused by computers and the internet that gives people the idea that they being private and careful, when in fact, it is the exact opposite.  They view the Internet as their own personal world, without regard to the rest of the people who happen to inhabit their virtual world as well.

I wonder if this is the height of the problem and history will look back at 2003-2009 as the crazy years when people were naive about the Internet, posting whatever they wanted and doing whatever they wanted, without regard to the consequences.  It could also go the other way, where everyone becomes desensitized to the stupid things people do online, but I do not think so.

Help me understand.  What’s your hypothesis as to why people slap pictures on Facebook and videos on YouTube that can get them in trouble? Why do so many people have a sense of anonymity online?  Will it continue?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Mother Finds Missing Son 27 Years Later on Facebook

A British woman from Liverpool recently found her now adult son on Facebook after being unable to find him since he was abducted by his father.  The woman was married to a Hungarian man, but they got divorced.  The ex-husband had visitation rights and took the boy to the zoo, but never came back.  The ex-husband took the then 3 year old boy back to communist Hungary and was not heard from for 27 years.

The boy’s aunt and mother appealed to parliement and the Prime Minister, but they were unable to help get the boy back.  Fast forward to 2009.  The boy’s aunt googled his name and the first hit was his Facebook page.  They sent him a message and a phone number and waited.  After two weeks, he messaged back and he was able to be reunited with his mother.

This story shows the incredible power of the Internet and social networks in general.  Its not to see a story in the media about some of the benefits of social networks, rather than stories about the dangers.  I wonder how many other missing children are on Facebook without their parents’ knowledge?

Facebook Must Be In Trouble

I recently blogged about the Facebook ads called “Get Your Obama Check.”  Those appear to be gone already, but they have been replaced by new ones with a similar message.  These ads are called “Ball out of control at 23”  “I make more than my dad” “Make $169 between classes” and a bunch of others.  They all feature really nice cars or just wads of cash.  Here are a few of the captions from the ads:

Make insane amounts of cash during class. Stop being broke.
I know its not fair.  Hes been working his whole life.  Its easy.
You can afford this car.  Its easy.
Stop being lazy.  Google makes you $5000 per month.
Again, they all link to the same “blog” complete with fake replies.  They all claim they only want $1 for delivery of their “info packet.”

Facebook must be really, really, really desperate for revenue if they are accepting this type of ad.  Facebook must not be able to get any reputable company to pay for CPM ads because, by now, everyone knows about their abysmal click through rates and the CPCs are pretty high for most college campuses.  That’s another tipoff that these sites must be scams or promise more than they deliver.  If they can afford to the CPC necessary to get play on the University of Wisconsin network, they must be paying at a bare minimum $.10 CPC.  Most likely its higher, closer to $.50, as that’s what I have paid in the past.

I understand that revenue is revenue, no matter the source, but Facebook should not be known for sending its customers to shady, get rich quick schemes.  Even if they are legal, I would not want to be known as a company to be dealing with these types of companies.  I wouldn’t want to direct my customers to these sites.
It will be interesting to see if these ads will generate a backlash eventually.  I’m thinking it will, as these types of ads bring Facebook into the MySpace realm, a move that Facebook has been trying to fight since its beginnings.