Production Blog

How Facebook Blew It

I realize I usually use this for self-promotion but I'm going to rant for a minute.

Like many people, I'm unhappy with the changes made to Facebook.  But the source of my unhappiness isn't completely as a user but also as someone who's used Facebook to promote his business.  The recent changes have rendered it essentially useless for marketing, which by all accounts was their ticket to a profitable future.

Of course first I'm complaining from the standpoint of a user, using an analogy about a microwave.

Let's say Facebook is a microwave.  Throw in a burrito, a bag of popcorn, a Hot Pocket, cooks it right up.  It's the most popular brand of microwave in the world, sells more units than anything else.  Of course one day a specialized popcorn maker, by which I mean Twitter, starts getting popular.  All it does is make popcorn but its sales are going through the roof so Facebook starts to get nervous about its dominant position.

One day everyone wakes up and their microwave is a popcorn maker.  Sure you could pull some stuff out and reconfigure it and maybe squeeze a frozen burrito in there but the fact remains tour great multi-function device is now a single-function device.  What used to be one function among many has become the only thing it does well, all to compete with a rival which wasn't any real competition at all.

But that's just a minor inconvenience to me.  What the changes to Facebook really hurt was Luke and Joe's marketing model.

The old Facebook home page was a running scroll of a wealth of information.  Not only was it status updates but what your friends were doing.  If they broke up with their girlfriend, if they have a new favorite show or, and this is the important part, what they became a fan of.

It was great for someone like us because for every one person who likes your site and becomes a fan, at least 50 people are automatically told about it.  And in fact you could go further.  Through Facebook Connect, every person that watches an episode would automatically inform all their friends that they were here.  And since friends have similar tastes it's targeted advertising that builds on itself exponentially.

But now why bother?  We have a site to get information out to our customers, we don't really need that, and that's really all they have left to offer.  Why drive traffic to Facebook or buy ads from them if there's no viral potential?  It doesn't make good business sense for us, which means changing their core model didn't make business sense for them.

I understand what they were thinking, that they had to compete with Twitter, but I don't understand why nobody in their organization pointed out the flaw in driving away businesses to attract more celebrities.  Even aside from taking utility away from their users, I don't understand the logic of taking utility away from the advertisers that keep you in the black.

And that concludes my rant.  From now on, just comedy.