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Thoughts from Chris Hughes – co-Founder of Facebook

(photo courtesy of Bisnow)

I attended a fascinating event this past Wednesday where Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook discussed the “new information revolution.” The Washington Business Journal did a great write-up that I think is worth sharing.

But first, take a closer look at the photo taken back in 2004 @ Harvard. Chris Hughes is in the middle. During the presentation Chris pointed out he didn’t know why they had a blanket spread across their laps. From the start, he got a laugh from the audience and was incredibly engaging the whole way through.

Anyway, here’s WBJ’s article:

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes: Government has far to go in getting social

by Darlene Darcy, Staff Reporter

Facebook’s co-founder Chris Hughes, who also was behind President Barack Obama’s social media campaign site, says the best way for government to benefit from social media is to focus on how it can help solve problems rather than how to integrate the right social platforms with existing networks.

“The real challenge is less about where [government] can connect and more about how [social media] can help them approach problems and think about the knowledge of the crowd — whether to organize information, [or] listen to people in the world of health care,” Hughes said in an interview before speaking to members of the Technology Council of Maryland on Wednesday.

While generally slow to respond to the participatory nature of the Web, Hughes said the Obama administration’s “very real commitment to investing in technology and technology online” bodes well in the midst of the current tech revolution that is yielding higher volumes of digital information created by more sources.

Advances in technology that ease the creation and distribution of data “may be one of the biggest shifts outside of search and social [media] online,” Hughes said.

Clad in jeans and sports coat with no tie, Hughes shared his insights with members of the technology trade group in Rockville. The event featuring Hughes was the first in a new speaker series from the tech council.

In addition to describing his early days at Facebook, the major premises on which the social site was built — utility was the big one Hughes emphasized — and lessons learned from Obama’s campaign trail, Hughes gave local executives a few pointers on what social media should mean to them.

His recommendations: Use social media to focus on customer satisfaction, listen to people talking on the Web, build trust with customers and collaborate.

Because social media has opened lines of communication in ways that never existed before, huge opportunities lie in making a business more human by connecting with customers online in a personal way.

“Everyone has a megaphone,” Hughes said. “Whenever I have an experience, I tell my friends … This puts increased emphasis on customer satisfaction.”

The idea is for companies to get in front of messages people put out on the Web,to listen to what people say and then to engage them in order to maintain positive impressions. Hughes even suggested that building a brand should be a secondary focus to improving products and services because now it’s people that affect and form a business’s identity.

“People are building your brand right now,” he said. “You have the ability to listen. You should.”

Hughes also noted another opportunity being born out of the paradigm shift is how people work together.

“The notion of real-time collaboration is really, really important,” Hughes said, describing near simultaneous interactions between strangers rather than co-workers or friends contributing to a shared document, which further feeds the cycle of information creation, distribution and access. For business, that level of collaboration means more efficiencies and potentially more cost savings.

While Hughes views commercial business as generally faster adopters of technology than government, he said that there is still a lot that can be done with social technology — such as real-time collaboration — inside of business, rather than only using it for external interactions with customers.

As far as Facebook — which now has 350 million users who average 130 friends each— Hughes wouldn’t get into details about the company’s future plans.

Hughes was also tight lipped about the new venture he is about to announce in a few months. He has been working on it while advising other young entrepreneurs as an Entrepreneur in Residence at General Catalyst Partners in Cambridge, Mass.

Pressed for even just a clue, Hughes chuckled, “I’m not a teaser.”

If you want to read more, here’s another good summary by Network Solutions.

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3 Comments

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Profile Photo Steve Ressler

I love how most of the insights from people that have really done it are really simple – “focus on customer satisfaction”…basically a lot of what social media comes down is to “have an amazing product first” then worry about the rest.

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Profile Photo Lauren Modeen

Steve, totally agree. Another thing he brought to light is being “iterative” which I hear left and right and up and down – which of course makes total sense (and not just in business, in life, itself). Experiment your heart out because you never know what will work and what won’t.

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Profile Photo Steve Ressler

Yep. I talked to Chris once over the phone and that’s what I remember most out of it – nothing is really stuff you haven’t heard. But it’s hard to actually be iterative, focus hard on customer satisfaction, etc

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