A recent post on Inside Facebook reports a decline in Facebook usage by women between 26 and 34. The author presumes this is caused by negative media coverage of security issues. The security story didn’t register strongly in major media, but it did get some coverage, or at least generated some more personality profiles of Mark Zuckerberg. Most Facebook users don’t read TechCrunch, Mashable, MediaPost or even the specialty digital media sections in the New York Times – this is not news to most users. Facebook book doesn’t only have a PR or media problem, to quote my mother in-law: ” it has more problems than a goose at Christmas”. The inside baseball of the digital media press is not the cause of the problems.
Media on Media
The Inside Facebook post is obviously written by a person who exalts media reporting and either is, or really wants to be, a highly considered member of the media. The report only considers media reporting as a causal effect for the decline in usage. It clearly never occurred to them that something else could be driving the phenomenon – like a million silly mistakes managing the user experience and community — or intrinsic problems with the entire product.
Could it be a Product Issue?
The problem from a product manager’s perspective is one of inconsistency and random changes. Facebook baits its users into an emotional investment with their product, lulling the user into a sense that they own or control their Facebook presence. And then sews bad will with its user by randomly changing Facebook with no warning.
In this case, users found out about the alleged security problems first hand. Users watched, yet another, unannounced user interface change on their Facebook pages. Some were warned about various changing privacy settings by other users. For the most part these settings are totally abstract and far removed from where users typically interact. I’m sure that had a chilling affect on many, and could have a causal relationship to the decline of use in this demo; but that’s still different from what Inside Facebook reports. And again, this is probably only a small minority of users, mostly the ones that do read Mashable and Techcrunch. This is how the story broke in the Facebook community, not by CNN or the NY Times.
Like, Facebook, ew!
As a middle aged fat guy in a hyper-consumerist overly-sexualized society, I can attest that females between 26 and 34 are the most easily socially annoyed demographic. I have about 50 years of supporting data, and none of that is all that interesting (at least without the video to support it). I’m sure somewhere in my files there’s a bunch of analysis of the demo that also says they aren’t the ideal target for Facebook.
Then of course, there’s the bluntly obvious part of social networking. Women 26 to 34 are susceptible to digital stalking. Women see that same creepy guy they were trying to avoid in high school trying to friend them and surely their interest in Facebook wains. Again … nothing to do with media reports: it’s a phenomena intrinsic to the product.
The Inside Facebook conversation is like watching Cable news babble inside-the-beltway minutia about politics; it’s not something that registers with the general population. Consumers may care about security and privacy, but most are totally dialed out of the machinations of the new media press or the details of their privacy settings. Facebook’s failure to hold momentum of are many, PR isn’t one of them.