I receive large numbers of emails every week with every type of question and comment you can imagine. These range from simple requests for recommendations for tech gear and services to questions on complex technical problems and issues.
Lately I've gotten an unusually large number of emails from business owners who are becoming concerned that Facebook is not delivering the results they desire in light of the amount of time they spend using the network. One major complaint is that Facebook changes so often that it's impossible to make long terms plans in forming a business strategy with it.
I have long believed that Facebook's tendency to risk sudden and huge changes are both its blessing and its curse, both for business owners and regular users. It's excellent that they are constantly innovating and trying new features. It's also extremely inconvenient to businesses that spend days or weeks fine-tuning an approach to find that they wake up one day and find their efforts no longer matter as the service has changed unexpectedly.
Regular users also often find themselves confused to find that features appear and disappear without warning. Again this is the price we pay for free, the lack of control and predictability that we all desire. Were it not for the huge investment of time and effort expended in using the service, it's likely that many users would have long ago left the network.
My main gripe with Facebook is the service's tendency to risk users' security so often. It seems that any successful large corporation or service tends to get arrogant or indifferent to users' concerns as they gain more power and popularity. This seems to be a natural aspect of all these companies, but it is especially troubling with Facebook because the service houses so much personal information and user data.
I tend to see Facebook as a necessary but sometimes aggravating part of our common tech lives. I would not consider leaving the service while it is so useful for networking, but I dread the constant need to check and change security settings as well as keep up with the current threats and scams on the service.
For most of us it would probably be a mistake to completely abandon the service at this point regardless of its problems, but it would also be a mistake to completely rely upon it and ignore the basics.
Businesses would do well to see Facebook as one part of a general approach to their customers, but to diversify their efforts as much as possible. A Facebook Page should never take the place of a company web site or blog and a well organized email plan or campaign.
Likewise, regular users who become concerned about Facebook's problems should balance its usefulness with its downsides. Most will definitely want to stay involved with the service, but many will leave if it does not offer enough benefit to justify the time and effort needed. I already have several friends and associates who are "Facebook Free" and who swear they will never use the service again.
MySpace at one time was the social media darling of the moment, but it has long since been eclipsed by Facebook. It makes you wonder if the same fate could befall Facebook at some point as some new network or service comes into being. While this is unlikely, it is not impossible, and Facebook would do well to keep that in mind.
E-mail Donnie Jenkins at email@example.com