Facebook Mountain ("I wish I knew how to quit you")

Why abysmal customer satisfaction levels won't stop the social giant.

“Apple is ‘Evil’ and Facebook is ‘a Photo-sharing Site'”
— Fred Wilson, VC (investor in Twitter, Foursquare, Zynga).

Facebook-Mountain.pngIt’s the ultimate form of respect when the competition vilifies and diminishes your accomplishments, so take respected VC and blogger Fred Wilson’s comments in that light. After all, he’s got investments in a number of companies that Facebook is a potential threat to.

But let’s face some facts. Love or hate Facebook, you don’t grow to 500 million users if you are not doing something incredibly right.

Moreover, you don’t engage those same users to the point that 50 percent of the active user base logs in daily unless you have found a way to turn the social equivalent of lead into gold.

Mind you, this is a service legions diss, dismiss and outright distrust. A service with customer satisfaction levels that rank below the airline industry.

It begs the question: Why isn’t this ship sinking, as opposed to being an unstoppable force that’s swallowing up the web one ‘Like’ and Facebook Connect sign-on at a time?

Understanding Facebook Mountain

My take on this is that Facebook’s success is a case of people generally not trusting Facebook, nor specifically wanting the company to push more and more of their “friends and family” content and conversations into the public bucket (as Facebook seems committed to getting them to do). Nonetheless people default to a simple truth. Namely, that no one else has matched Facebook’s ability to seamlessly connecting the dots between content, conversations and social contexts — wherever it promulgates.

Facebook, for all of its failings, is delivering the consummate 1 + 1 = 3 experience.

Think about it. Facebook Connect and the Like function is increasingly being hardwired into virtually every website. And because Facebook knows how to build a platform, they have facilitated better integration of the myriad popular services on the Internet within Facebook, such that your Facebook news feed is becoming a must-read, must-engage service.

No less, they are already mining the heck out of that data, such that you can already see how, despite Google being the one that taught us about contextual advertising, it’s Facebook that will be the one to actually execute in delivering ads that users will actually want to click on. Maybe not today, but very soon.

Case in point: Facebook knows that I “Like” the band Rush and am a fan of the HBO series “True Blood” because, over time, I have fed it that information via profile, status and news feed updates. Facebook isn’t shy about using that same information to recommend other shows, bands, fan pages and the like.

It’s the same reason that in asking “Is Facebook a Brand that You Can Trust?” and knowing the answer (i.e., not really), my usage — and that of the people I know — is only on the upswing.

Facebook-TweetDeck.pngConsider the various ways that Facebook has inculcated itself into my daily online workflow:

  • Sending/receiving Facebook feeds via the TweetDeck social dashboard client.
  • Creating a Facebook fan page for my company.
  • Building multiple iOS apps that integrate with Facebook feeds.
  • Playing several iPad games that post to my Facebook feeds.
  • Micro-posting via Posterous that “auto posts” into Facebook.
  • Uploading of photos from my BlackBerry to my Facebook wall.

And for all of these reasons, liking, commenting and conversational back-and-forth actions are becoming more frictionless by the day.

Moreover, it’s the same reason that when Facebook formally pursues the search engine play — and they will, because they have an unbounded opportunity there — Google, the king of all disruptors, will suddenly understand what it feels like to be on the disrupted side of the equation.

A final thought. It’s a topic that’s best saved for another post, but if Apple, the king of mobile, mobility and post-PC, and Facebook, the king of social, were ever to strategically align so as to orchestrate a frontal assault on Google’s loosely coupled approach … now, that would be a battle royal!

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  • Ravi Thinakkal

    Facebook Connect and the Like function is increasingly being hardwired into virtually every website.

    So when is Radar going to get integrated?

  • Mark Sigal

    Good question. Unfortunately, I have zero involvement in those types of decisions. Anyone know?

  • Richard Kane

    The internet is a fickle place. Drift too far from your user base and they will leave you quickly. Let’s not forget MySpace, and Friendster, both pre-cursors to Facebook and Twitter, both of which failed to keep the attention and loyalty of their user base by forgetting what made them successful. Facebook is treading the same path. The whole callous approach to privacy combined with a fast growing dis-illusionment in the perceived value that Facebook offers is already having an impact (of course, Facebook will never admit this). In the end just how much noise can you deal with before you just stop logging in? I am uninterested in learning that you have a hang nail, or your cat just relieved itself on your rug. Post 300 photos and I may look at 5. I don’t really care that friends of my friends who have friends who post on their walls that they like some banal new product or album that won’t matter in 3 months. Zynga Games started well, but have now become simple, and mindless and never ending collection of items. What is consistently compelling about that? To make my point, I will invoke a popular meme from the “Bunker”, where by a certain furhrer gets into a furor over Mafia Wars. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=097saDVYAE4

    It says more than I ever could about it.

  • Mark Sigal

    @Richard, I think that that’s a great point. I would counter by saying that with surplus, comes plenty of crap, but so long as the discovery, self-selection and filtration mechanisms are there and there’s some measured governance of the platform, the service won’t become total sloth.

    My closest analog is ‘There’s an app for that.’

    Plus, whereas MySpace never really seemed to have a coherent strategy, and Friendster never got out of the driveway because they couldn’t scale, Facebook is on their game (IMHO).

    Appreciate the reasoned thoughts.

    Mark

  • Alex Tolley

    “Love or hate Facebook, you don’t grow to 500 million users if you are not doing something incredibly right. Moreover, you don’t engage those same users to the point that 50 percent of the active user base logs in daily unless you have found a way to turn the social equivalent of lead into gold.”

    That’s one way of looking at it. Another is that Facebook has subverted the social communication system “FORCING” people to use it as the dominant scalable way to mutually groom each other. In this context, doing it “right” is more narrowly defined as “beating the competition”. I don’t know whether Facebook is good or bad, I just know that I loathe it as much as a I do modern banking and wireless telecomms.