About Face: Four of the Best Facebook Posts

Last Updated May 25, 2010 4:06 PM EDT


Commentary on Facebook's hard to avoid as it flip-flops on user privacy, but I came across four particularly different observations today that are worth a read:

1. "Facebook's Culture Problem May be Fatal". Facebook's privacy problems demonstrate that it has failed to evolve with its original user base, 'millenials', who feel privacy is an entitlement on Facebook. "Millenials believe that ownership of their networks of friends belongs to them, not Facebook, and resist their commercialization," writes Bruce Nussbaum on HBR. The lesson from Facebook is around evolving with the culture of your users: "Understanding the underlying cultural context of 'free', 'gift' and 'creation' is important to businesses..." he adds.

I disagree that Millenials have evolved a need for privacy: I think expectations are largely driven by context and, having grown used to a certain level of control on Facebook, the problem arose because it was a given that was then taken away (and then returned...). Maybe Millenials have just cottoned on quicker that an entrepreneur, however influential, has no place making pronouncements about an individual's right to privacy.

2. "RIP Facebook as a Marketing Platform". Personal branding expert Dan Schawbel warns advertisers against promoting Facebook pages (or Twitter feeds) instead of their websites. "Facebook is no longer a suitable marketing platform for your business if you're looking to convert 'friends' into money."

Why not? It's that old business bugbear, ROI: as it grows more cluttered, it's likely your updates won't make the Top News section and will just sink without a trace. The more friends you have, the more this becomes a problem.

But there are still reasons to remain, argues Schawbel -- for customer support, job searches and recruitment, networking, research, raising awareness, 'creating a buzz' through competitions or campaigns (like the one calling for users to quit on May 31st) and philanthropy.

3. "Facebook Faceoff", (which I found thanks to a LinkedIn group) suggests that employees who post nasty comments about their boss on a social networking site might be less inclined to vent (semi-) privately were employers better at encouraging openness in the workplace. "I know of few places where blogging in the business is encouraged, and in fewer places still, there are some reasonably senior figures actively involved and pretty much anything goes." Sometimes, it gets edgy, he adds, but most employees appreciate the ability to 'speak' directly with senior execs (through their posts), it's a way of achieving consensus and of getting new solutions to old problems. "This open dialogue is an important part of visible or accessible leadership," writes blogger Doug Shaw.

It doesn't have to be blogging, though: at legal firm Wragge and Co, the senior and managing partners hold a monthly "chatroom" to answer questions in real time. "It generates so much transparency and the feedback is that it's great," according to senior partner Quentin Poole. It's also cited as one of the reasons the firm entered the Great Places to Work Institute's hall of fame this year, having made the list every year for a decade.

4. "Facebook's Identity Lock-In". Could Robert Zimmerman have become Bob Dylan in the Facebook age? Picking up on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's comment: "You have one identity... Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity", Rough Type's Nicholas Carr notes that in a world where your identity is sealed so early, there's no room for reinvention. "You can never escape your past," he writes. "The frontier of invisibility is replaced by the cage of transparency."

It's so rare to see transparency portrayed as a bind -- it's bandied about by everyone from Berners-Lee to the Office of Fair Trading to George Osborne as an kitemark of trustworthiness.

I can see how the term 'transparency' could well start to ring a little hollow, but is transparency itself ever a "cage"?

(Image: Oversocialized, CC2.0)