Facebook Flip-Flops! Thumbs Up!

Thumbs Up Facebook!

No sooner did we all get riled up about Facebook becoming big brother the grand master of the community steps out today and announces reversal of the new controversial Terms of Service back to the old.  In fact Mark Zuckerberg has gone one step farther and opened a new Facebook group called, Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. This will be a place for everyone to voice their thoughts on what should be included in new and improved Terms of Service.

Below is Mark’s blog post from earlier today explaining Facebook’s actions;

Update on Terms
A couple of weeks ago, we revised our terms of use hoping to clarify some parts for our users. Over the past couple of days, we received a lot of questions and comments about the changes and what they mean for people and their information. Based on this feedback, we have decided to return to our previous terms of use while we resolve the issues that people have raised.

Many of us at Facebook spent most of today discussing how best to move forward. One approach would have been to quickly amend the new terms with new language to clarify our positions further. Another approach was simply to revert to our old terms while we begin working on our next version. As we thought through this, we reached out to respected organizations to get their input.

Going forward, we’ve decided to take a new approach towards developing our terms. We concluded that returning to our previous terms was the right thing for now. As I said yesterday, we think that a lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective so we don’t plan to leave it there for long.

More than 175 million people use Facebook. If it were a country, it would be the sixth most populated country in the world. Our terms aren’t just a document that protect our rights; it’s the governing document for how the service is used by everyone across the world. Given its importance, we need to make sure the terms reflect the principles and values of the people using the service.

Our next version will be a substantial revision from where we are now. It will reflect the principles I described yesterday around how people share and control their information, and it will be written clearly in language everyone can understand. Since this will be the governing document that we’ll all live by, Facebook users will have a lot of input in crafting these terms.

You have my commitment that we’ll do all of these things, but in order to do them right it will take a little bit of time. We expect to complete this in the next few weeks. In the meantime, we’ve changed the terms back to what existed before the February 4th change, which was what most people asked us for and was the recommendation of the outside experts we consulted.

If you’d like to get involved in crafting our new terms, you can start posting your questions, comments and requests in the group we’ve created—Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. I’m looking forward to reading your input.

I like what Facebook is doing.  I know there are no assurances that if you, I or anyone posts their thoughts on the group if they will be heard.  And I know there is no guarantee in this litigious world that the new language be any better than the first, but I do like what they are doing.  There are some lessons to learn here if we pay attention;
  • When dealing with upset customers (users/consumers etc…) speed is of the essense.
  • Sometimes you are put between a rock and a hard place.  A place with no winner.  A place between people’s fear and legal obligations to the company.  In those cases, it is wise to explain clearly the problem and ask the user what they would do.
  • Facebook understands they need to change their Terms of Service and they understand some will not like the new language.  But their listening will help them manage the change in a much smoother fashion than before.
  • Nothing was wrong with old Coke.  Facebook’s decision to go back to the old Terms was a good decision and one that will get the wolves off the doorstep.  It gives them time to regroup and have a conversation with their community.

Regardless of what happens, I like what Facebook is doing.  Sometime a flip-flop is a good thing!

Facebook Owns Me, Maybe…

circle-of-friends

OK, with the blogosphere going totally nuts about the new Facebook Terms of Service, I thought I would chime in.  First of all, let me catch everyone up.  Recently Facebook updated their Terms of Service (TOS) and here is the part of the new terms that is causing the rift;

You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.

So, what does all this mean.  The common interpretation is that Facebook owns whatever you post on their site.  Another wrinkle is they own it even after you leave Facebook.

This change in terms has cause numerous groups to be created with the purpose of demanding change, deleting accounts and more (please note to access the previous links you will need to log into Facebook and by doing so you will need to agree to their Terms of Service :) .)  That combined with the numerous blogs (including this one) talking about the subject has lead to an explosion of information and misinformation.

So what does the fearless leader of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg have to say about all this?  Yesterday he posted a lengthy blog post on the Facebook blog.  In order to be fair, I have included without edit, in it’s entirety, Mark’s blog post below;

On Facebook, People Own and Control Their Information

A couple of weeks ago, we updated our terms of use to clarify a few points for our users. A number of people have raised questions about our changes, so I’d like to address those here. I’ll also take the opportunity to explain how we think about people’s information.

Our philosophy is that people own their information and control who they share it with. When a person shares information on Facebook, they first need to grant Facebook a license to use that information so that we can show it to the other people they’ve asked us to share it with. Without this license, we couldn’t help people share that information.

One of the questions about our new terms of use is whether Facebook can use this information forever. When a person shares something like a message with a friend, two copies of that information are created—one in the person’s sent messages box and the other in their friend’s inbox. Even if the person deactivates their account, their friend still has a copy of that message. We think this is the right way for Facebook to work, and it is consistent with how other services like email work. One of the reasons we updated our terms was to make this more clear.

In reality, we wouldn’t share your information in a way you wouldn’t want. The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work. Our goal is to build great products and to communicate clearly to help people share more information in this trusted environment.

We still have work to do to communicate more clearly about these issues, and our terms are one example of this. Our philosophy that people own their information and control who they share it with has remained constant. A lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective of the rights we need to provide this service to you. Over time we will continue to clarify our positions and make the terms simpler.

Still, the interesting thing about this change in our terms is that it highlights the importance of these issues and their complexity. People want full ownership and control of their information so they can turn off access to it at any time. At the same time, people also want to be able to bring the information others have shared with them—like email addresses, phone numbers, photos and so on—to other services and grant those services access to those people’s information. These two positions are at odds with each other. There is no system today that enables me to share my email address with you and then simultaneously lets me control who you share it with and also lets you control what services you share it with.

We’re at an interesting point in the development of the open online world where these issues are being worked out. It’s difficult terrain to navigate and we’re going to make some missteps, but as the leading service for sharing information we take these issues and our responsibility to help resolve them very seriously. This is a big focus for us this year, and I’ll post some more thoughts on openness and these other issues soon.

So there you have it.  The founder of Facebook says they need to own the material to share it properly and they need to own it forever, just in case there is a copy of it in an email or elsewhere on Facebook.  Ok so, the question is…do you buy it?

Every web site has its own Terms of Service and quite frankly, some you are probably using today are much more onerous than Facebook’s.  It’s just that Facebook is sooo big and sooo popular that it receives huge notoriety for each movement it makes.  But does that reasoning give Facebook a pass?  I don’t think so.  As one of the nets largest communities they have a responsibility to keep our information safe and secure, they never should take advantage of us and use caution as they exploit us (yes, exploit us…data mining at Facebook is huge biz in the ad world.)

I produce allot of new media; podcasts, videos, cartoons, audio books, etc… and allot of links to that new media are on Facebook.  Quite frankly, some of that may come down over time or not go up in the first place.  I will have to look at each thing I do and the purpose and decide what is best.  What is at issue is the fact that I have to do that.  I guess on some level I am offended that I need to think through the long term ramifications of placing the media on Facebook, yet at the same time, I understand the legal need for Terms of Service.  Can I have my cake and eat it too?  Is that even possible?

I guess the option of deleting an account is always there but to do so, you need to log into Facebook and by doing so you are agreeing to the Terms of Service and the terms do say that by agreeing to these terms you are granting a perpetual license to Facebook to use your materials…hmmm.  People used to say “do you have a MySpace?” and now the popular term is “do you have a Facebook?”, I wonder what the next catch phrase will be?  Somehow I am guessing it gets here soon.  Maybe it will be “do you still have a Facebook?”

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

The instant update phenomena has overtaken us.  With the arrival of smart phones and other portable web-enabled devices we live in a world of instant access, instant communication and instant reporting.

A few weeks ago, Continental Airlines flight 1404 and was leaving from Denver and heading to Houston.  It was carrying 107 passengers and five crew members.  The plane veered off course about 2,000 feet from the end of the runway and did not appear to be airborne.  The plane appeared to have slid into a ditch and was on fire after the crash.  Thirty-eight people were reported to have been injured in the crash, no one died.  The crash was first reported not by a news agency but by Mike Wilson as he sent out a tweet to his Twitter stream from his seat on the plane;  “Holy #$&*@%^#@* I was just in a plane crash!”  (I took out a few expletives :) ).  I believe this action is a mere foreshadowing to how events will be reported in the near future.  Don’t be surprised if Twitter users from across the world breaking newsworthy events becoming a very common occurrence.

Not to be outdone, on January 16th, a US Airways flight took off from LaGuardia Airport at 3:26pm.  Within one minute of take off, the pilot Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, knew they were in trouble.

A few minutes later the plane miraciously landed in the Hudson River with all passengers safe and no major injuries.  At 3:36pm a news breaking picture of the plane was sent to TwitPic by Twitter user Janis Krums .

No news agency reported the crash until an estimated 3:48pm.

Once again, Twitter and it’s universe of user, scooped the media.

Sometimes breaking the news is not the best thing to do.

Take for example the story of Virginia GOP Chairman, Jeff Frederick.  A few days ago on February 10th, the Virgina GOP nearly was able to wrestle control of the State senate from the Democrats as they were close to convincing a Democratic Senator to switch parties.  This change would have put the Senate in a 20 to 20 tie with the Democrats.   Once at a 20-20 tie, the tie would have been broken by the Republican Lt. Governor. Then Mr. Frederick sent a tweet.

jeff-fredericks-tweet

The Democrats saw and read the Tweet and quickly moved to talk the party switching Senator from doing so. This quick action to the update by the Democrats stopped the GOP coup in it’s tracks.

So was Virginia GOP Chairman reporting news?  Or is this a “what was he thinking?” moment.

We have an incredibly powerful tools to instantly communicate today.  Tools that if not used wisely, can be used against us (just ask the Virginia GOP).  So what do we do?  What are some rules we can follow?  This technology is way too new to have accepted protocol like email but if we use a little common sense, we can stay out of hot water:

  • First and always report the facts as you see them.  Nothing added, no imbelishment.
  • If you are involved in something that could be described as “negotiations” it would be safe to never report until the negotiations are complete, and then only if appropriate to report (does anyone remember the non-disclosure agreement you may have signed?).
  • If the item is deemed confidential, keep it as such.  Leaking “secret projects” at work is something for the Marketing Department to figure out :).
  • If you see news happening in front of you, by all means report it (but remember the above points first.)

The breaking of major news has made some normal folks for a short period of time “micro famous” and the incentive is certainly there for people to want to be the first to break the big story.  Using some common sense will help us not only get our fifteen minutes of fame, but let us enjoy it and talk about it the rest of our lives.

Do Advertisers Miss the Real Opportunities?

against-the-flow

In June 2008, McKinsey & Company surveyed marketing executives around the planet to find out how they viewed digital media as a form of advertising and how to measure the impact.  Surprisingly, not much progress had been made from 2007 to 2008 in determining the metrics of online advertising, especially in the areas of social media or the offline impact of online advertising.   It seems that the majority of those surveyed used “subjective judgment” and repeated allot of what they did the year before.

Which raises the question regarding use of our new online social tools to reach people and the speed to which they become available.  How do you keep up?  I remember when Twitter appeared.  I looked at it and wondered “why?”  Soon thereafter I had an “aha!” moment and jumped into the micro-blogging realm and saw the opportunity to build relationships and see the vast amount of opportunities they “tweeted” about with enthusiasm.  In the end, I was able to also share my new media productions, insights, thoughts and opinions.  I also remember when YouTube arrived on the scene.  I thought to myself, “that’s cool” and saw it as a place to post short home made videos and to share experiences.  Then I had another “aha!” moment and realized the value of sharing video and the broad scope of applications the medium provided.  And even now, not a week goes by where another new way to share, communicate and socialize appears on the web.  So now the question becomes, if fast and faster change keeps coming…how will I ever keep up?

I guess the lesson learned from stumbling across new tools, widgets and gadgets that appear today is to stop and pause.  To get over the initial reaction of the medium cool factor and see the opportunities within that platform.  If a platform or tool is viewed from the perspective as another opportunity, then the mind will get to work and figure out ways to use the medium to send the message you want.  But is using tools for an end purpose really connecting?  Or is connecting with the hope of a positive outcome the way to go?

There’s the rub with trying to keep up with the digital world.  The challenge that marketing executives have is two-fold.  They sell results and they need to be able to measure.  The small business check book management approach or even simpler, the “business has picked up” view does not work.  I even heard a marketing person say recently (regarding the use of Social Media) “I made allot of friends, but I don’t think we sold anything.”  Marketing execs need to know what worked and why and how it impacted the overall goals of the campaign.  If they cannot measure the success, they can’t sell or know how to charge for it.  Again the question, build relationships first or sell first then build relationships?  In my opinion, the answer is easy.  Build relationships, for if you do a good job at this, results will come (most likely long term results.)

If you are a part of the “we need to do this crowd” let me give you some ideas on why use of the Social Media piece of online advertising is a must do.  Regardless of the metrics.

  • I remember back in the 80’s management gurus told us to “manage by wandering around” to “talk to your customer” and to get feedback.  Social Media is an amazing platform to do just that (if you really want to hear what your customer has to say.)  Social Media enables you to target communities of like minded people to engage.  It enables you to have a conversation and more importantly to build a relationship.  This micro-relationship may not take into account the millions of people who drink your soft-drink, buy your food product or wear your clothes, but if the community is selected carefully, you can get tremendous insights into what your users want and need.  And no amount of metrics can replace that knowledge.
  • The use of Social Media enables you to see and feel the pulse of the community.  I cannot tell you how many times I see a comment like, “I wish someone would come up with something that would do (fill in the blank).”  You may have that product in beta and you just found a great person to test the product and give you feedback.  Think about this, how often do you test a new product and find it very difficult to get real feedback.
  • If you still walk around the mall you will still see people with clipboards attempting to stop you and ask you a handful of survey questions.  You want a survey answered honestly with legitimate insights into the needs of your customer?  Go online into a community where you have developed a relationship and simply ask.  You will get  your answers.
  • Social Media is inexpensive.  Ok, before you jump down my throat and give me the cost of keywords, the expense of web-site maintenance and the price of click-through ads, please hear me out.  All those things will give you traffic and presence. But will they introduce me to you in some personal way?  Probably not.  Will the response to a Twitter or Facebook update that leads to a real conversation on how to improve the product and services you offer?  Yes, it will.  And the conversation did not incur the cost of the web banner, the ad or the MySpace video production.  How many products and services get launched around the world everyday and fail?  Allot.  How many could have survived if someone had a way to tap into the end user and find ways to help them more, serve them better or deliver a better product?  That question is rhetorical and I don’t know the answer.  But I am confident enough in the comment to say, “many more.”

So in the end what do we do?  We don’t have unlimited funds.  We have limited time, people, energy and resources.  Here are a few things that fall under the category “Food for Thought.”

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

  • What if every organization small and large had one person dedicated to using the web and its Social Media tools to try to connect with people?  What if that person was the CEO? Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com is legendary for reaching out to his customers and engaging them on Twitter, find him at http://twitter.com/zappos (oh, he has over 56K people that he follows and converses with as of this morning.)  Maybe he has something figured out.
  • What if the purpose of using Social Media to reach out was not one way, but two way.  Conversations are two way.  Is it possible for marketers to give before they try to take?  Can we build trust and relationships first?  Chris Brogan and Julien Smith call trust the new currency, if you don’t get it read their complementary e-book “Trust Economies.”
  • What if someone in every organization was in charge of finding “like minded” communities and engaging those communities?
  • What if the metric was the success we have in building relationships, not the immediate results.  Relationships are the ultimate long-tail.

As advertisers struggle with lower budgets and a soft economy maybe a drop of focus should go into connecting with people and building a plan to “wander around the Social Media space” and find out how close you can really get to your customers.

Then you have a new question, how long can you make your tail?