October 25, 2013

Randi Zuckerberg shares social networking advice at Hilton Head

Randi Zuckerberg's sudden realization of technology's power to promote social engagement came in 2007.

The sister of Facebook founder and billionaire Mark Zuckerberg was skeptical of the social network's ascending popularity and was careful of the company's moves into new territories.

"At first, Facebook was just available at colleges and had this perception of being useful just for dating and poking each other," Zuckerberg said. "... It was seen as this silly and frivolous site."

Then 32 students and faculty members were killed in a school shooting at Virginia Tech.

Instantly, millions of Facebook users changed their profile pictures to black ribbons in a display of support for the university.

"It was all going on organically. I finally had my 'A-ha!' moment that Facebook ... truly could be a place for meaningful encounters and real human interaction," Zuckerberg told more than 200 gathered Friday at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina for the second day of ImagiNATION.

The three-day lecture and panel series on Hilton Head Island concludes today.

At Facebook Randi Zuckerberg forged media partnerships to live-stream news. Those included the ABC/Facebook Presidential Debates and the CNN/Facebook Inauguration Day Partnership. She received an Emmy nomination in 2011 for her work on the mid-term elections.

Facebook's former marketing head now runs her own media company. She shared key trends in Silicon Valley and around the world. Among them:

* Every company today is a media company and needs to think about how it is presenting content to customers.

* Businesses exploring social media should use social networks to turn passionate fans into "brand advocates ."

* Realize and take advantage of the fact that many of today's young professionals dream of being their own boss. Use that entrepreneurial spirit to drive industry innovation by giving employees the chance to pursue independent projects while on the job. The company benefits with rights to purchase or obtain a share of that new company or idea.

"There is a new passion for creating," Zuckerberg said. "One-third of teenagers today believe they will create their own product and sell it online. It's easy today to start your own company. There are tons of (business) incubators and accelerators. ... So businesses need to foster creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to keep young talent while not letting them run amok."

Every few months, Facebook engineers unleash their talents in an all-night coding session called "hackathons," where engineers create working prototypes of projects that they always wanted to build but could never pursue during regular work hours. Several of those projects became features on the site, Zuckerberg said.

Conspicuously absent from Friday's lecture and panel series on technology and creativity were young professionals.

Zuckerberg, poking fun at social media, at one point shared a slide titled "The Old Person Who Just Didn't Get It."

The slide depicts a Facebook exchange between father and son. Father mistakes Facebook for Google, posting: "Where to buy chicken casserole supplies." Son responds: "Dad, this is Facebook; not Google. Try again." Father posts the same query again to Facebook. The son becomes embarrassed.

While the crowd of retirees, business owners, executives and social media fans appreciated the humor, one couldn't help notice many of those laughing probably related more to dad than son.

"That's one of the things we really need to work on over the next several years," said Jack Alderman, executive director of the Hilton Head Island Institute, which is conducting the inaugural event.

"We more and more want to bring folks from off island and the younger generation," Alderman said. "(But) I think her message is critical to all age groups, particularly to my age group because she's telling us things we don't know. ... Yesterday we talked about leading meaningful lives. Today is creativity. Tomorrow is about re-thinking education. And technology is so much at the center of all of that right now. Even if we'd like to avoid it, we can't."

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