Text 100’s London office went on a team outing to watch The Social Network last week and, while it’s an entertaining enough film, it’s also fair to say that we’ll never know for sure just how accurately it depicts the true story behind Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg himself has pointed out that the most accurate part of the film was his wardrobe.
All the same, if we look at the film as being largely a work of fiction, is there anything we can learn from it? I think so:
Doing things just because they are cool can pay off big: Facebook starts life as a cool project rather than an explicitly profit motivated venture. Even when the site grows rapidly, Zuckerberg resists the urge to plaster it with advertising, in order to keep it cool. This is a good principle for the age of digital business: sometimes it’s worth doing something cool even if there’s no clear business benefit, just to see what happens.
Ideas are easy, execution is what counts: Zuckerberg gets sued by people who think he stole their idea. But here’s the thing: Facebook was not the first social networking site. Lots of people had similar ideas at that time, whether or not Zuckerberg was influenced by or simply stole somebody else’s idea is immaterial. What’s important is that he executed the idea far better than anybody else.