Aug 22, 2012

Dear Zuck: 5 Ways To Fix Facebook (And Get Your Stock Back Up)

Dear Zuck:

It breaks my heart to see your stock tanking because investors aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on the monetization thing. Especially since, from where I’m sitting, it doesn’t seem that hard. So here’s what you do to get your stock back on track again:

  1. Forget about display ads. You’re never going to fix them. Apocryphal story: The other day, I overheard my eighth-grader and his friends talking about how you should never click on Facebook ads “because they’re just spam and they might break your computer.” Clearly not accurate, but here’s the thing: most of your users share that sentiment. All those years of ads for hair replacement services, Christian singles organizations and party clowns trained us to see that space as the Facebook equivalent of junk. So when you throw a Pepsi ad in there along with the miracle diets, most of us assume it’s not a real Pepsi ad and assume it’s a come-on for free Canadian Viagra, computer viruses or worse. 
  2. Stop giving away the brand pages. At the same time you were delegitimizing your display ads, you were creating a whole ecosystem around your brand pages... and giving it away for free. What’s more, you’ve trained users to believe that brand pages are the only way big brands interact on Facebook. The success of all those contests and promotions bears that out. And yet you are giving this away for free. Make them pay for it Zuck. And while you’re at it, share some of the data you collect or even just give them rights to the 500K pictures users put up during a promotion. And make them pay for that too. I know you worry about user experience and all, but seriously Marc, I doubt most of those five hundred thousand people even realize that you own the pictures they’ve posted, not the brand. 
  3. Get rid of the timeline from brand pages. Timeline is a great idea. Sam Lessin is a really smart guy. But the old tabs and unique homescreen format is something you can sell to brands. Every brand manager and agency I've spoken to is freaked out by timeline and they all agree it's greatly reduced the usefulness of their Facebook presence. Beyond that, consumers don’t expect brands to have timelines: they are not our friends. Ergo, friends have timelines, brands don’t. If you want to make money off brand pages, you’ve got to make them brand friendly. 
  4. Stop trying to protect us from ourselves. I get that you don’t want the news feed turning into a advertising channel. But your users are smart enough to know how to block brands whose messaging has become annoying. Most of the brand messaging in my newsfeed is harmless and of the stuff I let through, a lot of it is actually useful. Put your trust in the free marketplace of ideas theory and let us eliminate the noise ourselves. (Because one person’s noise is another person’s “like”) 
  5. Innovate: Once you’ve committed to brand pages, stop treating them like the crazy uncle in the basement and make them more useful. Here’s a freebie that should be pretty simple to implement: you know how I can select how frequently I hear from a person? Give me the same options for brands, only use language that make sense for those interactions, e.g. “all updates/contests and promotions only/product news only.” That’s the sort of option that works for all three parties: you, us and them. You’ve got a whole lot of smart people working for you, I’m sure they’ll come up with lots more of these. 

So take this for what it is: the semi-informed ramblings of someone who has no idea what’re really driving your decisions beyond what he reads in the trade press. If you like what you read though, you can always friend me and we’ll take it from there.

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