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A whole different kind of evolution
A lot of you have heard about the trouble Facebook is having with its new feed and mini-feed functionality. I’ve been meaning to pick up the thread I introduced about social media Darwinism in my recent post about Digg.com and Newsvine, two other social media communities, and then Amitai got me off my rear by forwarding this related link to me on Facebook.
According to a Wall Street Journal article “New Facebook Features Have Members in an Uproar” written by Jamin Warrn and Vauhini Vara, published September, 7, 2006
“Facebook.com, the popular social-networking Web site for students, is suddenly getting the cold shoulder on campus. On Tuesday, in an effort to make it easier for users to keep track of their friends, the fast-growing site rolled out two new features, dubbed News Feed and Mini-Feed. They track users’ actions on the site and then keep all of their friends apprised of those developments..”
Over 300,000 Facebook users have responded to these changes in a most unhappy manner. In my post I made the point that both Kevin Rose and Mike Davidson, respective CEO’s for Digg and Newsvine, are doing a great job of practicing poised social media skills. Like responding quickly and openly to criticism while avoiding any hint of defensiveness. How was I to know that just as I was writing this post Wednesday about Rose and Davidson, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO for Facebook was providing a living, breathing example of what not to do.
As the story started to blow up in the blogosphere and main stream media, the first thing I did was locate Zuckerberg’s blog. I expected to find the same kind of skillful interaction on Zuckerberg’s blog that I have seen exhibited by Rose. As I sat there Wednesday evening looking at the headline of his post I have to admit I was more than a little surprised.
“Calm down. Breathe. We hear you.”
I thought that it was a pretty patronizing way to start a conversation. Apparently, Facebook users felt the same way. Of course, that’s one of the dynamics with this one dimensional world of online social media. It can really fail to communicate your true intent, and in others, it exposes your real feelings in ways that you didn’t intend.
Here’s the big difference between Zuckerberg’s post and Kevin Rose’s. Zuckerberg explained everything away (don’t be concerned, it’s all the same information you’ve already been sharing). Rose, acknowledged his detractors, admitted that part of what they were complaining about was still going to take place, but then went on to say that they were changing their system to address many of the very concerns being voiced by Digg users. In other words, Rose was fessing up, and he was taking action. When it comes to interpreting true meaning whilst it is leaving someone’s lips or fingers, it is what they do, not what they say, that has the most impact. Zuckerberg, was saying he was listening but he wasn’t showing it.
Even though I’m not Facebook user, as I am of Digg and Newsvine, Zuckerberg’s follow up today got him right back on track. We’ll have to see if his damage control will do the trick. I do think he’s moving in the right direction again by taking action, based on the feedback his community is giving him.
I hope that I don’t sound superior in this post. I’ve made tons of mistakes in written communications before, er, I mean everywhere in my life, including my forays in social media. When I stuff things up, I feel badly, and I do my best to try and recover. Sometimes it is easy, other times I have to sulk first because I’m a stupid, overly sensitive man. Sometimes I don’t even do a good job of recovering and I have to chalk it up to doing better the next time (hoping there is one) just like real life. Of course, your online digital dirt doesn’t go away. So, in more ways than one, our very survival, from a professional and personal perspective, depends on how you handle yourself in your parallel online world. People will adapt, or perish, just as Darwin illustrated.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers as to how the proper online citizen should act. In the real world, especially in my personal life, I haven’t exactly found myself in alignment with typical societal values – in business I know how to play the game, I just opt out of that game a lot of the time. Unlike your personal life, I do think it’s much easier to give rules and guidelines for how businesses should handle this world of social media. I could give you a nice long list of social media tips. But then I’d have to charge you. No, but seriously, I would have to charge you a lot! OK, OK, I’ll admit it, I’m just too lazy to type anything up right now and I’m really in the mood for a broad brush, sweeping generalization kind of post, not a how-to guide. See – I can be honest. Now back to how businesses should handle this sort of thing. Two guiding words.
I think that if you have a good intent, even when you blunder, that you’ll survive it. If you have the wrong intent, people will sniff it out and reject any manner of prose or impassioned speech on your part. I think it is key that you also act in a manner that is consistent with your intent. When you don’t – you’re not really hearing people, or you’re choosing to ignore them. And if you’re going to disagree, just come out and say it. I think Zuckerberg’s first post would have been a lot better if he had just said that he didn’t really think that users understood his actions yet and that they might be acting a little hysterical. They are after all, acting like someone had stolen their bank account number and broadcast is everywhere. At least, that’s what I took his piece to mean, because of how Zuckerberg acted. Give it to them with both barrels. The truth that is. Take action. Even if all you can say is that you’re forming a team to reevaluate your position and you end up coming back to the same position.
But enough about what I think. There are no true experts yet in the field of social media. We’re all beginners, with varying degrees of actual experience. What do you have to say about all this?
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
In closing, I want to say that in no way do I mean to make light of Mark Zuckerberg’s unpleasant experiences. This guy is running a highly successful effort. He must be very smart. I would guess that he’ll be just fine. I’m sure I have NO idea what he’s really like in ‘REAL’ life but I still have to constantly remind myself of that because the only data I have on him is his company and his blog. I recognize that there are aspects of his ‘real’ personality that come to light in places like his blog, but that they’re also limited by their singular dimension. This online world is a real world, but it’s not the most important one. Not yet anyway. Not until it can dive in front of a bullet for a friend or hold a baby girl in its arms and say everything that needs to be said, with just a touch and a look.
And I promise I’ll get back to further defining what I mean by social media Darwinism more in some pieces coming down the pike. I’m still mulling it over. Until then, go out and kick a dog (not really) or kiss a baby or something.
[tags]social media, social media Darwinism, social media optimization, digital dirt, online branding, word of mouth marketing, online communities, Facebook, Newsvine, Digg, Kevin Rose, Mike Davidson, Mark Zuckerberg[/tags]