Three Basic Lessons Business Owners Can Learn from the Movie The Social Network

The Social Network

So the dramatic success of the world’s youngest billionaire Mark Zuckerberg has finally been captured on film. Viewers from all around the globe are now able to discover how the phenomenon of Facebook all started, and what was happening as it took the world by storm.

With rave reviews spanning from the New York Times to Time Magazine to Rolling Stone, there is something in this movie for everyone. But if you’re running a business (or just starting to set one up), take a closer look — there are some very basic but valuable lessons in this film that every budding entrepreneur should be careful to take note of and learn.

Lesson #1: You Don’t Have to Have an Original Idea to Be a Success

When Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss approach Mark Zuckererg and brief him on their brilliant idea for “Harvard Connection”, Mark blankly looks at them and says, “How is that any different to Myspace or Friendster?”

Zuckerberg had a point. Before Facebook was created in 2004, social networking sites already existed. Friendster had been established in 2002, and Myspace had been established in 2003. The question Zuckerberg posed to the twins was: why would anyone bother to create and use another personal profile when Harvard Connection planned to do exactly the same thing?

But when Facebook launched, it boomed in a big way. Why? The difference was exclusivity. Although Zuckerberg used the same concept as Friendster and Myspace to create another online social networking platform, his idea (or some would argue, the Winklevoss’ idea) of slightly tweaking the content just worked. He added different features that Friendster and Myspace did not offer, and the resulting product was something completely unique.

This story is just one example of how an idea does not have to be unusual to be a big hit. There are millions of people constantly thinking of exactly the same ways to create and promote their business, but some work out to be more successful than others. They do this by figuring out original ways to build on unoriginal concepts. Just be careful not to get sued for $65 million in the process!

For a fun example, check out this interesting article showcasing the Top 20 Copycat Ads from Mumbrella, where sometimes the copycat ads win a bigger audience than those who came up with the idea in the first place.

Lesson #2: Be Prepared to Expand

So you’ve made it big. People are catching on and you’re attracting a lot of attention. Now is not the time to screw things up.

The number of Facebook accounts that were activated exploded within two years, originating from only Harvard students to anyone in the world with a valid email address in 2006. The amount of work required to maintain the site became mammoth; additional staff was recruited and more server space was continually added to keep the site successfully running 24 hours a day.

For anyone running an online or ‘bricks and mortar’ type business, it is important to keep on top of demand so you can capitalise on your newfound success. If you’re not a business that requires you to upgrade your servers, this could mean that you need to make sure you have plenty of product in stock. Most of all, encourage customer to stay interested in your business by making sure that service is always on hand and help is readily available. If you attract a sudden increase in customers but don’t have the resources to provide them with what they want, you risk prematurely ruining your business’ reputation.

(Furthermore, if you think your business will continue to expand, stay committed and don’t sell yourself short. Facebook is currently valued at $25 billion. If Zuckerberg had sold Facebook as soon as it had taken off, he would not be where he is today!)

Lesson #3: Best Friends Don’t Always Make the Best Team

When a business is in its infancy, there is usually only one person or a couple of business owners who run the entire show.

In The Social Network, Zuckerberg may have spearheaded Facebook but he called upon his best friend Eduardo Saverin to be his business partner to help him get the project off the ground. However, as the film develops, we see cracks appear between the two, each with different ideas of how the business should operate. In a bitter end, the best friends go their separate ways.

When creating a team to effectively run a business, many people would not hesitate to say that each member must bring something different to the table. While this is true, be careful; each team member must agree on the direction of the business. The staff behind your business has to want the same things and aspire to reach the same vision as you. If your team has different opinions on how the business should operate, be prepared to work together, brainstorm and acknowledge different ideas. If you and your best friend/business partner cannot reach a compromise, it’s time to split.

As seen in The Social Network (and more often than not, in everyday life), sometimes having friends work with you on a professional level just doesn’t work. Don’t risk jeopardising the integrity your business and the close relationships you have with your friends. After all, unlike Mark Zuckerberg, we all need to have good friends, not just the type of Facebook or Myspace friends that you find online.

Natalie Khoo

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