What About the Storytelling ...



The media and Wall Street have dissected every consonant and statistic in the Facebook S-1.

Plug the phrase “Facebook S-1” into Google covering the past week and more than 150,000 hits appear.

But as far as I can tell – didn’t look at all 150,000+ mentions – no one has examined the storytelling techniques in the filing.

While financial/legal documents don’t exactly lend themselves to storytelling, Warren Buffett’s letter to shareholders proves there’s room for a genuine narrative and even a joke or two.

Looking at Facebook’s business summary in the S-1, I liked the fact that the language can be understood by the average Joe.

Here’s the breakdown of the summary.

Our mission is to make the world more open and connected.

Pretty straight forward.

I suppose Bill Belichick opening a Facebook account could be a future milestone.

People use Facebook to stay connected with their friends and family, to discover what is going on in the world around them, and to share and express what matters to them to the people they care about.

Savvy to not touch on how to avoid friending certain family members.

Developers can use the Facebook Platform to build applications (apps) and websites that integrate with Facebook to reach our global network of users and to build products that are more personalized, social, and engaging.

We play nice with others, particularly when they speak languages like Ruby on Rails.

Advertisers can engage with more than 800 million monthly active users (MAUs) on Facebook or subsets of our users based on information they have chosen to share with us such as their age, location, gender, or interests. We offer advertisers a unique combination of reach, relevance, social context, and engagement to enhance the value of their ads.

And oh by the way, we have a way of generating money from our proposition to the tune of $3.711B last year.

We believe that we are at the forefront of enabling faster, easier, and richer communication between people and that Facebook has become an integral part of many of our users’ daily lives. We have experienced rapid growth in the number of users and their engagement.

If you expected fireworks in the close, you came to the wrong July 4th party.

Stepping back, I captured the verbs in the summary:

  • Use
  • Build
  • Integrate
  • Reach
  • Build
  • Engage
  • Choose
  • Offer
  • Enhance
  • Believe
  • Experience

Definitely played it safe.

Plugging the entire filing into Wordle generated the following word cloud.

word cloud from facebook s-1 filing

 The financial side dominates as you would expect since Facebook must devote the majority of real estate to meeting the SEC’s requirements.

Perhaps more revealing, check out the word cloud reflecting just the explanation of Facebook’s business.

 word cloud narrative from facebook s-1 filing

That’s better.

One final point—

I like the way Facebook inserted visuals into the filing.

facebook visual storytelling

There’s nothing in the SEC rules that prevents the use of visuals. Yet, you rarely see companies take advantage of this beyond vanilla charts.

Needless to say, the S-1 isn’t exactly an ideal medium for storytelling.

Given the limitations, I like the job Facebook did in telling its story.

Note: If you enjoyed this post, the human bot believes you might find “Apple Has More Cash Than U.S. Government” and “Storytelling Techniques Behind Google CEO Announcement” of interest.

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