Defining a mission or purpose should be a starting point in business strategy formulation. It gives people working on a project a set of objectives they can relate to and be committed to. Christopher Cox, the Vice president of product at Facebook was the person behind the development of Facebook’s mission, values and people strategy.
Facebook’s mission is ‘To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected’ (Facebook’s official website) It was edited in 2008, prior to that it stated ‘Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.’ This change in Facebook’s mission statement reflect Levitt’s theory (1960) that every company should ask itself the fundamental questions to define its business purpose: 1. What business are we in?
2. What business do we want to be in? (Hooley et. al. 2011) When the company first started it was simply a communication tool but it gradually developed to be more than that. It wanted to give people control over what they share and how they share it. Facebook empowered its users. It also changed its focus by being more open and allowing people beyond the Ivy Leagues to join the site.(www.observer.com)
Hooley et. al. discuss the elements that make up an effective mission statement. It should be focused around following elements:
1. Strategic intent- vision of what you want to be. Facebook’s mission clearly states what it is that the company wants to achieve , that is to open up the world and connect everyone. But it does not provide details of fundamental things like which market it operates in , how big it wants to be, geographical scope etc 2. Company values- guiding principles. These are detailed on the company’s website (see below). They do not appear in the mission statement. 3. Core skills –distinctive competencies of the organisation. It should clearly state what differentiates the organisation from others, what makes it special? It could be argued that by giving people power company differentiates itself from other social networks, as it puts great emphasis on letting consumers decide how they want to share information. 4. Market definition- target customers, who we seek to serve and what needs of customers will be served? Target market in Facebook’s example seems to be ‘the world’. It is going to serve the world by enabling universal connection. 5. Strategic intent- mission should say where the organisation is and where it wants to be positioned in the marketplace. This change of vision mentioned above was reflected in change to its mission statement in 2008.
In an interview in 2006 Mark Zucherberg said "A lot of companies get grouped as social networking. Lots are dating sites, or media sites or sites for community. But our mission is helping people understand the world around them…We're not trying to be a portal, or to maximize the time spent on our site," (http://money.cnn.com/2006/10/06/magazines/fortune/fastforward_facebook.fortune/index.htm )
Originally Facebook was founded to provide a social utility to connect students with other students from the same University. It than spread worldwide and enabled everyone aged over 13 with a valid e-mail address to sign up and open a Facebook account. According to company’s official website ‘Facebook is a social utility that helps people communicate more efficiently and interact with the people they know in a trusted environment.’ It also develops technologies that facilitate the sharing of information. This clear statement summarises the company’s purpose of being a social networking site, but it expands beyond obvious by adding that they are also innovators and technology developers. ‘Trusted environment’ differentiates Facebook from its competitors by underlining that using Facebook is safe, controlled and depends on users. People can chose who to interact with , privacy settings and options give them control over what to disclose. Facebook’s initial success had a lot to do with being more controlled than its rival MySpace. Because of allowing anyone in, MySpace faced a lot of criticism and negative media attention surrounding sexual predators using social networks to target youngsters. By having much stricter privacy settings Facebook seemed to be a much safer environment.
“…one of the tings that we've always done very well here is, we have a strong sense of purpose as a company. You know we didn't start Facebook to build a website or even start Facebook to build a company. We started this because we wanted to make the world more open and connected. “
Facebook’s principles as stated on the official website:
We are building Facebook to make the world more open and transparent, which we believe will create greater understanding and connection. Facebook promotes openness and transparency by giving individuals greater power to share and connect, and certain principles guide Facebook in pursuing these goals. Achieving these principles should be constrained only by limitations of law, technology, and evolving social norms. This statement is followed by these principles:
1. Freedom to Share and Connect (connect with anyone including organisations and share whatever users want) 2. Ownership and Control of Information (people own their information and control how it is being used , including privacy settings) 3. Free Flow of Information (easy, quick and efficient)
4. Fundamental Equality (same access and rights for everyone) 5. Social Value (People should have the freedom to build trust and reputation through their identity and connections, and should not have their presence on the Facebook Service removed for reasons other than those described in Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.) 6. Open Platforms and Standards (programmatic interfaces accessible to everyone) 7. Fundamental Service (use of Facebook for free)
8. Common Welfare (Statement of Rights and Responsibilities for all users) 9. Transparent Process (publicly available information on Facebook’s plans , purpose and operations) 10. One World (transcend geographic and national boundaries) https://www.facebook.com/principles.php
That last principle confirms the company’s mission and most statements made by Mark Zucherberg about seeing Facebook as a tool for opening a world and connecting everyone. These words are being consequently repeated in official statements and interviews and seem to be fundamental to all the actions and operations.
“We started this because we thought that this was one of most important trends in this generation, it was making it so that as the world became more open. That that could happen in a way that was good for people” M. Zucherberg (http://www.businessinsider.com/mark-zuckerberg-2010-10) Facebook’s vision changed from early ‘efficient communication’ to latest ‘platform for sharing’. It is not unusual for companies to have evolving vision.
“You would never build something great doing it the same way others have done it” This sentence summarises Zucherberg’s vision of Facebook as being a unique and innovative product, completely different from its competitors. Later in his interview for Business Insider he lists main strategic concepts that he makes everyone in his company follow and one of them is always doing things differently than others.
"Move fast and break things" is Mark's other directive to his developers and team. "Unless you are breaking stuff," he says, "you are not moving fast enough."
From these statements emerges a picture of the company’s culture and a way of doing things in Facebook • Be fast
• Be different
• Be bold
Facebook’s vision seamed to always be about the people and connection, never about building an empire or making profits. In most interviews talks about revenues and profits is being avoided. In his BBC interview from 2008 Zucherberg answers a profit question with: For the next few years the main focus is just on growing Facebook. It’s not trying to make as much profits as possible now, it’s on trying to make enough money to build a sustainable business as we’re spreading.