One of the genuine breakout stars of the Web 2.0 landscape, Facebook is finding itself in the midst of an interesting image and reputation crisis.
Without warning its legions of loyal fans, Facebook suddenly added a "newsflash" feature to its repertoire that automatically sends tons of additional, sometimes very personal, information about subscribers to their fellow Facebook members.
So, while it may be interesting for me to know that John’s favorite TV show is "24" or Jane’s dad just bought her a Lexus coupe, I might also be inundated with minutia about the two of them that I could care less about. Plus, Facebook also reports the time that people are posting information on the pages so, if say, they should have been in class or taking an exam instead of posting comments, the world now knows about it.
Hundreds of thousands of subscribers are up in arms over the new feature, which was added without anyone’s permission. And Facebook is being amazingly blasé about the firestorm. In fact, the company’s CEO issued a statement basically telling everyone to take a deep breath and chill out.
That’s no way to empathize with customers. In fact, it’s almost a textbook example of how not to respond to a crisis. Facebook may have a large subscriber base and solid revenue stream today, but antagonizing a loyal fan base is not a smart business move. If I were calling the shots, I’d do the exact opposite. I’d offer to remove the "newsflash" feature for anyone who so requests, I would issue an apology to all subscribers and I would let them know that the company had learned a valuable lesson and would "ask" subscribers what they want next time around.
The corporate graveyard is littered with examples of companies that soared to the heights only to crash and burn. Not listening to customer wants and needs can be a big factor in an organization’s death. Here’s hoping Facebook pulls its head out of the sand and does right by subscribers.