How Facebook “made me see the light”..well ok, not really

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I tend to mock Facebook relentlessly. This mockery is largely tounge-in-cheek and tends to piggyback off commentary from tech bloggers and other non-marketing bloggers who closely examine the technological development, ethical implications and overall behavioural trends (usually identified by designers and UX experts) during the course of FB’s maturation cycle.

The one most vociferous contention I’ve raised to date against FB is in reaction to a ReadWriteWeb post upon the launch of ‘Places’ and how FB’s overall agenda is to quite literally own the social web and all forms of data it can harvest.

To me, this notion of ‘sole ownership’ to a universal social graph is highly presumptuous and reeks of hubris and arrogance. This intentional agenda not only stifles competition and innovation but also, and perhaps more importantly, automatically predicates Facebook as the singular, iconic social channel and data source from which the social media revolution is meant to be fashioned and is intended to evolve going forward.

Popular definition
For most, when they see social media, the immediate association will likely be Facebook. Heck, and never mind the movie, the overdriven hype alone (good or bad) has already fast-tracked the social site to iconic status. But again, here is where opinion based on popular vote appears to dominantly define what the perceived norm is or should be. For some, if not a few, they know better.

In principle—and I do hope this is the last post I am compelled to write on the subject—it’s not FB itself that I personally find appalling. And I can’t speak for (nor would I choose to criticize) the characters of Zuck or any of his developers or teams. But I do find its privacy-related blunders to be entirely avoidable. It’s no wonder FB gets such a bad rap when it comes to this.

Nice try, but not quite
A couple of thoughts on FB you’ve probably seen articulated before but deserves repeating:

  • Facebook’s “collective wisdom” is too fragmented to be semantically useful at this point. Maybe FB does have a shot at developing a function as a recommendation source over time. But look at your “friends” on FB now. Do they all provide meaningful feedback and information to you on a regular basis? Do your interactions really influence how you behave offline? Is the “collective wisdom” of their Likes, comments, recommendations really going to sway how you make a decision about what movie you plan to see next, how you’ll go about exploring your career path or what mobile device you’ll choose to buy?

  • Facebook’s design is not conducive for business collaboration. We know the successful impact of Facebook on B2C brand campaigns (e.g., Coke). Targeted brand loyalty campaigns offering cachet and easy access by the broader public is a winning formula no matter what platform you choose to carry it out. So achieving critical mass in participation is easy. Add gaming techniques to the mix and sure, “Everybody Loves Facebook”. All this activity is driven and influenced through the day-to-day random socializing you do on FB. It cearly addresses your personal interests as a consumer. And while I respect marketers who are in this space, I’m not convinced that their sensitivity to jabs taken at FB are meant as being protective of how FB could be leveraged as a business collaboration tool, nor the technical programming that makes FB its own, dare I say, kettle of fish.

Now a certain Twitter follow—who happens to be a Forrester analyst although this post has nothing to do with him personally—notes three reasons to stop demonizing Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. What do you think?

Beyond America
“Demonizing”, “fearmongering”, and some pretty dramatic statements to Facebook’s defense left me wondering if I should be sympathetic to the “stop being mean to FB” propa— er messaging. There are at least three separate statements on said post that I find heavily coloured with subjectivity and to which I fail to see strength or substantive value in premise, including:

“Faulting Facebook for getting big and successful through legal and entrepreneurial means is, well, downright un-American.”

Er ya..the world does not revolve on whether or not one’s approach, stand or opinion is un-American (no offense to my American friends). But clearly, when you are writing about social media, you are writing about how it affects the web. Last I checked, the web appears to be something of a global phenomenon.

What about you? Can you say “faceshmook” and hold back a smile?

images sourced from and respectively

9 thoughts on “How Facebook “made me see the light”..well ok, not really

  1. Oh Faceschmook! This post is great Autom. It pulls out all the right…wrong things that are at the root of Facebook. Entreprenuership and wanting to grow your business is one thing, whether you are American or not. 🙂 I admire businesses that work hard to grow what they have. However growing what you have off of what people are giving you, when a gross majority of them don’t realize the value of it, leads me to believe that the moral compass of FB is askew.

    I liken this to the twins in the “Social Network” movie telling Mark about their idea. Hmm…I see a pattern, do you?

    Our information and the power that comes with it brings certain responsibilities as it should. Thank you FTC! We’ve seen multiple revisions to the FB privacy policies over the years and I am sure that we will see many more. What does that mean? This means they are selling user data and protecting themselves from persecution. Not protecting the users.

    So why do people continue to give up their information? They see it as harmless? Well it’s harmless…until it isn’t.

    The social web and it’s contents are global. No one organization should monopolize the compilation and storage of this vast knowledgebase. The web is a collaborative workspace and I love that I work there everyday. You do not own me Facebook! But I will use you to syndicate my blog. Hypocrite? No. Realist? Yes.

  2. Facebook has done many things well in the past -not for nothing it has 500 million users-. But recently I have the feeling that they have lost focus on users. I understand that handle so many users is difficult but not try to do it well is a big mistake. It is not having many users, it comes to giving value to these users, and I think this is where they have lost a little direction.

    Problems with privacy have become so constant that border on the ridiculous. And if you want your account set up correctly, you need to lose a day and a half turning settings on and off. Is that thinking about the user?

    I don’t know, maybe world domination is a more attractive challenge. Faceshmook! 🙂

  3. I am a fan of Facebook because I see the possibilities for hyperlocal extensions and even the local mom and pop stores to build community. It’s every marketer’s dream to have the audience the size of FB, and to claim strong engagement numbers as they do. I do fear, however, that Facebook has gotten so big that it HAS lost sight of the meaning of community. I spoke to the PR group assigned to Facebook and they told me that Canada office mandate is monetization, and nothing else. Ad sales is contrary to the notion of social media and, while I’m a purist, I understand that every company needs $$ to make the engine run. Unfortunately, it compromises model that exists and defeats the very purposes of going to a place devoid of irritating and unwanted advertising. Even our own friends are SPAMMERS much to the the delight of FB.

    While privacy may be a concern, the average Joe on Facebook may not be aware or really care about the implications of the data leaking, sharing except when made obviously aware by the screaming “fundamentalists”in this space. Reality is: if you’re on Facebook or any social network, any kind of information you disclose on your profile is subject to “leakage”. We ran into the same issues/concerns with direct mail lists back in the day so this is no different.

    All I know is that these days the tools FB are creating are reactive, in response to the churning millennials, or the privacy fundamentalists. Has it gotten too big to be an innovator again and get back to the reason it was created in the first place?

  4. w00t! you guys rock..

    CK – confession: i haven’t actually seen the “Social Network” and er not sure i want to..i have had extensive discussions with close friends well versed on the matters of data (public or private) and privacy. what you noted here “So why do people continue to give up their information? They see it as harmless? Well it’s harmless…until it isn’t” reflects exactly the same sentiments in previous discussions i’ve had. you really knocked yourself out on this one. great feedback. thank you!

    Pachi – you raise a very good point with respect to FB’s apparent lack of attention to the user experience. perhaps i am overly sensitive to them wanting to own the ultimate social graph, but whether or not they have the right to do so still bothers me.

    Hessie – this sums it up well for me “All I know is that these days the tools FB are creating are reactive, in response to the churning millennials, or the privacy fundamentalists. Has it gotten too big to be an innovator again and get back to the reason it was created in the first place?” if we’re thinking the same thing, then i agree that FB should stick to its original design purpose (to work on being the best personal social channel versus being an online community platform wanna be)

  5. The thing I find most compelling about Facebook is its creation of a “town square” analogue, a place for congregation and serendipity and discovery simply by being ‘near’ people, by sharing the same space with them. Half of the value I get from Fb is simply not knowing what I’m going to find, or how my close connections will surprise me. But, as far as marketing goes, Facebook tends to let advertisers prey on those close connections, not necessarily enhance them.

    In reaction to Charlotte’s well-phrased concern over “Facebook’s moral compass,” I’m really excited for Diaspora and the promise of user-controlled, cloud-based social data storage and access. I think there’s a HUGE potential market today for services that can offer to be responsible gatekeepers for your data, not only storing it securely, but being able to recall and apply that data in a number of circumstances easily. Think, Gmail accounts/Google profiles and Facebook Connect, which are already internet-wide standards for personal identification: the ease of importing contacts into Skype, of populating my friends list in Netflix, or finding fellow YouTubers is undoubtedly one of the most useful, practical functions Facebook performs. But I’d love to hold and release the data myself, because, quite simply, Facebook has a vested interest in NOT being responsible with it. Ideally Diaspora will function on a different model.

    Finally, Facebook screwed the pooch on privacy. Letting people tag you in Places or add you to Groups without your knowledge or confirmation is inexcusably irresponsible for this kind of service. And it’s only going to get worse.

  6. Jared – how do i know you so..let me count the ways——er okay maybe not haha. i do agree with the notion of the “random agora” and how serendipity weaves its magic on FB’s stream. i should point out that marketing is more than advertising and that today’s smart marketer immediately address the value of online communities as a key channel to reach and enhance relations with clients and prospects.

    you mean CK (Christina) not Charlotte right? 😉 it would be interesting to see how Diaspora performs once the platform is complete; the code release to the developer community was met with great feedback it seems.

    privacy? oh ya that. think they’ll ever get that one right? even though there are supposedly ways to set your settings to address privacy concerns, the point is that FB doesn’t go out of its way to be readily transparent with informing its user base..but i don’t even bother railing on the privacy bit, i leave that one to Canada’s privacy commissioner 😉

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