More Mea Culpa: Facebook’s Terms of Service debacle

Even if you’re the most casual of Facebook users, you’ve no doubt seen one of your friends, a journalist or a “social media expert” (I hate that phrase) sounding off on the social networking giant’s rolling changes to its Terms of Service.

Fist

Last night, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally yielded to a growing user revolt, just a day after he attempted to clarify changes to the Terms of Service in a blog post. Despite his explanations, users still were unhappy and concerned about their privacy.

With more than 50,000 users complaining. Users win.

Zuckerburg wrote last night that Facebook would revert the terms of service back to its previous version, adding however that the site is determined to update its terms of service, but this time would seek input from the community of Facebook users first.

“If you’d like to get involved in crafting our new terms… you can start posting your questions, comments and requests in the group we’ve created–Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. I’m looking forward to reading your input.”

In all honesty, I’m glad Zuckerburg was quick to act and not just because I personally saw some holes in their new terms of service. I’m glad he did it because it’s the right thing to do from a best practice standpoint.

It seems that Facebook and Zuckerberg have learned something from the Beacon problem two years ago.

What Facebook did wrong with it’s roll out of these new terms of use is what some other popular free Web sites have done in recent months – it neglected to adequately warn users of a reasonably major change to the site. The initial blog post that came on February 4 that simply told users that the change happened was not enough to give users ample time to remove content they wouldn’t want to fall under the new terms of use. And all explanations aside, the change was significant.

Hulu faced a similar negative response when it failed to notify its users that it had to remove older seasons of “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” in January. Granted, “Sunny’s” parent network, FX made the request that the episodes be pulled and Hulu simply complied. The problem was that they failed to communicate the change to any community members. Seeing as “Sunny” is one of the most popular shows on the site, the community was rightfully upset and in quite an uproar at Hulu’s mismanagement of the situation.

Hulu made it’s Mea Culpa blog post just four days after pulling the episodes. They ended up working out a deal with the network to add the episodes back for an abbreviated period to allow users the chance to get their fix before the episodes made their exit.

What all this comes back to is the need for sites and services to communicate to their users, even if there is nothing terribly important to say. I don’t care if your service is free or paid. iTunes forces me to agree to new terms on a seemingly weekly basis and to be completely honest, I adore them for it. I always know where my privacy stands with them. Facebook should have done the same thing.

Muhammad Saleem pretty much sums up everything I think that Facebook should have done before rolling out changes to their terms of service in a blog post he did following the Hulu incident: “HOW TO: Survive a Social Media Revolt. He nails it on every point. Now, lets see where we go from here.

Photo by Zirak

Why having great content isn’t enough

More and more I see brand strategists and other thought leaders talking about the importance of having great content on their sites to improve traffic and drive consideration. I’m of the belief that simply isn’t enough. Yes, great content, keyword strings, sound coding and SEO are all really important for getting people to your site. But once they’ve made it to your property, read your pitch and have begun the consideration process, what are you doing to engage them?

And thus, we have to address the dreaded customer relationship marketing thingy. I’m not going to lie to you. I believe most companies flat out suck at this. You might have something that totally interests me. I love what I find on your Web site and you might give me a channel to talk about how much I love both those things, but if you don’t talk back to me and acknowledge the fact that I’ve actually taken the time to give you my feedback, I won’t interact with your site again or bother to respond to your survey etc. And it’s in that assurance that you’ll converse with me that perhaps the most important key to blogging comes out: Establishing Trust.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a top 10, top 5 or even a top 2 list of ways to guarantee that people visiting your site will trust you. It’s a subjective thing, and damn is it ever frustrating when you can’t establish it. Building Trust with readership takes time. You have to be absolutely congruent with what you’re writing about and when you do converse with readers/consumers, you have to be and portray yourself as a person of authenticity and character. Even more difficult is getting those readers to perceive you as such and then connect with it.

Yes, you’ll fail. You’ll piss some people off and yes, a lot of people simply may not enjoy the person who happens to be the voice for your product, service or brand. But if you’re not interacting with consumers to make the attempt to build trust, you’re falling into the old way of marketing… shouting from the rooftops until someone hears you, blind to the fact that you have absolutely no real control about what people perceive your brand to be without talking honestly with them about it. If you go that route, let me know how that works out for you.

Photo: Dora Pete

Damming the Twitter stream

This morning I was following more than 900 people, and even with Tweetdeck, I decided that it was just information overload. I had to narrow my scope and damn the gushing stream of information, only allowing relevant (to my newly intended purpose) tweets to trickle through.

A few posts back, I wrote about how I converse on Twitter. Even since that posting, I’ve changed how I use it.

Why the change? I’m simply missing information I believe I NEED to receive. I may WANT to follow everyone who follows me back, or follow a ton of brands to dig up information on new products; but the fact of the matter is, I don’t NEED all of the information I’ve been getting.

So, how does this happen? How does someone get overwhelmed by Twitter? My answer would be that it happens differently for different users, depending on what they’re using Twitter for.

Personally, I’ve now resolved to use Twitter for three things:

1. To keep tabs on friends and co-workers, discussing like interests and projects with them
2. To monitor the automotive industry, automotive enthusiasts and brands I have a particular interest in
3. To monitor trends in social media and content marketing

Somewhere along the line I got clumsy, and greedy. I followed far too many people and invested follows in folks who didn’t contribute anything that I could offer a point of view on. And I was getting so much data, that I’d consistently miss conversations I should have been a part of. I believe I was getting too focused on improving my Twitter Grade, and forgot about what I began using Twitter for in the first place – to take part in conversations about the things I’m interested in.

The real goal is to keep information relevant and interesting to those that are following me. Sure, the three different audiences may get tired of the odd combination of tweets I provide, but that’s the beauty of social networking. We get exposed to some things we otherwise may not have ever known about. Because of this, I’ve hung onto people who share my other interests, which include racing, outdoor activities, hockey and green living. I didn’t want to give up those occasional things that broadened my horizons on these topics.

I’ve managed to pare my follow list to 729, and vow not to breach 750 (still a sizable list!). In that process, I did end up removing people who were still following me. This was a difficult thing for me to do, but when it comes right down to it, I caught myself following people and brands I had absolutely no interest in. Not to mention, my Twitter use is not singularly focused on one client, product or the agency I work for. If I were tweeting with a singular focus I’d probably follow everyone back, attempting to engage those folks in conversation about the brand they followed in the first place.

I like that I’m leaner, and if I unfollowed you or don’t follow you back, I hope you don’t take offense. I’m simply trying to make Twitter’s valuable information stream work for and with me. Open to thoughts and comments. Fire away!

Photo: Michelle Kwajafa