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.

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Companies: facebook

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Comments on “Irritating Your Customers Is Almost Never A Good Business Strategy”

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30 Comments
Kevin says:

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.

Aquascum says:

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?)

xtrasico (profile) says:

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.

T.J. says:

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”.

Mari Smith (user link) says:

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!

Cal says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

social security (user link) says:

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