“SCRAP THE NEW FACEBOOK LAYOUT! (If it ain’t broke, don’t ‘fix’ it!),” exclaims a popular Facebook group. However, this group isn’t nearly as popular as the 1,186,778 members found at “I hate the new Facebook” group.
So, why is Facebook smiling instead of frowning? Well, for one, these million member groups are within the new Facebook. The irony is palpable.
Of course, these Facebookers have a right to be annoyed. It’s similar to when a popular supermarket changes the layout of its store. The first few experiences can be quite maddening. However, over time, shoppers realize that there was a method to the madness, things are actually organized better, and it allowed for additional product offerings.
A counter brand argument is that there won’t be a second time; that shoppers will immediately go to another supermarket. This hardly seems likely because the core offering hasn’t changed and there was a reason said supermarket was originally selected over the others in the area.
The same holds true here, as voiced by Indiana University senior Kemmie Mitzell.
“It can be an inconvenience to suddenly log on and see that everything has been rearranged,” she told IDSnews.com. “But at the same time I use it so much and I depend on it so much for keeping up with friends and family members that I end up just teaching myself to use it all over again.”
Mark Slee, Facebook product manager, echoes this sentiment: “The new design is different, and we understand that some people will be uncomfortable with the changes, but over time we think people will appreciate the advantages of the new design and the new features it offers.”
A key word from Mitzell’s quote is the word “depend.” This has Facebook executives smiling. Facebook is so ingrained in people’s lives that the switching costs are too high.
Also, people being upset and letting you know is a good thing, as they’re passionate about your brand. They’re taking brand ownership of your product/brand and this is invaluable. Apple knows a little thing or two about how this passion can drive success.
Was Facebook’s recent move aggressive? Certainly. Did they learn from previous launch mistakes like Beacon (the infamous tool that told users of purchases and activity off of Facebook)? Yes. This time around it was a slower rollout to the new platform and Facebook has actually listened to these loud complaints and made adjustments along the way.
One such adjustment being that they originally said they weren’t going to continue to support Internet Explorer 6, but have since relented and will coming out with a fix in the coming days. Kudos also to Facebook for not deleting these complaint groups on Facebook, but rather using them as market research forums.
Was the move to a new platform necessary? Yes. One doesn’t need to glance too far back at the things MySpace didn’t do to see how costly being slow to move can be.
MySpace was the darling of the social network world, but even they realized that the platform it was built on wasn’t designed for the hyper-growth inherent with social networks.
Like many market leaders, they were slow to move (e.g., Yahoo not buying Google when they were a small technology company helping to power Yahoo search — wow, has that come full circle) and they watched as Facebook aggressively opened up their platform to non-college students and allowed programmers open access to their API to develop applications like Stadium Tour and Visual Bookshelf.
Why is Facebook happiest of all? ComScore reports that Facebook attracted 132.1 million unique visitors in June 2008, compared to MySpace, which attracted 117.6 million. So even though 5 million people are upset, about 96 percent of users don’t seem all that upset. This is scary for the competition.
“We set out to make Facebook simpler, cleaner, more relevant and easier to control, we believe we’ve gotten to the best Facebook yet,” Slee wrote.
In an upcoming article, we’ll discuss the top items that brands should know about the new Facebook.