The Facebook Effect In The Business World

What is the Big Idea?


Social media has been inspiring change in the way business leaders interact with their customer base. And for good reasons. Companies that adopt social technologies can see a 50 percent increase in customer satisfaction, 48 percent increase in business leads, and 24 percent increase in revenue, according to McKinsey. 

"From the Arab Spring to the global Occupy movement, citizens of all nations are more empowered than ever before," writes Marc Benioff, Chief Executive of Salesforce.com, in BBC Business. "Connected individuals have rallied crowds, created vast audiences and toppled political establishments by communicating their message through social networks. We've also seen the impact of the social revolution on business."

Check out McKinsey & Company's research on the marketing power of social media.

What is the Significance?

When Netflix announced it was changing its pricing structure, customers protested with 82,000 negative comments. Within months, the company lost 800,000 customers and two thirds of its market value.

"That's the speed of social," said Benioff. "Everything happens faster than ever before."

Sir Andrew Likierman, Dean of the London Business School says that social media has completely disrupted the way businesses assess their performance. 

"When I started my working life, it was quite easy to be mediocre and nobody really noticed," said Likierman.

These days, businesses can reach beyond traditional geographical boundaries with social media, which means they are more exposed to disruptors and competition who want to gain market share, he says. 

Listen to Andrew Likierman's take on how social media is changing the way we do business:


Rather than shy from this trend, Benioff says leaders must use it to connect and engage with customers. But it takes more than a few bodies with a password to the company's Facebook page. 

"To be transformative, social can't be an add-on. Social must be a strategy that is integrated into business processes across the organization," he said. "New graduates entering the workforce are frequently appalled by the technology their employers use to run their companies."

"They are frustrated by antiquated software systems that were built long before Mark Zuckerberg was even born. They want to collaborate with the best people across their organisation and to have real-time access to information, just like they have in their personal lives."

Updates that show up on the social feed should serve as a "knowledge funnel" of information and it should be a collaborative effort. 

"Work itself is fundamentally social, so why can't our business apps be social, as collaborative as Facebook, as transparent as Twitter, and as engaging as Zynga's social games?"

Photo courtesy of Pan Xunbin/Shutterstock.com

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New fossils suggest human ancestors evolved in Europe, not Africa

Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.

Surprising Science
  • The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
  • Researchers speculate it could be a previously unknown species and one of humanity's earliest evolutionary ancestors.
  • These fossils may change how we view the evolution of our species.

Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.

A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.

Rethinking humanity's origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."

Migrating out of Africa

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.

Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.

The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.

The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.

Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.

Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.

Did we head east or south of Eden?

Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.

Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.