We resisted for as long as we could. We, of course, being those late adopters to social networking who wondered why there was so much fuss over Facebook. How could those kids spend so many hours on the social network? Why don't they just call or send an e-mail?
In the beginning, we logged on to make sure our children's profiles were not riddled with facts and photos that would prevent them from ever holding an elected office.
Once on, we started trolling around and sort of liked it. Now we are hooked. There's no turning back. Like moving on from vinyl to eight-tracks to cassettes to CDs, we have moved on from address books to the Rolodex to spreadsheets to Facebook.
But along the way, there are plenty of lessons to heed, especially for those of us who use Facebook for business as well as fun. Let me tell you what I, as a baby boomer and venture capitalist, am learning on Facebook:
You cannot have too many Facebook friends. As a venture capitalist, I'm in the business of collecting people. Relationships are my currency. The more people I know, the more deals I'm exposed to. The more deals I'm exposed to, the more opportunities I have to help entrepreneurs launch their companies, create jobs, and introduce new businesses that will help make our lives better.
Not all Facebook friends are equal. On one end are those people with whom you work or vacation, or who have almost all the same friends you do. On the other end are those you may see at an event without saying a word. Know who is who. Just because a person is a Facebook connection doesn't mean he or she really is a friend. I have lots of friends on Facebook, some of them I even know.
Pick your friends carefully. What about those requests from skimpily clad smiling people in other countries? Do I know them from college? Do I know them at all? What if I friend them and my wife clicks on "View Richard's Friends" and starts asking questions? How did they even find me? Are they like the exiled Nigerian prince who wants my credit-card number?
In many relationship businesses like venture capital, friends and work colleagues overlap. So live with it. Some who like to draw sharp lines between work and play use LinkedIn for work and Facebook for play. Regardless, always think ahead before friending people.
Glamour shots are for daytime TV stars. And now about that Facebook photo. Should it be that soap-opera-glossy kind? Not unless you are one. What about all those photos of Homer Simpson and Nick Nolte under arrest? Not OK—unless you're Homer or Nick. Will people think I'm hiding if I don't put my own photo on there? Yes. Should I change the photo now and then? Yes.
What about those photos of boomers riding Harleys or surfing, or from when they were young and thin? I don't do any of that, but I don't have a problem with people who do. Just put something up there, because it's in really bad form to leave a silhouette (formerly a question mark) where your photo should be. If you're not sure how to strike the right balance on the photo front, have one of your kids take a photo of you appropriate for Facebook. They will know.
Your Rolodex is alive and following you. In order to close a deal recently, I was desperate to reach an executive. I called his office, sent him an e-mail, and even called his boss. Nothing happened for days. After all else failed, I checked him out on Facebook, friended him and he accepted my request although we had not met. I sent him a message, he responded, and the deal was considered. Facebook did in a matter of seconds what traditional telecommunications and e-mail couldn't accomplish in days.
Status matters. My son learned that his girlfriend broke up with him when she changed her status on FB. A colleague wrote in her status that she was wine-tasting in Napa on a day she called in sick. The trick is to achieve authenticity without being self-aggrandizing. You must also balance honest updates without revealing too much detail. If you announce you are leaving for the weekend, will someone break into your house? It's also important to balance business info with personal info—no desperate sales pitches and no labor room photos, please.
If relationships are the currency, why not have friends on Facebook? In this era, being perceived as unconnected online puts you in the uncool category. For now, the gates are open. So gather those friends. If you baby boomers are not on Facebook now, you will be soon. Trust me.
Causes Richard Moran Supports
San Francisco Museum and Historical SOciety
Project Open Hand