From Commodity to Customer

I have been struggling with Facebook for a while now. Once it became clear that Facebook was going public, then we, the actual public, not the Wall Street public Facebook was about to share a large cash-strewn bed with, became commodities rather of customers. When your company doesn’t produce anything but the data generated by your users to sell to other companies, the press to capture those data and the eyeballs of your users becomes paramount. And after the Facebook IPO, the cacophony of strategies to monetize us became louder and louder. With ads stuffed into our newsfeeds and a lack of transparency about what we’re seeing and why is beginning to make the Facebook pot boil.

I saw a post on Facebook this morning that included this graphic (thanks to Marjorie Fine for the link):

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 12.52.38 PM

There are two questions here: Can we go back to being customers who have a say in how this place is run? Or are we forever consigned to commodity status?

Facebook execs are facing several key calculations. First, the growth of the site has slowed down and the dreaded defection of teens has picked up speed. Therefore, with a maturing base, does Facebook double down with their prisoner mentality and milk the platform for everything they can get while assuming the rest of us have no place to go, aka AOL circa 2000? Or do they begin to remake their relationships with us as customers and not just data points and start a conversation about what we all want the future of Facebook to look and feel like. Zuckerberg and his team have been the smartest guys in the room for the last ten years, that is a very difficult dynamic to change, from leader to follower, but it is the only way to assure that we, the users, customers, prisoners of Facebook, have a voice in its future.


About the author

Allison Fine
  • bethkanter

    Ironic that the graphic is from – an app that helps you make your newsfeed better .. not only is FB treating as a commodity – but it is commodizes that

  • Joanne Fritz

    Ah, Allison, you have read my mind!

    • Allison Fine

      Always happy to look up from inside my pod, Joanne, and find you there with me! :)

  • Pamela Grow

    As Joanne remarked, you’ve read my mind. I’ve had a strong, innate distrust of Facebook since Day One…which has only grown as the years (months?) have passed. I don’t know that we were ever customers who had a say in how Facebook was run. In fact, looks like the Onion got it right:,19753/

    It seems to me that, rather than trying to master the intricacies of Facebook, nonprofits might be better served by empowering donors to post on social media on their behalf.

    • Allison Fine

      Or, we should start a trend and take ourselves to another platform that is more interested in safeguarding a common space than making money.

    • Allison Fine

      And I’d be willing to pay a subscription fee for social networks that are ad free and not selling my data all over the place.

  • Joelle Wyser-Pratte

    This is how Mark thinks about Facebook.

    Joelle O’Reilly-Hyland
    Managing partner of Ounavarra Capital Partners, LLC

    • Allison Fine

      Hi, Joelle, did you mean to put in a link?

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