- Be selective. Each has different pros/cons, so use only the media you like best.
- Be genuine. This is the most important piece of advice I have for all participants. Phoniness is a turnoff.
- Interact. This is the second most important advice. Follow others and comment on their posts. One-way communication is out-of-date.
- Be useful. People are more interested in a recipe for success than in what you had for lunch.
- Be humble. Posting only accomplishments will be as annoying as those braggadocios holiday letters.
Facebook, however, appears to be disinterested in stakeholder alignment.
You've already heard about, or have been involved in, Facebook's IPO debacle. Some fault for that fiasco rests outside of Facebook, but much of it rests inside. In mid-May, the stock was expected to trade at $38. It was higher than that for a short time on opening day but has been nowhere near $38 since. The stock has risen in the last two weeks, closing yesterday at $32.06, down 16% from IPO price. However, even as the stock trends upward, Facebook and its investment banks are being sued by dozens of shareholders who allege that financial forecasts for Facebook were cut prior to the IPO but the change was not publicized.
Facebook contends it did nothing illegal with regard to changing its forecasts or how it announced the changes. Companies truly concerned with stakeholder alignment care when their stakeholders, including shareholders, are angry and feel cheated. Facebook has shown it does not care, as long as what it did was legal. Shareholders don't care much about the touchy-feely side of business, as long as they are making money. However, since they are obviously not making money, they will scrutinize (and sue!) Facebook until they are compensated and do not feel duped.
Duped investors are not the foundation of long-term success.
On to the next action that shows Facebook's blatant disregard for its stakeholders...
Yesterday, Facebook changed its users/customers' email addresses to the ones Facebook created for them. In 2010, Facebook introduced its own email service but it was not widely used. Yesterday, without any notification to its users, Facebook changed users' profiles to have their Facebook-created-whether-you-want-it-or-not email address as the primary email on the account. They did not change the way they reach users, just the way users could reach each other.
Facebook's customers do not want another email account and they certainly do not want Facebook changing their accounts without notification. In response to the outrage yesterday, Facebook did not explain or even admit to altering the default account settings. Facebook has made similar changes to accounts without notification. They continue to show lack of respect for their customers.
What Facebook should recognize is: they need its stakeholders more than we need Facebook.
Investors can make money elsewhere and users can be in touch with friends on other sites, and most are. If Facebook continues to show disregard for its investors and users, two primary stakeholders, they will erode the trust necessary for long-term sustainability. If Facebook continues to dupe investors and users, another social site can take its place. Get ready, that's what is likely to happen.
The latest evidence that Wall Street corporate cultures are no longer being tolerated is the investigations and lawsuits launched after last week's Facebook IPO fiasco.
The public is interested to learn how Morgan Stanley made money off the deal by "short trades". The public is interested to learn how the banks involved kept lowered growth expectations from some investors, while at the same time promoting the stock to those same people. The public is interested to learn whether legal and ethical lines were crossed.
Facebook and Morgan Stanley are the latest companies facing scrutiny. Others include Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, which have been in the news for less than stellar reasons this year.
Gone are the days when high-powered men in suits could seemingly pat the public on the head and tell it to run along like a little child. The public wants answers and is not going to tolerate the patronizing arrogance of Wall Street any longer.
With so much money rolling in, why should Wall Street firms care what the public wants?
Because the public includes investors and customers.
The public includes the Baby Boom generation who wants to invest in companies they believe in and Gen Y who wants to work for companies they believe in. Also, the public is slowly starting to recognize the importance of long-term sustainability over a short-term snapshot. We're not impressed with one good quarter now and then.
Narrowly skipping along the thin line of ethical behavior is not going to cut it for the public any longer.
The firms that align their behavior with all of their stakeholders, not just their stockholders, will not need to worry about the pressures from the public. They will speak in plain terms people understand because they don't need to hide behind gibberish.