Friday, February 27, 2009

Facebook, smacked down again, invites customer input

Facebook always does the right thing by their customers... once their customers have beaten them up for a wrong first step. A year and a half ago they stirred up the wrath of their community by proposing an ad-targeting system leveraging its users' profile data, then backed down.

Now they've done it again. Facebook changed their terms of service, igniting another storm of outrage on blogs, Twitter and, yes, Facebook. They relented, returning to their prior terms of service, and yesterday announced that they will be seeking user input on community questions such as terms of service, and be more transparent, including this statement:

Transparent Process: “Facebook should publicly make available information about its purpose, plans, policies, and operations. Facebook should have a town hall process of notice and comment and a system of voting to encourage input and discourse on amendments to these Principles or to the Rights and Responsibilities.”

It's easy to make fun of Facebook for their public embarrassments, but they do get the message their users are sending. Furthermore, they are pioneers in engaging with their users. There is no template they can follow. Facebook's users, because they give personal and sensitive information to the service, is very sensitive to its use, and the web2.0 nature of Facebook means that its users are comfortable using web2.0 means to communicate. Quiet they are not.

It will be fascinating to see how more traditional companies deal with assertive user bases. As consumers find their voices on line (and efforts like VRM give users powerful tools to manage and communicate with their vendors), we'll be reading more stories like this one. Will other companies learn from Facebook's painful lessons?

Related post:
Zuckerberg learns

blog comments powered by Disqus