It’s Time to Rethink Facebook

You’re thinking of leaving Facebook. I’m thinking of leaving Facebook. You want to leave because you feel like your data is not safe, the customer experience is not what it used to be and you’re creeped out by the contextual advertising and oh yea, the political vitriol. It may be time to evaluate the value of your relationship with Facebook.

You feel this way because in September of 2018 there was a data breach that affected 50 million users, and you might have been one of them. That’s a legit reason. Then there was the Cambridge Analytica scandal. You know, the one in which the political consulting firm connected to the Trump campaign, harvested the sensitive data of nearly 87 million Facebook users without their explicit permission, and then did something with it; but you’re not sure what “it” is. I’m not either, but that’s a pretty good reason to leave too.. And then there’s that whole contextual advertising thing taking place on the social network. You search for sunglasses and low and behold your Facebook pages are filled with Ray Ban ads. It IS creepy, especially when we start to fold AI into the mix (Are they listening to me?)

Regardless of your level of discontent, chances are you might be looking around and wondering out loud, is there something better? If you’re in the United States and you’re between the ages of 25 and 34, you’re wondering out loud the most, as this group has the most Facebook users at 50 million+.  In Europe, the feeling is no less different.  creating the global sense that Facebook users need more than what Facebook is giving. Or is it what they are taking? Depends on who you’re talking to.

The crux of the issue isn’t that you want to leave Facebook just because of the data breaches, the contextual advertising and the never-ending political finger pointing. The real raison d’être could be that you just don’t like the user experience anymore. I know I don’t. It has grown stale and repetitive. In fact, I’m willing to bet that you’ve grown weary of seeing the same people posting over and over about the same things, the same dialogue, over and over and over again. You like them as people for the most part but now they’re getting on your nerves. Just walk away you’re told, don’t log on. You try, but Facebook is everyone’s favorite dumpster fire, train wreck, car wreck, church choir, food-court, public drunk, on full display. You can’t turn away. It’s a voyeur’s delight.

Just for some perspective, do you know how many of the 2.2 billion users that Facebook has, have bailed due to the data breach? A lot. in some cases, upwards of 40% have decided to take “a break” from the social network. So my question is this. Has Facebook lost the trust of its core users or the fringe users? Forty percent is a lot.

Data breaches aside, and for some additional perspective, what do users like about the Facebook UX? For some, it’s graphic, it’s visual and it’s conversational. For others, it’s all about the connective aspect of the platform and the ability to “lurk” on what’s occurring in other peoples’ lives. Still some like the fact that the barrier of entry into the collective pulse of what is current, is low and seamless. The graphical layout is semi-easy on the eyes and the browsing experience is uber simple and it’s content rich. For many, it has replaced what AOL used to be to the masses-an internet portal into the world around us, except with more of a direct lifeline to our friends, their friends, our families, our likes and of course our dislikes. But Facebook is flawed.

As AOL eventually became overrun by “better” alternatives and we all became pretty weary of another AOL disc in the mail, this too shall pass with Facebook. Regardless of the fact that there are 2 billion active users on the social network, we will move on to something newer and shinier. It’s inevitable and the numbers are slowly starting to say the same thing.

At its peak, AOL had over 35 million active users, and though those numbers pale in comparison to Facebook, those were really big numbers back then. However, if you had told those 35 million users that eventually AOL would be deemed irrelevant in less than 10 years, they might have laughed. So what is currently out there that might replace Facebook? Here’s a list of contenders/pretenders “other” than Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snap, in no particular order. Peruse them in depth at your leisure. I don’t endorse them, I just found them.

  1. Diaspora
  2. Minds
  3.  Raftr 
  4. Mastodon
  5. Ello
  6. Family Wall
  7. Next Door
  8. 23 Snaps
  9. Edmodo
  10. MeWe
  11. Steemit
  12. Vero
  13. Sociall.io

So what will it take for these networks, or a future network to succeed? Will it be a data thing? A privacy thing? Will it be something in which we pay to play? In my opinion, it’s going to take something that is not Facebook in the least bit. Something that will be completely different and more experiential. Perhaps it’s VR or AR based. It will be equivalent of the Model T versus the horse. When Facebook came on the scene, there was nothing like it. There were things like it already such as MySpace and or Friendster, but we had seen nothing quite like it.

Clearly social networking and social networks fill a niche and a need to communicate, to share, to emote and to vent, but at what cost? When does Facebook jump the shark?

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When was the Customer Experience ever NOT a Priority?

I have a hard time processing statements like this:
“Meeting the expectations of today’s consumer is tricky business.” These are really common types of statements in today’s digital centric, retail world and I’ve been seeing them a lot over the last couple of years. It’s as if the retail customer experience has changed. I mean like really changed. Since the dawn of retail time, A product is sold and a product is bought. If the retailer was nice to you, it was a plus. If the retailer knew your name, even better. If the product was good, that’s great. If the product was great, even better. If the product is inferior, then all bets are off. If the retailer, could care less, then consumers spoke with their dollars and their feet.

That has not changed. Even today.

What has changed is the ability to learn more about the customer. What hasn’t changed is the way you’re supposed to treat the customer. What hasn’t changed is giving the customer a great product or service. Why is this any different today than it was a hundred years ago? Has technology caused a greater divide in the customer experience? Maybe. I thought it was to close the chasm that was brought on by competition and choices. The thinking was that because marketers were now armed with lots of data there would now be a more harmonious relationship. A better customer experience.

Marketers have become so obsessed with tools and resources that drive sales, that they have forgotten about, wait for it, the customer and the experience. This is not a difficult thing. Sometimes I think that marketing stacks get so high that marketers and retailers can’t see the customer that’s standing behind them. To hear companies state that they are now, more than ever, going to start focusing on the customer, just baffles me. When did this change and why did it ever? Why are we making it so difficult?

 

Why Social Media Will Challenge Marketers in 2019

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What are people thinking? What were they thinking? Who’s doing the thinking? Why are they thinking that? In 2007 when I joined Twitter, those were not front of mind questions for those of us using the social network for the first time. In 2019? That’s exactly why we go to Twitter. It’s a pulse check.

In 2007, when I joined Facebook, it was all about the one degree of separation between you, and who you knew. Now it’s about so many “other” things besides you and yet, in 2019, it still comes back to you, particularly when we have to synthesize the latest batch of Facebook data privacy breaches. Clearly, this is not your mother’s Facebook.

As most marketers know by now, we are pretty far removed from “the what” and “the why” these platforms were built for in the first place. The way social networks are utilized now both from a marketing standpoint and a UX standpoint, has undergone an almost 360 degree change since those early years. They are nearly unrecognizable. Those that were there in the early days, will be the first to admit that indeed, the times have changed for Twitter. Couple that with how Linkedin is now being used on an every-day basis, the evolution of Instagram, and the rapid adoption of Snap, and the choices and the ways that consumers want to communicate, have never been as diverse and complex.

In my opinion as soon as marketers came to the social media party en masse, the dynamics changed forever. People often say that it’s the users who determine how a social network is used, and that might be true, but it’s the marketers who determine how a social network is consumed.  Here’s the best way I can put it and this isn’t far off either. Let’s say you and some friends go to this awesome club in a perfect location, it has unreal musical performances, cool people abound, chill atmosphere, great unique food that works, real comfortable seating, never crowded, killer beer list, etc etc. OK, you get the picture. Now let’s say a promoter takes over, or marketing steps up and in. The word is out on the street. If the marketers were any good, the place is overrun with new people. Lot’s of people. Lot’s of different people with different tastes, opinions, needs and wants. The club now has a choice. Does it want to stay that cool hip joint that only the cool hip people know about? Or does is want to grow, expand and thrive?  It has to adapt or die, embrace change or lose relevancy, right?

The club will never be the same for the early adopters. In name, it’s still the club, but the old guard will always gripe about the way it used to be, and the new guard just drowns them out because this is the way it is now. Sound like a familiar story?

The new club fits the needs and demands of its most ardent and current users. It is still relevant today because of its location. So as things around it evolve, it too must evolve. As such, those that go there, change, adapt and or move on.

That’s the current state of social networks. they’ve changed not only for those that built them but also for those that were there in the very beginning and fell in love with the naked conversations that were plentiful. Has it changed for marketers and advertisers? Absolutely. Is it just as valuable to marketers now as it was then? Absolutely. Just different, more diverse and more complex. Data notwithstanding, today’s social media user is a lot more hip and comfortable on the platforms in which they hang.

Through their maturity, or immaturity, depending on how you want to look at the current list of dominant social networks, it’s become fairly evident that each channel has evolved into what they are and what they are going to be. The challenge for the user, whether they are a marketer or not, is to really understand the nuances of what is happening on each network. Step back and really look at how they are used. There is a rhythm to each, and in order to assimilate or merge into this non-stop, virtual stream of oncoming traffic, the tactics that are used to thrive and survive, have to be different.

That’s what is changing from network to network. How you post, what you post, what you say and how you say it, it’s different and it has to be different. This includes the paid game.  Social networks have evolved and or devolved depending on how you use them. For millennials, the levels of transparency can sometimes be frightening to Gen X, Gen Y, and Boomers. For them,  it’s akin to using snow tires in the summer or deciding to pop and lock in the middle of an upscale restaurant. They wouldn’t do it but for marketers the game is all about impressions, reach, engagement and conversions. So everything is considered. The bar has been raised to ridiculous heights in 2019 and the goal is to grab attention and or “get noticed” or “go viral,” if so, go for it, but know this, it’s not sustainable.

The complexity of our world and our society dictate that we become more flexible. This extends to how we use social networks. For marketers to thrive, they have to quit assuming that just because they know your name, that that allows them to cop a feel anytime they want. This is where analytics can only get you so far. To thrive in 2019 in social media, marketers have to possess equal amount of understanding networks, people, data, empathy, systems and what the end game is or should be.

In closing, I’ll use this last analogy. Picture social networks as the events at a track meet. A sprinter cannot run the distance races. The pole vaulter isn’t going to throw the shot put. Each race is different and requires different types of people. Each race requires a unique set of tactics, speed, strength, and or endurance. The ultimate goal though is to win but you have to train. Though you might win, coming in second or third isn’t so bad. You are measured, you are benchmarked and then you try again. By season’s end, you should be at your peak and be ready to compete, challenge and hopefully win. Better tools, better coaches, better conditions, equipment, they all factor in. But sometimes, someone comes out of nowhere and can shock the world. It can happen. It has happened. We’ll just have to see. Until then, embrace the change and stay relevant in 2019 by keeping your eyes and ears open and knowing that your ability to pivot will serve you and your org well.