Last week, through the ABA, a group of us visited Facebook Headquarters and met with several individuals there. In general, we talked about how attorneys could best take advantage of the new "social web" and how organizations are using social networks like Facebook to further their message.
I was particularly interested in Facebook from an employment law perspective — how are employees using this and what should employers understand about how Facebook is being used.
Because of understandings between Facebook and those attending the meeting, my comments will be limited to things that are already publicly available or on their website.
So, in honor of Facebook and the "25 Things About Me" lists that are so popular there, here are 25 things I learned on my visit to Facebook that employers will find interesting.
- Facebook is everywhere and is much bigger in scope than I think most realize. In fact, if Facebook were country (by number of users), it would be the third largest in the world.
- Want further proof? The day before my visit to Facebook, I saw a billboard in Connecticut with a picture of a hamburger and fries with the caption, "They Would Friend Each Other." It wasn’t for Facebook — it was for McDonalds.
- Facebook Headquarters in Palo Alto are unassuming. Indeed, the sign out front is about as small as you can imagine.
- On the other hand, inside is a well-designed contemporary workspace. Great open floor plan with natural lighting. Interconnected tables; huge screens to work from.
- I need a room at work to play Guitar Hero in, just like they have at Facebook. Surprisingly, no one was playing when we visited.
- You will eat very well if you work at Facebook. Indeed, they have a term for your first year there: "The Facebook 15" — in honor of the weight you will gain by having a cafeteria free to employees for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
- Facebook itself views itself as more than a social networking tool, but rather a communications service.
- Facebook posted a lot of this information at the f8 conference held on April 21, 2010. Good videos are available from the conference to see what it is experimenting with.
- Want more proof that "communicating" with other members is where Facebook sees itself? The new "like" buttons they rolled out (see Levi’s site, for example) are intended to allow users to communicate their "likes" even when not on Facebook.
- Facebook believes it is protecting the users, because even on these new tools, no personal data is shared with these social plug-ins. The information remains on Facebook.
- (But, in my view, this is where it is confusing people. By making these seamless, it is hard for individuals to understand what information is public versus private.)
- There are lots of government agencies using Facebook, like the Department of Labor. In fact, Facebook has set up a government Facebook page with a list of all of them. It’s a good resource for employers.
- This type of list for a Facebook page would be a good way for organizations to set up a master list of all the Facebook pages its organization has.
- If you’re trying to use Facebook to connect with customers, Facebook has set up a Marketing function to help businesses. Much of it though, is still self-help.
- The "news feed" has changed the way that people use Facebook. If your company’s content isn’t there, it is not as likely to be seen. So if you’re trying to share content with others, try to get it into the "news feed".
- Over 25 billion pieces of content are shared each month with users (links, stories, photos, videos, etc.)
- Companies looking to develop deeper applications on Facebook can consider third-party application sites like Involver.
- Concerned about people (or even employees) posting offensive comment on your company’s Facebook pages? Develop a good comments policy, like Stanford University’s.
- There are lots and lots of rules that Facebook has set up about using it, and developing applications for it. There are rules on ads as well. They rely, in part, on others to police Facebook and report companies that violate the terms of service.
- What should employers know about these rules? Companies cannot take user content off Facebook — to your website, for example — and use for their own purposes, according to Facebook. (Can "share" that content though, on Facebook, or link to it on your own Facebook page.)
- Facebook is continually changing and morphing. My sense is that some of it is calculated and some of it is going by the seat of their pants. But don’t be surprised to see Facebook acting as more than a "social network" in the future.
- Employers are going to have their hands full keeping track of employee use of Facebook. Mobile devices are increasingly being used to access Facebook.
- There still aren’t a lot of attorneys using Facebook for business purposes. But those that are (like Bruce Margolin) are finding niches and being educational.
- Want to know other "Best Practices" on how to use Facebook for business purposes? Much of what was discussed is available online here.
- What else did I learn? While they have coffee and tea to drink, Facebook also serves horchata. (The drink, not the Vampire Weekend song.) My guess is there isn’t a single employer in Connecticut serving horchata. If that doesn’t tell you how different Facebook is, and how much employers in Connecticut still need to grasp how much things are changing, I’m not sure what will.
For more on the ABA visit to Facebook, check out Fred Faulkner’s blog post here.