A few years ago we experienced the email account bubble where people had multiple accounts due to the limited space each user was allowed.
Today, we are experiencing the social media bubble. Facebook, myspace, linkedin, bebo, twitter, hi5, etc are just some of the more well-known names to emerge in recent years. More than 50% of population in the US and Europe has a Facebook account and according to recent news, the social network based in Palo Alto is the most clicked website in the world.
In order to create revenues, these networks exploit the actions of users to drive advertisement, creating massive statistical databases of consumer behaviour. While their business model is clearly centered on the user, what role does the user play in the process? All these sites hope for is for the users to spend time on the site generating data and occasionally clicking on advertisements. No users = no data = no business.
Do the social networks really listen to their users? Would they care to?
In 2006 Facebook users rebelled against the news feed feature. Without informing its users, Facebook decided to implement a news feed feature (now entirely customizable and generally accepted) that would all a user’s friends to see all of the actions undertaken by the user on facebook. This let many users to either abandon the social network entirely or to initiate protests against the feature. In response, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, wrote an open letter to Facebook users to formally apologize (in reality his initial answer was to tell users to “calm down”). Later another big privacy issue surfaced when Beacon, an advertising system that sent data from external websites to Facebook, was shut down following a class action lawsuit.
Could these mistakes have been avoided?
If Facebook had involved users in these initiative affecting privacy and advertising some of the backlash could have been prevented. Here at Travellution, we believe that social networks should not only listen their users but also allow them to participate in the strategic decisions of the social network.