Big Mistake or Brilliant Marketing?

Facebook just keeps rolling out the changes and users just keep getting madder.  As someone who makes a living teaching Social Media, these changes are money in my pocket but seeing people frustrated and unhappy doesn’t make me smile.

This decision to change things whether or not the users will be unhappy is not unusual in a free service.  People get angry at Google all the time and Google’s response is, “So what.”  For some reason, people hope that Facebook will be a little more friendly than the aloof Google.  Facebook is part of people’s morning coffee and interaction with friends so it seems a little like a favorite coffee mug or old chair.  Someplace you go because you want to smile.  Until they change it.

Let’s think about those changes for a moment.  Some of them look like an attempt to catch up to the functionality of Google + and some of them are just inspired.  The chat list on the left has now turned into the message list and the video call list.  Integrating how you reach out to communicate with specific people is only the beginning.  That simple change means that one list can serve many communication needs.  Scalability for future services.

The top stories and news ticker make an attempt to give people what they have been asking for.    Users have long complained about the difficulty of finding the important status posts among all the “I just ate ice cream” and “be my friend on Vampires Kill the Mafia Game.”  So having the ticker run off to the right with all the silly stuff and your main friends big posts happening front and center is actually meant to respond to user requests.  Yes, that’s right, you asked for it and you got it.

What about the upcoming Timeline?  Not sure about that?  Well it changes your profile into a multi-media scrapbook.  It’s rich features, big graphics and totally more glitzy than most of Facebook.  And it’s about you.  People are going to complain about that for about 10 minutes and then embrace it.

So the one thing that hasn’t been discussed is the timing of all these changes.  Many of them have obviously been in the works for a long time to be ready to be live now.  And when is now? Now is when just 10 minutes ago all the technorati could talk about was Google +.  Suddenly Google + is yesterday’s story and Facebook is all over the news.  All over the news also because Facebook just logged the first 24 hours in which 500 million people were logged in.  Think of that.  500 million people used Facebook that day.

The timing could not have been better for Mark Zuckerberg.  Google + loses its newsworthiness, big new changes to his service and everyone is talking about it.  Maybe they are mad but if they are the kind of people who don’t like change the last thing they are going to do is switch to Google +.  So Google, are you just going to say, “So what?” or are you going to come back with some brilliant feature that makes Facebook tomorrow’s MySpace?



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