Facebook User Disappoints “Friends”

Jun 6, 2012
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

Kip Hanson threw his followers for a loop on Tuesday when he photographed his Starbucks coffee and uploaded it to Facebook. Instead of the same venti dark roast with half and half he always posts, Kip’s followers were surprised to see a grande iced caramel frappucino.

“I was shocked,” Kip’s college roommate, Bill, exclaimed. “Kip is usually so reliable. He always gets the dark roast. I’m stunned that he would let me down so casually. And with a frappuccino? That’s just not like him.”

Comments on the posting reflected the widespread disappointment among Kip’s followers. Friends, co-workers, relatives, and people he forgot he had friended registered their dismay at Kip’s beverage post saying things like: “not cool, dude” and “WTF?!!!” or “drinking from the suc-cess-pool!” One of Kip’s college professors sent a private, angry message. It was too stern to post on Kip’s wall.

Kip’s departure from his normal routine has some of his friends suddenly wondering if they ever really knew Kip. Jeff Kelley, Kip’s classmate in the fifth grade, thinks Kip might have been “shining on” for some time now, and this might have been a peek behind the curtain showing what Kip is really like. He now suspects Kip has only been posting the good events of his life and not sharing the whole picture. Jeff says it makes him seem less authentic. “Either that or Kip is so whipped by his hot new girlfriend he thinks he’s dating Giselle and he’s going all ‘Tom Brady’ on her.” Kelley exclaims.

A quick poll of Kip’s followers suggests that many believe his account has been hacked, and they are no longer following the real Kip. While some loyal followers offer half-hearted rationalizations for Kip’s behavior, the number of Kip’s followers have declined since the incident. It is clear they no longer feel the deep sense of intimacy they used to enjoy with Kip on Facebook.

“I mean, he was always there, you know?” Said Kip’s ex-girlfriend, Amanda Blake. “Every time I’d check my FB account I could see that he was still there. He was still Kip. But then that Frappuccino? It’s like, I don’t know, did he really have veal scallopini for dinner on Thursday? Or check in at the gym at 6 a.m. Wednesday? Was he really outraged at the price of gasoline? Maybe he didn’t really ‘like’ my LOL Cat post. Maybe it was all a lie.”

When asked about the uproar, Kip says it’s been a tough lesson, but he now knows who is real ‘friends’ are. He also says he’s using Twitter now and has some new followers. He claims they’re more ‘free-spirited types’ who accept his alternative lifestyle.


So, you want to source candidates using Facebook? There’s no shortage of recruiters drooling over this, the holy grail of passive candidates. But Facebook’s users aren’t very interested in enabling you to do so. This isn’t LinkedIn. Most users approach Facebook differently than other online candidate sources (as exemplified above). And perhaps more importantly, Facebook’s users are not its customers. That is, those of us updating our status and sharing photos are merely an audience. Customers pay Facebook, usually to run ads. Herein lies a series of conflicting interests between Facebook, its customers, and users. Users want a free service, so Facebook runs ads to pay for it. The advertisers want effective targeting, which works best if Facebook can share your information with them. You want your data to be private.

This is the challenge for users, and Facebook’s efforts to monetize its offering. It’s the “creepy” factor. The less private your information, the more advertisers can target you effectively. And while we can appreciate ads personally tailored to our individual preferences, it’s creepy to know others can know so much about you, and sell it to the highest bidder. There’s a tiny paradox here too; we enter search terms in Google to seek out things according to our preferences, but resist Facebook’s efforts to do it for (or to) us. Apparently, precise targeting is not worth the involuntary sharing of our personal information.

Comparisons to Google will continue, since both are advertising-driven. But Facebook’s ads aren’t very memorable yet. Perhaps more importantly, we’re not as receptive to ads on Facebook as we are on Google. When we use a search engine, we’re looking for answers. And if one of the answers we seek is in an ad, our mentality might be to click on it.

But we use Facebook with a different mentality. We’re publicizing our status or checking in with friends. Mentally, we are miles away from buying behaviors (and thus receptive to ads). On Google, we’re searching for something, and mentally in the ballpark of ad receptivity. We’re in a completely different mindset on Facebook, and mentally resistant to advertising. This mental resistance on Facebook will be harder to overcome than it was for Google.

Recruiters will struggle with these same issues — the lack of segmentation or searchability used to source candidates. Unless users start uploading their resumes and Facebook makes them searchable, it’s not a useful recruiting source using current skills. The good news is, Facebook can be effective and economical for acquiring talent, but not in the reactive, ad-driven approach used today.

With a disappointing IPO, Facebook will seek revenues in earnest. Almost certainly, it will take a slice from the apps providers, gaming vendors, and anyone trying to make a buck with its audience, but the largest share will come from advertising. And while users are jittery about their privacy, efforts to segment the market are inevitable.

Facebook is banking on its audience coming to terms with less privacy. This is the only way to monetize the play. The low stock price is a short-term issue reflecting the market’s dubiousness at the company’s aggressive valuation. Facebook has a lot of potential, but hasn’t monetized sufficiently to justify its stock price, and the market recognizes it won’t do so quickly. The jury is still out on how valuable Facebook might be. This was also the case when Google went public. And that worked out pretty well.

Facebook has a good core product and the potential is vast, but first, it’ll have to navigate the “creepy” factor in order to make it a useful (read: segmented) database. This is what recruiters, marketers, and advertisers pay for.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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