So if you’re a Facebook user — and 750 million of you are — you’re probably aware of (if not part of) the firestorm the company created yesterday by rolling out yet another change to its service. Facebook has incurred the wrath of its users before, not just with other design tweaks but with constant adjustments to its privacy settings. For the most part, this wrath usually settles down, as The Oatmeal correctly notes, into simmering resentment and then eventual acceptance.
This set of changes, though, seems to have struck a deeper chord. By taking away users’ ability to see their updates in their preferred order, creating a distracting “roll” display of updates in the upper-right-hand corner, adding new and unasked-for features mimicking Google Plus offerings, and other tinkerings, Facebook seems to have uncorked much of the bottled-up irritation its users have been waiting to unleash for some time now.
Does this remotely matter to lawyers? Facebook is not the social media vehicle favoured by most law firms to promote their business, and most lawyers tend to view Facebook as a fun or social application rather than a professional one. (That’s been my approach — Twitter and LinkedIn for business, Facebook for family and friends). And as the cartoon linked above suggests, it’s unlikely that even this fiasco will put a dent in Facebook’s growth or lead to mass account deactiviation.
But this incident does serve as a useful reminder of an important point: third-party social media platforms are both extremely dynamic and completely outside of your control. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and any number of other online platforms are fluid by nature and will always be making changes big and small. You can complain about these changes all you like, but it’s very unlikely you’ll force a rollback to an old version; actual “New Coke” scenarios are vanishingly rare. One of these days, though, some platform could go too far and really trigger a migration, and if it’s a platform in which you’ve invested marketing time and money, you won’t be too happy about that.
This is one of the main reasons we like blogs so much: they’re all yours. You control the format, design, structure, colour scheme, imagery, interactivity and everything else. More importantly, you own and control the content: what you put on Facebook ultimately does not belong to you, and if Facebook fell into a black hole tomorrow, all the data you’ve placed there would disappear with it. If Twitter collapsed next week, all your pithy Tweets would be gone. And so forth. These services are tremendous distribution and amplification tools for your (hopefully blog-based) content, but that’s really all they should be.
Complaining about Facebook is almost as much fun as using it, and the same goes for these other platforms, still in their infancy and trying to achieve the impossible task of pleasing a vast and demanding audience that pays $0 annually in user fees. Enjoy the sideshow; just remember that no third-party platform should command too much of your online marketing attention.