Facebook Lessons in Annoyance

Ultimately the best lesson to learn in business is that your strengths are also your weakness. Google, which so easily gets the web, missed out the social network explosion because it was focused on its core competency (search) and was finding it difficult to switch from a vertical it controlled and which was accessed through clicks to a medium which created interactivity, user-generated content and which encouraged participation. Google+ is amazing precisely because it represents not just great functionality and an easy interface to use (these bits are technical and easily within the province of, even, Microsoft) but because it represents a massive conceptual leap for the search giant.

Facebook, born in a campus, gets social the way few other social networks do. It too has been unable however to get past its sophomoric roots and treat its user base like adults are there to run a business and would like to have some kind of stability and, crucial in business, a good means of communication with Facebook itself.

Those who follow my writings on Technorati have me pegged as someone who likes to bash Facebook http://technorati.com/people/davidamerland/ but that could not really be further from the truth. I was one of Facebook’s early adopters, joining the social network the moment it became available to the public and enthusiastically embraced most of its innovation even when they did nto seem to make a lot of sense.

To turn me off it like this it has taken a lot of effort on Facebook’s behalf. Difficulty in contacting anybody, accounts of pages being taken down without any kind of recourse or justification, functionality which sometimes either sticks or crashes my system and a kind of arrogance which I have personally found difficult to ignore.

This morning was a case in point. Bear in mind that Facebook recently released a Facebook for Business Page to help those who use the social network for business to make the most of it. One of the important elements of a Business Page is the number of people who have liked it. Like the endorsements of old and recommendations today, the number of people who have liked a particular page helps sway people’s decision and leads to greater number of fans, more reach and greater exposure.

All of the above are important as they contribute to a page’s Edgerank within Facebook and help increase its presence on the social network (the better its Edgerank the more visible your Page’s activities become) and, by association, helps increase a website’s ranking in search engines.

This morning Facebook decided to change some part of its programming, probably as part of it updating something. Whatever it was doing the result is that it affected Facebook Pages showing many of them to have one or a handful of ‘Likes’. Mine, for instance, has over 500 people who have ‘Liked’ the page and follow it every day yet it showed just one (1) as you can see in the picture above.

Checking within the Page’s structure the people who follow it are all still there, so the problem is more a superficial one. Yet it perfectly showcases everything I have come to dislike about Facebook: its authoritarian approach to dealing with its membership base, the fact that it often takes forever to fix whatever it breaks and the fact that it thinks it’s doing me a favour by allowing me to have a Page there. On that last note it’s not. I run ad campaigns which create income for it and the content I post there contribute to Facebook’s power and reach.

Everything it does seems designed to turn me off it and towards Google+. I am on Google+ and so far I have found nothing I do not like there. But if Google+ takes off in such way that it kills Facebook I will be the first to feel sorry. I believe that plurality, competition and choice enrich our world and provide the best possible deal for the end-user, either as a private individual or a business customer. Seeing one social network fail and another one rise does not really contribute to this.

So, Facebook, pretty please with a cherry on top, can you get your act together and stop irritating the very people you rely upon for your survival?