"Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected."
If it wasn't for an email from the global chairman of H+K Strategies, Jack Martin, I would not have thought to read Mark Zuckerberg's letter to accompany Facebook's Form S-1 Registration Statement for its IPO this week. (How many people read these SEC filings and prospectuses anyway?) But there's some great stuff in it that could almost comprise a manifesto for the social web. One idea in particular stands out:
Personal relationships are the fundamental unit of our society. Relationships are how we discover new ideas, understand our world and ultimately derive long-term happiness . . . At Facebook, we build tools to help people connect with the people they want and share what they want, and by doing this we are extending people’s capacity to build and maintain relationships.
In other words, the social web is about the relationships it can intermediate. Anyone who has heard me speak about the social web will know that understanding this concept is critical to getting any social engagement strategy right, whether for a non-profit or for-profit enterprise. It's why I prefer the term 'social web' to 'social media', the latter implying as it does that social platforms exist for broadcast purposes.
I'm not naive enough to think that the letter's altruism drives every one of Facebook's business decisions. But this sense of a social purpose does peak through in the entrepreneurial spirit of social web inventors.