The hullaballoo over the Facebook redesign has reached Threat Level Red; in its latest issue, Entertainment Weekly likens it to New Coke and Betamax. Ouch. When a mainstream entertainment magazine is taking jabs at your user interface, you can be sure of two things: 1) nothing you do escapes notice and 2) you screwed up.
The official poll on Facebook has now reached 1.2 million thumbs down. The comments generally fall into three main categories. There’s the “If I wanted to be on Twitter, I’d sign up for Twitter” contingent, the “Where the hell did everything go?” camp, and those that think, “It’s too much information I don’t need and not enough that I do.” But perhaps it’s summed up best by Tom Henderson of ExtremeLabs, who simply said, “No soul.”
Whatever your individual nits, the consensus is that Facebook is turning into something the majority is not entirely happy with. And in the democratized world of the Internet these days, the majority expects to be heard. The question is whether, and how, Facebook will respond. They’ve made mistakes before and backtracked somewhat (see Beacon). But they’ve also faced a loud outcry before and ignored it (see News Feed). Perhaps the more appropriate question is this: if they ignore us, will users retaliate and leave? Or are we too deeply entrenched in the site to walk away?
Robert Scoble is of the opinion that Facebook should turn a deaf ear to its hapless users, who wouldn’t know a good business model if it bit them in the rump. I’m paraphrasing a bit, so will let Robert sum it up for you:
Zuckerberg is not listening to you because you don’t get how Facebook is going to make billions.
I’d wager every last cent to my name that 99.9% of my friends on Facebook don’t care one whit about Facebook’s business model. They’re consumers – they use a service because it benefits them in some way. Do you use Crest because you like its business strategy? Do you watch NBC because it has great ad sales? Are you on Twitter because you like its business model? (Impossible – they don’t have one. Cue rimshot.) The answer to these questions is of course no. Brand loyalty is established because consumers develop an affinity for the user interface: I like the way Crest tastes, I like NBC’s programming, etc. While there are cases in which business strategy comes into play in buying decisions, those are generally from a negative angle, i.e, I don’t like Wal-Mart’s business strategy, so I don’t shop there.
If users leave Facebook, it will be for one reason only: they’re no longer enjoying the user experience. “Here’s how we’ll look in five years” has zero interest to mainstream consumers. So my advice to Mark Zuckerberg – because I know you’re not hearing enough – is to ignore Robert Scoble. And if Valleywag tipsters are to be believed, ignore your own advice. When over one million of your users are complaining, they may be on to something. Companies who listen to their customers are rewarded handsomely in the long run. Companies who don’t, lose them.