Thursday, December 2, 2010

Facebook and PR

A friend of mine (M.G.) posted a status on Facebook yesterday decrying a new photo viewing interface that Facebook is apparently rolling out.  I haven't seen the new interface yet, and neither have many others.  But we probably will within the next few days.

I think I'll take this opportunity to point out that Facebook could do a much better job on the public relations end of the business.  I joined Facebook in early 2008 (rather late), and from not long after that, Facebook's modifications have regularly led to loud outcries and dissatisfaction on the part of users.  One of the earliest such changes I remember was the streamlining of posts and the elimination of the "Wall" as an independent feature.  I--and presumably many others of the millions who protested--now understand Facebook's reasons for making that change and appreciate that the streamlined format is now used.  But it seems that with more skillful management of public relations, Facebook could have saved itself much of the bad rap that came from that and later changes.

Facebook will probably not have any major loss of users from poorly managed public relations.  As TechCrunch writer Michael Arrington said several weeks ago in a blog post on another Facebook-related topic, many people would be very hesitant to abandon the website:
Facebook is becoming the center of our Internet lives, more so each day. Dissatisfied users really don’t have a choice to leave Facebook any more. Giving up Facebook, for tens of millions of people at least, would be no more palatable than giving up their telephone. That means people can’t really vote with their feet any more.
Facebook might be able to attract much more goodwill on the part of users were it to work hard to persuade them of the need for changes instead of just springing the changes on them with little public announcement.  (And by "public announcement," I mean something more than a post on The Facebook Blog.)  Before Facebook introduced the "New Facebook" (the one you used to find at, it did offer users a preview of the new interface before it eventually forced everyone to adopt it.  This was certainly a good procedure.  But perhaps some of the discontent could have been avoided had Facebook done more to persuade users.

As I am discussing Facebook here today, I should mention a problem I'm having with the site.  I am unable to join certain groups--at least two so far.  When I try to do so, I get the following "Group membership is restricted" message:
Someone who posted in Yahoo! Answers had the same problem more than two years ago was told by one person that he "may be suspended in violation of there [sic] terms and conditions and community guidelines."

Incidentally, both of these groups are public.  As the message does not include a procedure with which one can dispute the restriction, I do not have a solution to this problem.  If you have a solution or if you know someone who has an inside connection to Facebook (or, better yet, if you are Mark Zuckerberg) please let me know.

Happy Thursday!