Thursday, September 22, 2011

Facebook Fracas, Part Two - You Will Be Assimilated

The Facebook Fallout continues unabated...

it's about the mechanics of change....

     Following yesterday's changes, Facebook is defending them, saying it makes for a better user experience.  Users, meanwhile, continue to deride them, saying it makes for a worse user experience.  I've already seen several defections among Facebook users to Google Plus and I imagine there will be more.
      What's it all about for everyone involved in business social media?   Are there lessons to be learned here and if so, what are they?  
      First of all, it's about change.  Change is inevitable...and as the Borg used to say on Star Trek: Next Generation, "resistance is futile."  Change is required to move forward, though, if it's done badly, it can move you backward.  A happy balance needs to be struck.  Yesterday I related the sad story of New Coke.  That was indeed change, but it was change done badly.  Business social media is a living, breathing organism and it's going to change, and Facebook is no different - but, as in New Coke, the more users/consumers you have who are happy with the product, the harder it is to do any sort of change without upsetting a lot of people.   For Facebook to survive, it has to change and grow, or else it becomes irrelevant and staid.
     For those practicing business social media, think about change in your operations or perspectives.  Maybe when you started out it was simply to get public awareness of your product or business.  Now, you are actively searching for customers, or offering freebies, or any of a thousand other things to drive business to your door through the medium of business social media.  That's change.
     Without that change, your business would no longer grow.  Unless an organism changes to meet current conditions, it fails.  Do you remember MySpace? How many of you are now operating your business social media through that network?
     Now for question two: Are there lessons to be learned here?  Sure.   First, you need to take into account your customer base.  Coke did test studies that led them to believe New Coke would be a hit.  I'm sure Facebook also did something similar (I hope they did, anyway).  However, test groups have been known to give skewed results.  In the past on this blog we've discussed the need to really, REALLY think something through, and that continues to be important.  
     Second, look at your competition, and we can't stress this enough.  What are they doing?  Are they really out in front of you, or are you still leading?  Trying to do a massive catch up from behind can cause more harm than good; you're perceived as being behind, or worse, perceived as being a leader who fell from grace.  For more on that angle, do a search on Research in Motion (RIM) and their disaster with handheld devices after being the industry leader for many years.
     So in the end, utilizing business social media correctly DOES involve change.  It has to, or you will fail.  Who knows which platform will be carrying your message next year or even next month?  If you are going to stay in the hunt, it's time to branch out and hit Google Plus  ( or try your wings on another platform.  The more you're out there, the more chances you have - you can't win the lottery without buying a ticket.
     And no matter what change you make, you need to recognize the change you need to make before you implement that change.  If Disney suddenly decided to crop Mickey's ears from round to little fox ears, that would be a change.  
     You decide if it would be a change Disney's fans could live with!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sheer Genius?

     Every once in a while, as a consumer, you get one of those "what were they thinking?" moments.
     Recently, we've had two:  the Netflix debacle, and today the Facebook fracas.  Both lead you to wonder if anyone lucid is running the ship at either place.
     Yes, this is a blog about business social media, so we won't get involved in the Netflix marketing mayhem.  However, we will take a shot at Facebook, which is supposed to be the giant of social networking.
     With little warning, Facebook suddenly changes their page, throwing thousands, if not millions, of users into frustration.  Since you're reading this blog, we'll assume that you are also familiar with Facebook, and what happened today.
     There are three cardinal rules in dealing with customers.  First, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  Second, customers (with the exception of all the Apple fans out there) don't usually like big changes or change for the apparent sake of change.  Facebook managed to break both rules at once.
     Interestingly enough, they not only broke both rules, but they failed to communicate adequately with their customer base about what they were about to change, nor really ask their customers about it beforehand.  Which leads to the third cardinal rule in dealing with customers:  you are flattering yourself if you believe you are smarter than your customer.
     Way back in the dark ages of 1985, a little company called Coca-Cola decided it was smarter than its customer base.  They decided to *gasp* tamper with the taste of Coke.  The new concoction was called, oddly enough, New Coke.  Coca-Cola flattered itself by thinking it was smarter than its customers.   Guess what?  It wasn't.  You can read the story of this disaster here:

     So what was the crux of this failed and expensive experiment?  To quote from the article:

     Sam Craig, professor of marketing and international business at the Stern School of Business at New York University, pointed to what he and other industry observers have long considered a fatal mistake on Coca-Cola's part. “They didn't ask the critical question of Coke users: Do you want a new Coke? By failing to ask that critical question, they had to backpedal very quickly.”

      Since it's highly unlikely that any of the whiz kids at Facebook were even alive in 1985, should we cut them some slack for making the same mistake?  Or should we excorciate them for failing to do their homework?
     Be it social media, or business social media, the plain truth is - people get used to something first, then they use it.  
     If your business social media tweets or emails suddenly changed in a radical direction, say by adding popups to them, would people continue to read them?  I wouldn't.  I, like most people out there, detest popups in my email, or any changes to it that make it a) more difficult to use, or b) make me  take time out of my schedule to relearn something that, as pointed out above, wasn't broken to begin with.
     I'd be willing to bet the folks over at Facebook's new competitor Google Plus are laughing themselves silly right now.
     What do you think?