Friday, January 07, 2011

The value of values

Facebook is a site fill of values.

People explicitly and implicitly fill its pages expressing what their values are and share them among people who have similar values. It has made the site very valuable.

According to the Economist Facebook’s implicit value has risen fivefold since mid-2009.

The article goes on to say that sceptics doubt that a firm whose business model is unproven is worth more than established media giants such as News Corp and Time Warner.

What we know of Facebook is that if it was to fail, it would leave a big hole in the lives of millions of people. Not only would they loose a lot of the time and effort vested in their profiles, they would loose all that social interaction and community activity that humans have valued through the evolution of our species (Robert Boyd and Peter J. Richerson).

This is a value beyond measure if it is to be counted in mere money terms.

This idea is significant for public relations.

It goes to the heart of trust, reputation and those core social needs we are beginning to understand more precisely than ever before.

The value of community, of being part of an interrelated civilisation and being a member of a social environment including our closest friends, neighbourhood and work colleagues is so important that, as recent studies have shown, we go into a decline when cut off from wider society.

In A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and its Evolution (forth coming) Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis say:
Our ancestors used their capacities to learn from one another and to transmit information to create distinctive social environments. Resulting institutional and cultural niches reduced the costs borne by altruistic cooperators and raised the costs of defection. Among these socially constructed environments, three were particularly important: group-structured populations
with frequent inter-group competition, within-group leveling practices such as monogamous reproductive pairing and the sharing of food and information, and developmental institutions that internalized socially beneficial preferences.
This sounds very much like Facebook to me and puts its value well beyond the valuation created by Digital Sky Technologies (DST), a Russian group, and Goldman Sachs.

In public relations we have a role in creating the opportunity for constituencies to create communities and many of them will be in image of Facebook. It is in these circumstances that PR really does create value.