Irritating Your Customers Is Almost Never A Good Business Strategy

from the customers-first dept

Brad Templeton notes a problem with Facebook that I have also observed: third party applications on the site are often quite annoying. I pretty regularly get messages from friends asking me to sign up for some random Facebook application that says (as Templeton puts it) "Fred Smith wrote something on your pixie wall!" and I have to sign up for the application to find out what Smith said. Most of the time neither Fred Smith's message or the app is that great, and so I end up quickly deleting it and am annoyed at both Fred Smith and the pixie wall application for wasting my time. I'm now at the point where I mostly ignore application requests. It's a bit of a sticky situation for Facebook. On the one hand, the company doesn't want to stifle experimentation by micromanaging the way applications are deployed. On the other hand, if applications make themselves too much of a nuisance, they might degrade the entire Facebook experience.

At a minimum, Facebook should revise its guidelines to make it clear that applications should, as much as possible, allow users to interact with them without formally signing up with the application themselves. Of course, applications have a strong incentive to ignore this advice in the interest of viral growth. One way to help enforce the guidelines would be for Facebook to put a complaint button right next to all application installation requests. The applications that received the most complaints could be investigated by Facebook staff and asked to clean up their act. One problem is that, as Templeton points out, Facebook itself hardly has clean hands on this issue. When you get a message on Facebook, you receive an email without the body of the message in it. Facebook ought to set a good example by switching this default.

It's true that in the short run that would moderately reduce website traffic. But that's a short-sighted way of looking at it. As I pointed out on Wednesday, one of the reasons Google has been so successful is that they almost never degrade the user experience in pursuit of other objectives like revenue maximization. That enhances their brand and increases user loyalty. By the same token, we at Techdirt provide full-text feeds despite the fact that partial feeds would generate more traffic in the short term. In both cases, the focus is on building the long-term value of the product, and sometimes that means giving up some short-term benefits in order to enhance the user experience. If Facebook doesn't learn this lesson, they are vulnerable to a competitor that offers similar functionality and a better user experience.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Kevin, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 5:22pm

    Hear Hear

    Although I am not a user of facebook, I have always been impressed by the ability to read entire articles from Techdirt without needed to visit the parent site - although I often do when I am interested in reading comments on an article. I often wind up reading more articles that way - it is much easier than clicking extra links to read a full article, thus navigating away from my RSS feeds page.

     

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  2.  
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    Aquascum, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 6:18pm

    Well...

    It may seem that an ignore button would be useful, but there are a couple of preliminary matters:
    1. Of course, it can be abused. The same way people put their parents on their spam lists, applications can be put on Facebook's application list.
    2. At first, people won't know about it, and accidently press it. This will be fix itself gradually as people learn about it, but it will render the first while kind of useless. Like everything, the start won't be amazing.

    The other idea above was that applications should allow users to use them without "formally signing up." This would defeat the purpose of many of the applications, such as most of the games, which almost all create an account that shows the user's progress. For a few, such as "superwall," "funwall," "advanced wall," "flirtwall," and "beerwall," not having an account wouldn't be so bad, but most application creators will want more control over their users.
    There may be ways around this, but I don't think that there is a really easy, effecive way of managing the application requests. Otherwise it would have been found already(right?)

     

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  3.  
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    xtrasico, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 6:59pm

    Facebook is annoying

    I used to have Facebook. I had to inactivate my account because there were so many emails from a lot of people asking me to join this cause or use that application... It was really annoying. It was great at the beginning. I found a lot of old friends from school. I had around 60 friends but they registered every application they could find. I won't go back to Facebook. Not in a million years.

     

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  4.  
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    stilist, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 7:07pm

    My approach to the matter is actively blocking any application I know I won’t want to use. It saves me a lot of spam and time, but it’s certainly not the solution any party involved is hoping for.

     

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  5.  
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    T.J., Nov 30th, 2007 @ 7:59pm

    This is the reason I stopped using facebook. I liked facebook because it was an easy way to keep up with friends far away, it was simple and basic, just what I wanted. But now all these applications and annoying spam from them drove me away. I still have my account, but I only check it ~once per month, and never accept those dumb "invitations".

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Gary, Dec 1st, 2007 @ 8:32am

    "Irritating Your Customers Is Almost Never A Good Business Strategy"

    When is its a good strategy?

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Tripp, Dec 1st, 2007 @ 9:23am

    Ed Debevic's

    @ Gary: Ed Debevic's in Chicago seems to have that business model going. Given that a number of restaurants in the chain have closed over the years, I can't say it's a great strategy - but they had a better run than I expected.

     

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  8.  
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    Mari Smith, Dec 1st, 2007 @ 3:07pm

    Hear, hear. I just unfriended someone (whom I didn't know personally) because they send a barrage of apps requests to me. Sorry, there just aren't enough hours in the day to keep up with that kind of activity! As far as all the souped up walls, I choose to not view messages there, as they're typically sent to everyone not just me... Give me plain Wall and/or a private message!

     

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  9.  
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    The Swiss Cheese Monster, Dec 1st, 2007 @ 4:27pm

    I think a good solution to this problem would be a "deny" and "deny forever" type buttons.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Cal, Dec 1st, 2007 @ 6:34pm

    Blocking Apps

    I've taken to blocking Facebook applications I see in my news feed that particularly annoy me. Super Wall, Christmas Tree, Grow-a-Gift, Zombies, and Pirates should all be thrown off the plank into a deep sea from which they will never return to harass anyone again.

    I wish there were a simple way to block all applications or opt-in to the ones I want to interact with. I hope Facebook will take the long-term view of the situation with the applications and give users a large array of privacy/blocking capabilities to improve the user experience.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2007 @ 1:05am

    Most of the time neither Fred Smith's message or the app is that great, and so I end up quickly deleting it and am annoyed at both Fred Smith and the pixie wall application for wasting my time.


    I would expand this comment to the whole of Facebook. I have no interest in joining, but about once a month I get an email from someone who is too lazy to copy info into the mail itself, inviting me instead to read it on their Facebook (or MySpace) page; following the link of course just results in "You are forbidden from reading this content until you sign in" message.

    Until Facebook either allows non-users to read specific page links or prevents its users from sending links to email addresses that are not registered with them I don't see them enforcing the same standards on others.

     

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  12.  
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    Philipp Mueller, Dec 2nd, 2007 @ 6:09am

    and what about the techdirt insight community???

    ...as an "expert" in the techdirt insight community, I receive about three emails every day that force me to click through to read what someone has commented on a comment that I made. So please do implement your insights in your own projects!

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Slappy, Dec 2nd, 2007 @ 7:25am

    The key is to limit the amount of friends you have, preferably none.

     

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  14.  
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    Rose, Dec 2nd, 2007 @ 7:57am

    BS

    Do you not have enough to do? Who needs Facebook, My Space,and all the other BS sites? Not Intelligent grown people.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2007 @ 4:40pm

    I occasionally get emails from people telling me to look at some crap on Facebook.

    I employ a quick and easy solution, it's called 'Delete'.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    darkbhudda, Dec 2nd, 2007 @ 8:55pm

    The worst app I have seen won't even let me see what "gift" my friend sent me, even after singing up, until I send "gifts" to 5 other people.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2007 @ 9:27pm

    "The worst app I have seen won't even let me see what "gift" my friend sent me, even after singing up, until I send "gifts" to 5 other people."

    If anyone sent me something like that I would very quickly invite them to do something very unpleasant to themselves!

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 8:24am

    My $0.02

    "The key is to limit the amount of friends you have, preferably none."

    If that's the case, then there's no reason to have a facebook.

    Besides that, yes, the applications are really annoying. Facebook should ban the crappy and the extremely popular ones like Top Friends, Jetman, etc. should only be allowed to stay. Better yet, moderating the production of applications on a scale of "This is stupid" to "This is user-friendly and pretty useful". It may put a stand still to creative efforts by the programmers, but it'll encourage them to make better applications.

     

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  19.  
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    sambo, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 2:51pm

    ditto - I have about 25 & growing invitations to crap.

    I have turned off all my email alerts, it's the only way to stay sane.

    PS. love the Techdirt full text feeds!

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    anon, Dec 18th, 2007 @ 12:35pm

    Petition to limit applications

    there is a Facebook group - petition to limit the number of applications viewable on profiles. Join us!

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Valentine Gifts, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 12:05am

    Valentine Gifts

    Valentine Gifts (Bebo Application)
    The wait is about to get over. Love is in the air again. Valentine's is coming.Are you looking for the best gifts for your valentine? Or maybe finding yourself a valentine? Come and join the world of love!
    Visit now: http://bebo.com/Profile.jsp?MemberId=5411043250

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Andrew, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 5:25am

    Reply

    "If Facebook doesn't learn this lesson, they are vulnerable to a competitor that offers similar functionality and a better user experience." ...hear....hear......

    Or, maybe they're making a fast billion and getting out?

    Wouldn't be a bad strategy, if you ask me...

    Drew

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    social security, Mar 7th, 2008 @ 3:33am

    social services

    We can provide a full range of social networking applications strategy, design, development and marketing for your business. Our service offerings will allow you to maximize and leverage the social networking social graph of 200+ Million users.
    Are you in need of a custom Facebook application or an OpenSocial application for social network? We are happy to build even the most robust applications to help promote your company in the realm of social media across any social network.
    http://www.opensocialfactory.com/

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    facebookster, Mar 7th, 2008 @ 3:38am

    business application

    Facebookster - We can provide a full range of facebook application strategy, design, development and marketing for your business. Facebookster
    Visit now: http://www.facebookster.com"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    bebodevelopers, Mar 7th, 2008 @ 3:40am

    business application

    Bebo Developers is the name of a dynamic quality assertive and low cost team of developers who expertise in developing Face book, Open Social applications that include Bebo, LinedIn and iGoogle widgets.
    Possessing some of the best available talent present we are proud to have developed a
    Wide range of deployed applications that rank amongst the highest used by everyday Face book and Open Social applications. The increasing popularity of Face book
    Applications has made every businessman want to get his hands on a Face book application that increases his market and product and this is where Bebo Develop.
    Visit now: http://bebodevelopers.com"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    James Jackman, Jun 5th, 2008 @ 12:34am

    facebook

    please send this on to your customers facebook have logged me out of my account and not asked me for concent on that matter ordineraly I have no problem with facebook But if they don't resolve this i will contenplate sueing them

    pissed off facebook customer

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    james jackman, Jun 5th, 2008 @ 12:48am

    Re: Facebook is annoying

    I coulden't agree more I went to facebook to communicate to former freinds from my year group but since monday all I have had is trouble logging into my free online Account eachtime i have had to re do my password each time i logged off all I have got was your password is incorect messeage

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    joe, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 8:14am

    Re:

    Great point!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Joe, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 8:23am

    Re: business application

    Bebo needs to hire someone who "speaks the english" better. Really...I'm serious...people will take your ad more seriously if it at least has proper grammer!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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