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Facebook IPO Puts Relationships at the Center of Business

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Facebook has filed for an initial public offering hoping to raise in the neighborhood of $10 Billion. The IPO would value the social network between $75 – 100 Billion. In US stock market history, this puts the launch ahead of Google in size, with only Visa, General Motors, and ATT Wireless coming out with larger first day totals.

27 year old founder Mark Zuckerberg stands to benefit to the tune of an estimated $21 – 28 Billion, dependent on how the market interprets financials showing a $1 Billion profit on Revenues of $3.7 Billion, 85% of which came from advertising. Facebook measurements are largely all bigger than life, as the user base is reported to have reached 845 million users globally. Many of these users are part of the Millennial generation and have grown up accustomed to sharing detailed aspects of their daily lives with their networked friends.

Amidst the eye-popping numbers, Mr. Zuckerberg’s business perspective, as shared in the company’s S1 filing, were especially interesting. He highlighted the importance of personal relationships as being “a fundamental unit of our society”, and made clear that a key objective for Facebook is to help “extend people’s capacity to build and maintain relationships.”

The letter went on to share Zuckerberg’s view on the future of our relationship society, that “the world’s information infrastructure should resemble the social graph – a network built from the bottom up or peer to peer, rather than the monolithic, top-down structure that has existed to date.”

Reading between the lines, it seems that we’ve taken another big step away from the command and control organizational structure of the 60’s and 70’s. If Facebook has its way, we are rapidly evolving towards a wholly populist world.  At first, it was “Me, Inc.”, then we became “Free Agents”, now it’s going to be every man or woman for his/herself. Hopefully it does not result in anarchy.

Facebook of course paints this evolutionary process in a highly positive light, pointing towards the resulting “stronger economy with more authentic businesses that build better products and services” as the result of this movement.

Ironically, the instant poll at the bottom of the article revealed 42% of the 1,500-odd people which had voted at that time stating they are spending less time on Facebook now than one year ago. Apparently, all of this sharing is tiring some people out.

Sharing, fatigue and anxiety may all go hand in hand as a blog posted by a Facebook employee chronicled the importance of Facebook to every aspect of Millennial life, but worried a bit about loss of privacy, stating that “Facebook also has made us paranoid”.

How the human spirit adapts to a non-stop world of sharing is the ultimate question that will be decided over the next few years. The outcome will not only impact the market value of a more mature Facebook in the market, but also how marketing in general and social loyalty in particular evolves in the digital age.

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