Facebook – A company that didn’t listen to users and still achieved growth!

Facebook turned 6 yesterday and the company claims to have reached 400 million users – with 200 million added just in the last one year.

Facebook began six years ago today as a product that my roommates and I built to help people around us connect easily, share information and understand one another better. We hoped Facebook would improve people’s lives in important ways. So it’s rewarding to see that as Facebook has grown, people around the world are using the service to share information about events big and small and to stay connected to everyone they care about.
For me personally, this has meant being able to remain close and connected to schoolmates, family and colleagues while working hard at building Facebook over the past six years. It has also been especially meaningful to me and to everyone at Facebook to see people using Facebook to seek help, share news and lend support during crises. – Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook is one classic company which asks it’s userbase on privacy policy to new features, yet makes the perfect balance between customer feedback and what’s right for the business.

If you go back to Facebook’s history of controversies, significant ones started in 2006 when Facebook launched “News Feed”, that displayed recent Facebook activities of the member’s friends.

There was a major dissatisfaction among user base and the same ‘Face-off’ happened when Facebook opened it’s service to ‘anybody with a valid email address’. Members revolted, as Facebook was meant to be a close college network and opening up to everybody meant losing the premium-ness of being part of Facebook.

And the result?

It’s 2010 and 70% of Facebook growth has happened outside of the United States.

Imagine what would Facebook be if it listened to user’s dissatisfaction. Not that Facebook doesn’t listens to it’s user feedback (they keep flip-flopping the privacy rules depending on the intensity of dissatisfaction), but the most important point that one needs to keep in mind is that

a user is not the user’

User feedback/dissatisfaction has to be taken with a pinch of salt and the company needs to take a tough stand, if they ‘know their business’.

Does this signify pure arrogance and complete apathy towards customer feedback on part of Facebook? Facebook is a social networking product and a conversation among its members is the key offering. How can then Facebook risk disapproval of the very channel and way in which these conversations are taking place and getting shared on its network?

Or on the flip side, does this hint at how well Zukerberg knows his customers. Zukerberg knows why his users come to the site, and also at the same time perfectly understands why they would stay with Facebook. There is always a resistance to any change (whether good or bad), and when it is change to something as routine as Facebook has become for millions across the world, it was bound to create some noise. – [Listen to Customers or Innovate? — Lessons from Facebook Redesign]

Your users hate change and will be dissatisfied if there is any disruption in their regular life. The only way out is to do a little bit of hand holding and keep showing them the bigger picture/more value.

What’s your opinion?

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