‘I Got Timelined’

You may have seen in it a friend’s status update. Facebook has recently ‘upgraded’ all accounts to their new Timeline feature. Earlier in the year, users were given the option to switch to the new format. A few holdouts — myself included — opted not to take them up on that ‘offer.’ We were rewarded with what we thought was a true ‘option,’ since our profiles remained the same. Sadly, that was not to last.

I fully understand the valid argument that “Facebook is free, so they can do whatever they want.” There is some truth to that. A friend promptly ‘corrected’ me, after I posted my displeasure with the new format:

“No other company could do this. Imagine being at a restaurant and they say:

‘We know you ordered the salad. We know you’re a vegetarian. We know we gave you a burger, and you sent it back to the kitchen. Here, have that same burger. And like it.’”

She mentioned that ordering food implies payment, so we naturally expect what we paid for. Since Facebook is free, and we have the option to leave at any time without penalty, she felt I should “quit bitching.”

All that is true. I get it, I do. But there is more at play here.

From a usability standpoint, forcing people to use features they don’t want — and have expressed frustration at trying to use — is just bad practice all around.

Many of us enjoy the ways Facebook allows us to connect with family and friends with relative ease. For those folks, the inconvenience of new features does not warrant the loss of the social network from their lives. The thought of leaving ‘in a huff’ has even been compared to ‘punishing yourself.’

But the company should not turn a blind eye to those users who have become frustrated enough to leave the site. Fewer users means a smaller payoff for advertisers. The less advertisers, the less revenue. Once the cash flow wanes, Facebook may finally take notice.

One of the reasons why the public fell out of love with MySpace was that the company chose not to listen when users complained about the barrage of ads they were subjected to at any given time. Those users left the site (most of them ‘switched’ to Facebook), advertisers saw they were not getting the same interest as before, and the companies that didn’t ditch MySpace, drastically cut their spending with the site.

In the end, it is never a good idea to alienate your customers. Whether or not they’re paying for your services, they still have a voice, they still have a choice. Actions speak quite loudly, indeed.

The time is now ripe for another social media giant to satisfy the hunger for frequently updated content. Facebook’s decision to shun the wishes of their users will only serve as a herald for this ‘new kid on the block.’

by Enid Ahylhienatta | Technology Consultant | Gaseoustania Tonight

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