Facebook's Problem Is Its Management, Not Its Customers

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The Facebook I find myself unhappy with today is not the Facebook I signed up for. I didn't change, Facebook did. And I want the Facebook that I signed up for back.

Over the past few days, it has become fashionable for pundits to tell Facebook that it is doing the right thing, customer opinion be damned. They say that disruptive change is necessary and a positive thing. That in Facebook's case not listening to customers is a virtue, rather than a sin.

Sure, most great companies began by disrupting the marketplace. They invented a better mousetrap and customers beat a path to their door. These great companies disrupted the competition, not their own customers.

The introduction of Facebook disrupted the marketplace, but in its search for a sustainable revenue model, Facebook has now given up on the marketplace and is instead going after the customers who have brought the company this far.

The usual rule of thumb is that if you want to steal someone's customer, you need to offer something that is not merely better, but orders of magnitude better. Otherwise, the customer will stay with what they are happy with already.

Facebook's changes offer no obvious improvement at all, much less an order of magnitude. The change is a massive redesign of something customers already liked, with no obvious and immediate benefit. Customers are wrong for complaining about being treated this way?

Hot News: The problem with Facebook is not with the customers; it is with the company's inability to find a business model. You would think that with 175 million users, Facebook would be rolling in money. Maybe with better leadership it would be.

The redesign is Facebook's way of blaming customers for its own failings. The company should be able to earn a living, but cannot--and we are to blame.

Some bloggers talk as though Facebook customers are trying to keep the company from "moving to the next level." That is nonsense. Customers are happy when companies bring them new and useful things, but they expect it to be done incrementally and offer value at each step.

Apple's move from OS 9 to OS X was a disruptive change, accomplished by offering customers an exciting new platform while still maintaining compatibility with the previous one. The new product was exciting and customers were given an easy transition.

Windows was a disruptive change from DOS, but it really was not until Windows 3 that the graphical user interface caught on. The company's customers had years to get used to the idea.

In the current case, Facebook has not brought anything new or useful to the table. Worse yet, the unwelcome change was forced on customers essentially overnight.

Facebook seems to have decided it cannot make money being the Facebook we loved, so it wants to become something else. If that is true, then Facebook's new user interface isn't healthy disruption, but a sign of failure.

David Coursey is waiting for the company that disrupts Facebook. Tell him about it using the comment form at www.coursey.com/contact.

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