ATTN: M. Zuckerberg, Facebook
RE: Some thoughts I had about your business
I hope you don't mind me addressing you by your first name. Somehow, I feel like I can be a little less formal with you. Maybe because you are the guy who launched the thing that made us get to know each other so much better. I mean, thanks to Facebook, I now know all sorts of things about people who, previously, I was just casually acquainted with. The guy I met at that conference three years ago? His daughter just graduated kindergarten (with honors, evidently). The woman who was in my social studies class sophomore year? She just broke up with her boyfriend (they are fighting over who gets custody of the cats. Big mess).
Because everyone one in the world is just a click away, I can feel some connection and kinship with them. And, I feel like I can be-so-bold as to offer someone like you some free advice on how to run your business. After all, I have been in this business a lot longer than you have. You being so young and so successful and me being, well, older and, well...let's just say I haven't got as many billions in the bank as you do. But I do alright.
I spend a lot of time on your site, both as a regular person and as a digital marketer and I have a few ideas. You can have them for free. Cool, huh? Here they are, in no particular order:
Facebook Is a Lake; Twitter Is the Rain
You built a website. I'm sure, back in the dorm, building a website seemed like a perfectly good and natural (and forward-thinking) idea. But the fact is, people have to go to websites, which means that you have to have a reason for people to stop what they are doing, type in your URL, spend time scrolling through, and so on. This is great for sites like Hulu, Huffington Post, and Habbo Hotel (see what I did there with the Hs?). They have carefully built content that they then monetize.
You don't really have a website. You have a service, connecting you with your friends and the brands you love. This is why Twitter is going to drive you crazy forever. From the beginning, Twitter was built as a service, mostly focused on mobile. Twitter runs with you as you do anything. Facebook makes you come and visit and click "like." This is why TV shows love Twitter. You can dash off a tweet with a hashtag way easier than opening a browser and going through the steps to like a page.
I'm not sure, actually, what the advice here would be, other than to simply recognize that this is the fact of the matter. I understand that projects like Facebook Home are attempting to move more into this service realm (particularly the messenger functionality), but you need to remember that you are playing catch-up on this one.
Kill All That Stuff
There's no polite way to say this, but here goes: your site is a mess.
I remember when you first emerged. One of the key benefits to Facebook was that it wasn't as cluttered and chaotic as MySpace. Today, I'm not sure you can make that same argument. I would get rid of the ticker, tomorrow. When that came out, I thought it was a good idea. Now it just feels to me like a half-butt solution to a problem that I'm not sure exists. Yes, there are sites out there that provide real-time, rapidly updating info feeds. But that is Facebook itself. You now have two places where information is updated. It just makes things more cluttered and confusing.
You need to create a simple and clean interface for Facebook, the service. You are putting everything on the page that anyone could ever possibly do, when, really, there are only two things to do: post and view. Have two modes for the site. One is just a big box that lets you create a post with lots of great features (like add one of those Instagram filters to a photo. Why on Earth did you buy that company anyway?). The other, a Flipboard-ish way to browse through your friends' posts. I mean, come on. You are the company of the future and the best you can come up with is scrolling?!
If you do that, you will set up the last piece of advice I have, and the one that is most important to me:
Friend Us Advertisers (Please)
You're getting there. I really like the targeting and I am excited about the connection to offline data. That stuff is huge. Now please give me:
That's all. The first one should be easy. The second one I know is a bigger hurdle, but let's talk about it. I can make it down to Palo Alto if you'd like. You have the audience and you can start to find ways for us to work together. I'm not going to try to cram your site up with a bunch of pop-ups and videos that play automatically. I think you've got too much stuff on there as it is! But I do want to find ways for you to be more successful...which only has a little to do with the fact that I bought shares of your company at 40 bucks. (Kidding!)
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Gary Stein is SVP, strategy and planning in iCrossing's San Francisco office. He has been working in marketing for more than a decade. Gary lives in San Francisco with his family. Follow him on Twitter: @garyst3in. The opinions expressed in Gary's columns are his alone.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT