Facebook Puts Execs, Not Customers, First

When I worked in TV news, we didn’t talk much about customer service. At every station, we were obsessed with “beating our competition” in ways that our customers never even noticed.  We had to be “live” in front of darkened buildings. We had to tout “exclusive” camera angles.  We had to tell our customers over and over again that we brought them a story “first” (if only by a few seconds) even though we knew they didn’t care.  Why did we do all of this? Because our bosses and consultants told us to.  And now, the industry is living with the impact of those directives.

Today, I fear Facebook is now making similar mistakes.  

I’ll admit it – I like Facebook.  I’ve been on since June and I have had fun experimenting with it as a communications vehicle, along with enjoying reconnections I never imagined possible.  The company is an amazing success story – from an online hangout for college students just three years ago to 175 million users worldwide today, no other company on the planet is adding customers as quickly.

Today, Facebook changed its look and functionality, giving me, as a customer, the third different interface in just nine months.  This change puts a lot more information on one page and, as Facebook is selling it, “We’ve updated our home page to make it easier to understand what’s going on with the people you care about. Now your friends’ posts are streamed in real-time and you have more control over what you see.”

But this is clearly not a customer-driven decision.  Facebook’s popularity tells us it wasn’t “broken” – so why is it being “fixed?”  And it’s clearly not advertiser-driven either.  The new format does nothing to increase ad exposure.  So, why is it happening?   Because the bosses say so.  One columnist assumes that it wants to be more like Twitter, a fast-growing, but more simple and much smaller site, because Twitter rebuffed a Facebook takeover offer.  If that’s true, how egocentric must their executives be to disrupt a customer base of 175 million, thinking “headquarters knows best,” just to try to outdo Twitter.  

If you are a Facebook user, were you ever online, using their product thinking “I wish this was more like Twitter?”  I doubt it.

Facebook is growing in an era of two-way customer communication.  That should put the customer in charge.  Now, especially in the Internet business, there’s no excuse not to let your customers tell you where they want to go.

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