I don't get Facebook

I interview a lot of candidates for Product Management positions. One of the topics I touch on during interviews is branding - do prospective product managers understand the impact a brand can have on their product, their customers' perception of the product, and the value created from the product. I usually asked for examples of brands that create value and brands that destroy value.

Being a product manager of web-based, software-as-a-service products means I keep my eye on industry trends. And one trend I've watched with interest is Facebook. Facebook appeared on my radar in mid-2006 when an external partner talked about them being a competitor to LinkedIn. At the time you could only sign up if you had an email address from a college or university. They've since grown and have been reported on every hour by every media entity ten times over. They are the biggest thing since The Beatles. Or so I read.

Putting aside the quality of their product offering, I believe they have made a big mistake with Beacon. Beacon is their offering which allows third-parties to publish messages to a user's Facebook profile, providing the user the ability to opt-out of the notification. That's right. Let me say that again. Users have to opt-out from telling their entire network what action they just performed on a third-party website.

The Internet community "revolted" when businesses automatically signed up users to their marketing email lists, claiming "well they can opt-out.". It didn't take long for businesses to realize the PR damage they were causing themselves and reverse course, now having users opt-in in a non-intrusive manner.

When I buy something online, I really don't want to take an additional step to opt-out of telling my entire Facebook network what I just did. If I want to tell them, I can tell them (I can do that today). I understand the benefit third-party websites believe they will get... but are they willing to create friction and privacy concerns for a marketing play? Didn't that fail already with email?

As for Social Ads, I just don't buy that Facebook users are using Facebook as a medium for commerce or commerce research. Until they have the ability to send someone a real drink through the Internet, that is.

And why the hype on Facebook when they have yet to turn a profit, yet to acquire half the accounts of MySpace, and still not even close to Yahoo on total page views. Haven't I seen this episode before? Bubble 2.0 anyone?

And finally, I just don't get Facebook as a product. Tried it for a couple of months. Zero value to me. I get much more value from email, RSS readers, blogs, others' photo sites, etc than I did from Facebook. I suppose Facebook is interesting to those that are new to the Internet and unfamiliar with existing tools that do a better job (which is what I believe propelled the growth of MySpace), and certainly there is a market for that. But not at the level it is getting press.

Oh yeah... I just disabled my Facebook account.

1 comment:

James said...

facebook intends to sell the profile information to msft. So when msft recognizes a facebook account holder on one of their ad platform sites they can deploy the right messages. Say a site about general news topics would send out an ad based on knowing that someone has a related interest in certain types of music which correlates better to some stories than others.

msft is trying to study the users motivation. while google is just trying to get people to show up to the game with a very basic an not powerful approach.
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