Facebook is Like a Chair… That Confuses and Surprises

Facebook is like a chair… that confuses, defrauds, misleads, spams and surprises users.

Facebook as a company doesn’t do these things, but they happen on the Facebook platform through the apps third party developers create for it.

Take a look at the ways that Facebook is having to control the permissions that third party applications have, via Facebook Cuts Back On Open Graph Actions, Automated Wall Spam:

  • “Facebook is cutting back on the types of actions that are allowed (presumably due to spam or messy use cases)”
  • “Facebook is also cracking down on how apps publish stories on behalf of users — an issue the company has wrestled since the very early days of the platform.”
  • “… they’re cracking down on apps that automatically publish stories back to Facebook as a person consumes content. “
  • “Facebook is also cracking down on apps that post to friends’ walls through the API. Developers can still post stories that include friends via user mentions.”

The problem with “Facebook is like a chair” is that it isn’t. Facebook isn’t like a chair in so many ways that hurt users and their trust in the brand that saying it’s like a chair is disingenuous.

Is it good that Facebook is cracking down on apps that abuse users? Absolutely. But “..like a chair” paints a picture of only a fraction of what Facebook really is. It’s a poetic and visual image, but it’s not consistent with reality.

Social Media Without the Tweets and Check-ins

After covering social media for years, it’s kind of surprising to see the most popular social media platforms get to a point where user activity doesn’t matter anymore.

On Twitter: Dick Costolo: “The Biggest Misconception About Twitter Is That You Have To Tweet To Use Twitter”

On Foursquare:

“Crowley compared Foursquare’s trajectory to Twitter. Even though Twitter’s content is impressive, many people are just following people and reading content. Now, check-ins are not as important as actual users who browse the app and the content curated thanks to check-ins.” – Dennis Crowley: Foursquare Considered Selling, Is The Best Local Search Tool On The Planet

Obviously each network is an advertising supported business, so the value of a user is high, but I never saw it coming that the value of a user’s activity would be so close to nil. People on Twitter don’t need to tweet and people on Foursquare don’t need to check-in; There’s no money to be made there is the reality.

Before social media hit the mainstream it was those actions that captivated the interest and passion of early adopters. Users had never been able to tweet short messages or share their location. Networks were defined by how they enabled their users in new and innovative ways.

Today these networks are defined by what content, information, or utility they offer consumers. The messaging has changed from being an active participator or creator (Tweet and Check-in) to being a recipient (“Follow your interests” and “Find great places near you”).

Like I’ve said in a previous post when Twitter released a new set of API guidelines, when your network is free and the only money to be made is through advertising, decisions about the platform will skew in that direction.

A Quick Look at the Surface Site

A couple problems I have with Microsoft’s website for Surface.

The whole site makes learning about the Surface such a chore. The content is really bad too. Sometimes it feels like they put it through Google Translate a few times and came out with inflated passages like the following:

A feat of engineering and a work of art. One touch and you’ll recognize the thoughtful design and precision craftsmanship that make Surface a joy to behold. The unique VaporMg casing delivers a high-quality fit and finish that’s ultra-light and durable.

Technically, the site isn’t finished yet as one of the main navigation elements, Surface with Windows 8 Pro, just shows the user a big “Coming Soon”.

When browsing through the website it quickly becomes clear that Microsoft tried to use this weird pattern of two-word headings for every section:

  • Serious. Fun.
  • Passion. Play.
  • Snap. Apps.

It’s really horrible especially given that only after you read a paragraph can you even understand what the headings are trying to say.

After browsing a dozen pages that each only explain two product benefits, and looking at such shoddy product images, all I’m going to say is this: Pass.

Success for the Mobile Context

The mobile context, where at any given time, for any given reason users will want to do something on their phones or with your app. Your job is to set users up for success.

There are a few established ways to achieve that including keeping your app focused, the UI clean, and the language simple.

When you tie together your brand, smart UX, and a successful experience, the result will be a positive customer story.

The Social Story of a Brand

It’s impossible for a brand to affect its social story, it can only impact consumers. It’s consumers who contribute to the social story through the experiences they have with a brand, and with 3rd party interactions like the things they see in the news, or the things they hear from friends.

The power of the social story is that it can reach consumers and affect them in ways brands can’t.

The social story is always active and ebbs and flows between positive and negative.

Mapping the Brand Story

Your brand story goes through a lot before what your consumers ultimately tell themselves, and others.

The equation is simple, but the possibilities are vast. If you fail to understand one of these pieces, or if your execution is weak, then your customer story is going to reflect it.

I found the difficult part with this illustration was communicating context. There are just so many things that contribute to it, finding just a few pictures to describe it was hard.

Each Platform Has its Own Story

Each platform has its own story. You can work though many different questions and get many different answers of Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why.

I find this illustration useful to illustrate that no one platform is superior or the best one for all cases. Each has its own characteristics and affects consumers’ lives in different ways that are worth looking into.

How Customers Engage With a Brand’s Story

Four types of consumers we tell our stories to, and how we want to affect them.

Even when we look at customer groups and customer actions, stories still proove useful.

One big action missing from this graph is spending money on a brand’s products and services. This illustration does more to answer the question “How do we successfully propagate our brand story to consumers?”