Marketing Lessons from The Social Network

I just saw The Social Network and I thought it was a really good movie but an even better story. The movie is based on Ben Mezrich’s book, The Accidental Billionaires, which is a fictionalization of the story of Facebook’s beginnings from the point of view of co-founder Eduardo Saverin. The movie paints Zuckerberg as a brilliant but socially awkward, egotistical, and jealous individual who sought to create an online version of the college social experience. He was able to tap into the strong desire in people to connect and share with others and has grown his company to a 25 billion dollar valuation with 500 million users. Despite creating the world’s largest social network, Zuckerberg is portrayed as lacking interpersonal skills and is unable to form social connections in real life, which leads to a lot of the conflict in the movie. Here are a few of the marketing lessons that can be learned from the movie, The Social Network:

Ads are not cool

One of the early disagreements between Mark and Eduardo involved a differing of opinions over monetization of the site. Mark was strongly against putting ads on the site while Eduardo thought it was needed to bring in money. Mark said that one of the reasons that the site was a success was because it was cool, and worried that if people starting seeing ads it would make it uncool.

Marketing Lesson: Many people dislike ads and perceive them as annoying or uncool. If you are marketing to an audience that has a strong dislike of ads, then it may be more effective to reach them through other marketing channels.

Use key influencers to spread your idea

After Mark made the Facebook site live, he convinced Eduardo to give him the email list of the Phoenix S K Club, an exclusive club on campus. The site went viral and quickly gained a large number of users at Harvard.

Marketing Lesson: Reach out to well-connected people who are likely to talk about you.

Build word of mouth into the product

Facebook provided students at Harvard with a way to view pictures and profiles of the opposite sex, which was very valuable in improving their dating status. Since Facebook served a very important need for college students, users were likely to share this with their friends.

Marketing Lesson: Products that can improve your social status will encourage natural word of mouth

Make your product exclusive

When the Winklevoss twins first told Mark about their idea for a Harvard social site, Mark asked how it was different from MySpace or Friendster. They said it differed from other social networks because users needed a Harvard email address. Mark instantly saw the value in exclusivity as he was obsessed with gaining entry into the exclusive Final Clubs at Harvard which he believed would lead to a better life.

Marketing Lesson: Exclusivity can increase the perceived value of a product as we tend to value things that are difficult to attain.

1 thought on “Marketing Lessons from The Social Network”

  1. Great movie. Great Post. I completely agree that the movie is packed with lessons for marketers.

    As a side note, I agree that ads are not cool. However I think Facebook has made them cooler by incorporating social ads. People are definitely more likely to “like” pages when they see ads that say something like “John Smith and 7 other friends like….”

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