I saw this movie a bit a go when it was in the theaters and was pleasantly entertained. Honestly, you never know what to expect when Hollywood makes a movie about the internet and social media. However, I thought “The Social Network” hit the mark as far as appealing to the masses.
Lately with the rise of social media marketing, I’ve had The Social Network on my mind and put it in my Netflix queue.
This is one of those movies that really can lend a lot of inspiration to the up and coming internet entrepreneur and blogger. After all, we have a real life story that isn’t just a Hollywood characterization, but is unfolding before our eyes. We can actually see the on going story of “The Social Network” long after we leave the theaters.
So, here’s a few things that I took away from this movie that can apply to everyone in the blogosphere:
1. Maybe There are No New Ideas, but Does It Matter?
For those who are not familiar with the story: Mark Zuckerburg basically develops facebook after he is hired by the Winklevoss twins to create a social network for Harvard students. The film portrays him instead launching Facebook secretly behind their backs.
The point here is that Facebook itself was not an original idea. It came from someone else. In fact, the concept of a social network was not original either. At the time, there were already other fledgling popular social networks such as Friendster and Myspace. Remember those?
However, Facebook quickly took over as the largest social network on the planet. This had absolutely nothing to do with the originality of the idea. It was how the idea was put into action. It’s all about the execution.
There are lots of other social networks out on the internet to this day. Facebook remains the most successful. This is because they had a plan and stuck to it. They kept Facebook easy to use. Initially, and for a long time afterwards, the social network targeted an older, professional audience. It relied on word of mouth heavily to bring in more users. It really executed on the social aspect of the network.
The reality is that there are very few absolutely original ideas. Chances are everything you’ve thought of has been envisioned before. However, if you can take an ages old idea and implement it better than everyone else, then you could have the next Facebook on your hands.
2. Don’t Winklevoss Yourself
Ok, I’m inventing a new verb here. It’s Winklevossing. This is actually an ongoing saga that continues today. The Winklevoss twins are the guys that originally hired Mark Zuckerburg to create a social network. They claim throughout the movie that he stole their idea when he created Facebook. Zuckerburg insists that he never used a single line of code from their work.
That’s all just a backstory to the issue that I’m talking about. So what is Winklevossing?
In it’s essence Winklevossing as I define it is being so whiney about something that you turn everyone against you.
The Winklevoss twins are interesting characters in the facebook saga. They really could have been the underdog hero characters if they had different personalities. However, over the course of the movie, and even in real life, they turn into these whiney, obsessed spoiled children archetypes. In the end, even if Zuckerburg did steal their idea (this is not a judgement on whether he did or not, although you can leave comments on your opinion) no one really feels sorry for the Winklevii.
It’s funny, there’s a scene in the movie where they decide to take their grievance to the dean of Harvard. The dean is obviously unsympathetic and says something to the effect of “Your men of Harvard. Come up with another idea.”
When I first saw that scene, it was funny because I thought it was humorous that the dean thought it was so simple to think up another Facebook.
However, after the movie was long over and I started seeing all the news about the Winklevoss’ lawsuit and how they took a settlement and now want to back out. This thing just keeps dragging on and on and they sound whinier and whinier. Now, when I think of the Winklevii, I think “Get over it!” That scene has new meaning to me today, I no longer have that empathy for the Winklevii, I think, “Yeah! Come up with a new idea!”
Just think on this. Maybe it’s not that hard if you know how to execute. After all, Steve Jobs came up with a new idea after he was ousted from Apple.
Anyways, I digress. My point is that these guys are so whiney that they turned their audience against them.
Sometimes a blogger can do the same thing. Too much ranting is an example that comes quickly to mind.
So, don’t Winklevoss yourself!
3. Just Come up With Another Idea
I touched on this point in my Winklevoss lesson, but I feel that it’s deserving of it’s own lesson.
Here’s the lesson in a nutshell: Successful people will rise to the top in any situation.
Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that it’s Mark Zuckerburg that is the major factor behind the success of Facebook?
How many people think that there would be a Facebook today if the Winklevoss twins won out early on and had control of the company?
Successful people are successful because they have the character traits to rise to the top.
I’ve often heard of a social experiment that if you took a random group of people from all segments of society. So you took some super successful people, some average people, and some people who are at the bottom, and you took all their possession away and put them on a desert island or something. Overtime, you’d observe that the same people who were successful will still rise to the top. It’s somewhat of a Lord of the Flies experiment.
I’m a strong believer in this concept. It’s not the possessions or the ideas that make the person successful, it’s his own character traits.
Again, recall when Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple in the 1990’s. He’ll tell you he was depressed for a while, but he picked himself up. Then he got involved in another little start up company called Pixar. Guess what? He became successful again!
So, if you’re having some trouble with one plan of action, don’t sit and mope. Come up with another idea!
4. Tell a Good Story
So this is a lesson that I got from watching The Social Network, but is not really a part of the story line. It’s about how the story was executed. Good job Hollywood!
Ok, some people may disagree. I know some people didn’t like the retelling of the story and others brushed it off because they felt that it wasn’t true to the actual story of Facebook. Either way, The Social Network told a story that was compelling to the masses. They got people to go and watch a movie about computers and the internet.
Seriously, can anyone think of another subject matter that would be less likely to become a popular movie? But somehow, they were able to tell the story in a way that made it interesting to the audience.
Not only that, but the story was popular even among people who are not computer geeks. Whether you liked or hated the movie, that’s a success.
What this tells me is that it doesn’t matter what the subject matter is, if you tell a good story, you will attract an audience.
It’s all about telling a good story!
5. The Power of Social
There’s a scene in The Social Network where Mark Zuckerburg is explaining his strategy when they were trying to promote Facebook to other campuses. At times, they would run across a campus that already had a popular social network. The students were entrenched and couldn’t be convinced to adopt Facebook directly.
So, what did he do? He explained that they went to every campus within a 25 mile radius and promoted Facebook to those other campuses.
Eventually, when the students found out that all their friends were on Facebook, they would leave the other social network and join Facebook as well. Brilliant!
This strategy really emphasizes the power of social.
If you can popularize yourself amongst someone’s social sphere, then you can get that person to also join your network. Using this method, Zuckerburg was able to get people to drop other social networks and move to Facebook instead.
So, think on this concept as you are promoting yourself as a blogger. Take a look at where your audience is hanging out and make yourself popular there. Eventually, the power of social will get those people to start following you.
6. Focus on Your Goals
One thing that I think the movie really gets right on is how focused Mark Zuckerburg is in driving Facebook. Remember the scene where Zuckerburg is in the conference room being deposed by lawyers.
The opposing attorney asks him, “Do I have your full attention?”
And Zuckerburg says, “You have part of my attention – you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.”
That was awesome!
Of course, it was a Hollywood dramatization, but what it really drives home is the fact that he has a lot of drive and focus.
Ultimately it will be your drive and focus that will be the force behind the success of your blog.
7. You Can’t Please Everyone (Who Cares?)
Clearly there are people who are royally pissed off at Mark Zuckerburg. (See Winklevii)
So what? He just keeps focused on driving his company and being successful.
You just can’t please everyone. You shouldn’t try. Focus on giving the most value to the most people. Ignore the Winklevii of the world and focus on your core audience.
Facebook didn’t become successful by catering to the naysayers in the world. It became successful by doing it’s own thing. Mark Zuckerburg didn’t take advertising when others told him he should. He didn’t give up when being sued. He had a vision and stayed the course.
If you have a vision and a focus on that vision, then ignore the naysayers. Stick to your plan.
8. Go to School!
Ok, this is just my little rant because so often people hear stories about Mark Zuckerburg or Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and they figure the moral of the story is to drop out of school. I even saw a post about The Social Network that thought the first lesson of the movie was that school isn’t that important.
I call BS.
Ok, it’s true that all of those people I named dropped out of school. But think on this: First off they went to school in the first place.
And where did Mark Zuckerburg get the idea for Facebook? (according to the movie) From students that he met at Harvard! (the Winklevii, again according tot he movie)
And where did Mark Zuckerburg find the talent to help him code Facebook? From school.
Remember the scene where he was hosting a contest to find the best coders for Facebook. The competitors were other Harvard students.
I will agree that there is a segment of the population that becomes successful without having to go to school or dropped out of school. However, when you look at those people, they’re all super geniuses. I guarantee that none of them will tell you that getting educated is a bad idea.
The main issue is that they didn’t want to get locked into the system. Or they felt that they needed to act on an opportunity right away.
Take Steve Jobs as an example. He dropped out of school for money reasons. But he continued attending classes. He makes a point that dropping out is one of the best things that he did. But it’s not because he didn’t need an education. His point is that he was no longer tied down to a syllabus. He still continued going to classes for over a year. He just took the classes that he enjoyed.
Don’t use the examples of these business geniuses as an excuse to drop out or not go to school. That’s not the lesson of The Social Network.
The lesson of the Social Network is to get the knowledge and education that you need, then don’t tie yourself down to the system.
Go your own way, but get educated first!