I deactivated my Facebook account several months ago. Why? From a professional standpoint, it no longer provided a favorable user experience that made me want to invest my time or energy. The truth is, I may have just been driven over the edge by one too many baby pictures.
Whether I'm getting older or Facebook just isn't keeping up with my needs, the problem isn't mine, it's Facebook's. I can't be the only one who's feeling ready to jump ship. And once that sentiment spreads and others give up on the platform, it could mean a dwindling Facebook dominance.
My deactivation of Facebook has me thinking: is there any social platform that can provide a long-lasting positive user experience? One thing is for sure: in order to stay relevant, they'll need to deal with these seven key issues:
1. Creating interesting, filterable content. Getting users to engage requires good content. But in social media, what constitutes good content? As users' age, demographics, and interests change, so does what they consider "good" content. To give users what they want, there must be ways to easily customize the content they see at a very granular level. One way to give this control is by providing filters (and I'm not talking about the Valencia filter on Instagram). Similar to e-commerce sites, filters will become increasingly vital to allow users to pull in the content they want, and more importantly, ignore the content they don't. Unfortunately, this type of filtering traditionally relies on tagging, which users don't always do. This means social platforms will need to leverage more sophisticated technologies, such as facial recognition and semantics within caption content to help them appropriately disseminate content.
2. Privacy concerns. There have been countless articles regarding Facebook's privacy concerns and I don't intend to go down that rabbit hole. What's important is that social platforms provide adequate privacy for users, and do it in a way that doesn't make users feel like they need a law degree in order to understand what they are agreeing to.
3. Generating new users. Once parents are hip to something, it can quickly become uncool from a teenager's perspective. Sharing life moments online is often driven by egos, and while there will likely never be a shortage of teens who feel the need to tell everyone their thoughts, having parents and extended family on the platform may cause this valuable group to move on to the next big thing.
4. Dealing with shallow connections. We've all pondered if we really want to connect with that random acquaintance or professional colleague, but the emotional angst of defriending has to be addressed to allow people to share without remorse. While more filters have been provided over the years to help users outline relationships/circles and what content gets shared with others, some people have so many shallow connections at this point that they would rather set up a separate social account to only share with their "real" friends.
5. Making people feel bad. A recent study from Humboldt University in Berlin and Darmstadt's Technical University shows that Facebook is not making people feel better about their life, but instead worse due to jealousy, isolation, depression, and more. This is one of the most threatening issues to a social platform's user experience and something that has much bigger ramifications on the health and happiness of our society.
6. Selling them at the right time. While there may not be a "great" time to sell to social users, social platforms need to find a balance on targeting, frequency, and placement to ensure ads don't become too overwhelming to their experience.
7. Creating a new hook. New social media sites such as Pinterest are successful because they offer an alternative sharing and content experience focused on hyper-relevancy to the user's interests. If Facebook, or any social platform, wants longevity, it will need to create, adapt, and grow to provide something users don't even know they want yet. Online behavior is continuously changing, so social media platforms will need to modify their experiences to keep up with these trends.
In retrospect, leaving Facebook has given me more time to focus on the positives in my life, but has left some gaps in my communication needs. While these can be overcome with a little bit of work and more frequent email communication, I'm interested to see how social platforms will continue to evolve and adapt in order to better address these seven issues. As for Facebook, its longevity will depend on making drastic changes, developing new products, and continuing with mergers and acquisitions for new functionality. If it doesn't act quickly, I predict more users will end their relationship saying, "It's you Facebook, not me."
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Breanne Maliniak is a user experience and conversion rate optimization consultant. With over 5 years of experience in the digital space, her passion is balancing business and consumer needs to improve her clients’ profitability. With years of consulting for clients of all sizes in B2B and B2C industries, she firmly believes that a company’s success relies on happy customers and works on helping organizations discover and connect user experience to every facet of their business. By doing extensive research, Breanne’s passion for creating targeted data-driven optimization strategies has led to successful projects with marquee clients such as SAP, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Yves Saint Laurent, Hewlett-Packard and Aberdeen Asset Management. In 2010, Breanne was recognized with the HSMAI Adrian Award for the Best Search Marketing Strategy.
March 19, 2014