Thursday, April 01, 2010

Facebook’s Catch-22

Facebook is making another change to its website. Rather than asking people to "become a fan" of a company such as Starbucks or a celebrity, Facebook will instead let users click that they “like” the company, product or person.

Facebook already lets people show what they like by posting comments or pictures on the Facebook website. According to Facebook, its users click the term “like” almost twice as much as they click "become a fan."

Facebook announced that it will change the button in order for users to be more comfortable with linking up with a brand. It will also streamline the website.

Businesses use Facebook pages, which are free to create, to connect with their customers and promote their brands. Facebook makes money from the advertisements these companies often use to draw users to their Facebook fan pages. The average user becomes a fan of four pages each month, according to Facebook.

"The idea of liking a brand is a much more natural action than (becoming a fan) of a brand," said Michael Lazerow, who is an expert in establishing corporate brands and advertise on social networks such as Facebook. "In many ways it's a lower threshold."

But while it might seem to be less of a commitment to declare that someone "likes" Coca-Cola than to announce being a fan of it, the meaning would essentially remain the same.

Facebook friends would see that their friend clicked that he or she "likes" a company’s webpage, and such pages would still be listed on a fan’s Facebook profile for anyone to see.

The world's largest online social network is known for constantly tweaking the way users experience the site. It did not always inform its audience, which resulted in harsh criticisms. Now that Facebook did announce its latest tweak, bloggers reacted by saying that it was just a PR trick to get exposure. It seems that Facebook is caught in a classic Catch-22 situation.

Facebook continues however to draw millions of new fans and more than half of its 400 million users log in every day. This is especially amazing considering the (many) security problems Facebook encountered.

A month ago, hundreds of Facebook users received personal emails that were not intended for them. Facebook reacted by saying: “during our regular code push yesterday evening, a bug caused some misrouting to a small number of users for a short period of time. Our engineers diagnosed the problem moments after it began and are working to get everything back in its rightful place. While they fix the issue, affected users will not be able to access the site.” The company said it was still investigating the problem and could not immediately respond to specific questions about the glitch.

Yesterday, private e-mail addresses that many Facebook users wanted to keep hidden were revealed publicly last night on a multitude of Facebook profiles, as reported by Gawker . The glitch lasted about 30 minutes before Facebook sealed the gap.

An anonymous tipster alerted Gawker of the breach in an expletive-riddled message: "6:46PM: I cannot [bleeping] believe it. Everybody's email has been turned on to the public for at least the past 30 min. I tried going into my account to remove my email b/c I have an issue with a crazed stalker. But I wasn't able to. God I [bleeping] hate FB!! When will they ever learn?!"

It is a question of time before Facebook users get fed up and close their accounts; especially if there will be strong competitor in the social media arena. Moreover, Facebook should shape up before being hit by a massive lawsuit.

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