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.