500 million users. Where to from here?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In mid-July 2010 the number of people using Facebook has reached the 500 million mark. This is more members than many a country has citizens.

What this means is that now one in every 14 people on the Planet has now signed up to the online social-networking service. But where does it go from here?

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said, "Our mission at Facebook is to help make the world more open and connected. I could have never imagined all of the ways people would use Facebook when we were getting started 6 years ago."

The problem is that Facebook is often trying to make it too open in that it keeps changing the privacy settings of users – across the board – thus making some people very uneasy about its aims.

A study released in July 2010 in the United States indicates that while people may be addicted to Facebook they do not rate it highly in terms of customer satisfaction.

In the study, Facebook was grouped alongside airlines and cable television companies in the lowest 5% of private companies ranked in the 2010 American Customer Satisfaction Index (E-Business Report) produced in partnership with ForeSee Results. Perhaps this explains why a recent PARN (Professional Associations Research Network) study presented at the Association Congress reported that only 14% use the social networking giant for "business" - which includes fundraising and membership communications.

ForeSee chief executive Larry Freed summarized his feelings: "Our research shows that privacy concerns, frequent changes to the website, and commercialization and advertising adversely affect the consumer experience," he said in a press release.

Facebook was designed for the Intranet of a University College and it would seem that Mark Zuckerberg has not understood as yet that the big wide open Internet needs different and more secure settings.

The dissatisfaction of users could easily lead to a wholesale exodus, especially if someone else would come along with a platform and concept that does the same but has better security.

A website that is being change all the time, whether intranet or world-wide web, does not make for a good “customer experience”, as Larry Freed rightly states, and makes people turn off, in more than one sense.

It is not just Facebook that makes those mistakes about the constant changes to the website and such. Many a commercial and government website undergoes those almost constant changes and it makes the use of those a pain in the posterior.

I always advise people to design a website on the KISS principle and also to use as few graphics as possible and, if they use graphics then make them low in bytes so that the page loads fast enough.

No one wants to sit for minutes waiting for a page to load, and considering that still a greatest part of the USA, for instance, is on dial-up that is something that must be taken into account.

While we know that advertising is often needed to keep things running – and that is definitely the case with media – it should, in my opinion, not be something that jumps out at you and that is always in your face.

© 2010