How to reach your audience without getting in their way
With all the criticism that Facebook received for appreciably changing their terms of service, it's interesting to note the positive way they responded that probably prevented any mass exodus.
Full disclosure: I have to mention that I completely empathize with their predicament. While their membership is growing by leaps and bounds across the world, they've had difficulty implementing an effective means to monetize that takes advantage of their unique data mining methods.
The market is fickle. People don't care that they're getting this awesome platform without any membership fees. When Facebook tried to monetize and launched one of its first initiatives, Beacon, the public revolted. Their 2008 ad revenue, in spite of the vast numbers of people using the platform, is less than that of MySpace.
By the time I got word that Facebook revised their terms of service, people had already started revolting.
Facebook then did two good things well. The first was in direct response to the outcry and threat of lawsuit from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and the groundwork from the other was laid long before this was even a blip on the EPICs radar.
- They recanted the policy and solicited feedback from the audience
- They communicated directly with the members without the normal lawyer-speak.
(To show how fickle the marketplace really is (and what an itchy trigger finger people have),the executive director of the EPIC, Marc Rotenberg, withheld filing the his complaint with the FCC but promised to keep it in his back pocket.)
As for the other issue, here is the message Facebook sent out to all its members at the top of their member home page:
Notice the "Close" call to action in the upper right hand corner?
If the users don't really care about what's going on behind the scenes, they can just close out the message, and it won't return. I imagine Facebook can use this method to communicate any message they need to communicate to their audience about their service.
They kept it short and to the point, and it speaks directly to the people who were raising the fuss in the first place. In 4 short sentences, the Facebook team was able to explain
- Why they're sending the message.
- What they're going to do about it.
- How to get more information.
- Instructions on how to participate in the conversation.
That's all well and good. But here's the question:
If Facebook can communicate issues before the fact in a manner that provides an easy way to ignore it, if the users wish, can't they just have let their users know, in the same way, that their terms of service were going to change, and have solicited feedback before they pushed it live?
It seems getting feedback from the community before they blow up might be the best way to avoid these sorts of situations in the future.
And in the meantime, they might want to keep Marc Rotenberg's number on speed dial. Especially in a space where privacy is a huge concern, bringing in a privacy advocate (even if he does represent only the most privacy-conscious) for advice just seems smart. - Cam Beck