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 Healthcare.gov-like 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):
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.