SEE ALL POSTS FROM BRYAN'S BLOG Blog

Facebook Throws the Vote, But Will Consumers Care?

Two weeks after the United States held its national elections, Facebook proposed taking away its own users’ right to vote. Whether this turns out to be socially acceptable, we’ll find out in time.

Facebook on Nov. 21 – Thanksgiving Eve – sent emails suggesting it would scrap a practice in which users were given the opportunity to vote on policy changes. Under that practice, Facebook put up to vote any proposed policy change that more than 7,000 users commented on. If more than 30 percent of active users then voted, the outcome would be binding.

The change, Facebook explained, is due to the size of membership. With 1 billion users, getting 7,000 comments is a snap. But 300 million votes (30 percent of 1 billion)? That is a not so simple.

Instead, Facebook suggests a system during which members provide feedback during a seven-day window. Users also may have the chance to send questions to its chief privacy officer, Erin Egan. “We’re proposing to end the voting component of the process in favor of a system that leads to more meaningful feedback and engagement,” the company said.

But along with the suggested vote change is another proposal that would allow Facebook to start sharing user data with its existing or future affiliates (like Instagram), according to its Data Use Policy. Combined, these two suggestions have privacy groups protesting.

I am not sure how many Facebook users even know they have a vote, but more than 7,000 users had commented, and so the proposed change is now up for vote.

Balloting will conclude the first week of December, but the outcome might not matter as much as the message. Consumers are smart, they know their personal information is beneficial to companies and expect an experience of equal value in return. In fact, in our recent survey of U.S. and Canadian consumers, 78 percent said they believe their data is an asset to companies.

I like Facebook; I use it both recreationally and professionally and find it a great tool on both fronts. And one of the reasons I’ve always liked it is because Facebook’s users have a voice in the community. But now as a public company and in the midst of questions about consumer data usage, there are additional voices that need to be heard. Whether the shareholder voice is playing a greater role only Facebook knows, but it is their voice that really needs to be heard.

I’d suggest that Facebook make sure its own view is understood – clear as a bell. It has an opportunity to demonstrate its intentions regarding what it collects and understands about its users, and how it plans to use that information to create new value for its users. Facebook has been criticized before for not fully sharing how it used its members’ information. At some point, people have a limit on what they will tolerate, and new rivals for their time and attention are emerging daily.

Facebook has the opportunity to clearly show its users why their involvement is mutually beneficial to them – because by sharing their information, users do play a critical role in Facebook’s ability to deliver relevance. Without it, Facebook’s efforts to create an engaging platform may not be effective in the long run.

Share this:
Facebook Twitter Linkedin Plusone Reddit Email

What do you think?