Facebook rolled out their new features last week—timeline, social graph and more—and users had a lot to say.(Isn’t it interesting that fans of Facebook and people addicted to controlled substances are both called users?)
Whether you are a Facebook evangelist, a skeptic or you are in a schizophrenic love-hate relationship (that’s me), you likely have your view about the changes, too. But one thing I took away from all the conversation was a recurring theme if someone expressed their displeasure.
“Quit your whining. It’s free. If you don’t like it, just leave.”
Except that it’s not free.
What We Are Giving Facebook
Facebook makes an estimated $4.05 billion in global advertising revenue. Nothing wrong with that. You build a successful company and you get the rewards.
One of the biggest things we give Facebook is our time. And if I remember my Economics 101, that’s called opportunity cost. It’s what we give up, what we don’t spend our time on, when we choose any one particular activity over another one.
Aside from the ginormous (yes it is a word in the Mirriam Webster dictionary now) value of that time, we are giving Facebook other things in exchange for their service:
1. Our privacy.
We are the masters of our own fate when it comes to how much we share. I understand that. Still, giving a significant amount of information about our personal lives can be problematic. And you never know when it can come back to bite you.
You may never have to look for a new job. But just keep in mind that in a recent survey by Reppler, 91 percent of recruiters said they screen applicants via social networks. 76 percent use Facebook and 51 percent screen after receiving the application but before the interview.
2. Our agreement to be at their every whim.
Remember when they made the public listing of your phone number the default setting? When they also made “everyone” the default setting, so the whole thing became subject to indexing by third party search engines —and then they made it hard to find how to change your options?
Sometimes it feels like fiddling with my privacy settings every time they change things could turn into a full-time job.
3. Our personal information (depending on how much we share).
In what ways would you benefit—as a business or an author—if you had a huge, rich database of information on the customers and readers you are trying to reach? Could you leverage that information to sell more products or services? To sell more advertising space?
Just picked up today, in one sweep of my Facebook feed, people were sharing:
• where they stand on the political candidates and issues
• types of pets in their house
• their opinions on banking and the mortgage crises
• whether they are single or married and how many kids they have
• whether they love coffee or hate it
• what kind of car they drive
• that they have a new baby or children in school
• a photo of the new pair of shoes they picked up at Nordstrom’s
• that they are addicted to Tic Tacs
• that they got moldy food and an attitude from a grocery store manager
• their favorite books, movies and music
• whether they travel by air frequently and where you go
I could go on, but you get the picture.
4. More subscribers.
Compare it to a newspaper (I know, they are dying now) that can charge advertising fees based on the number of subscribers they have, and thus, how many potential customers the business will reach.
Even with laser-targeting, it’s a lot. Because Facebook has 800 million subscribers. I think that’s worth a chunk of change to them.
5. Control of our platform and connections.
I see it all the time. People who are “renting” space from their Facebook landlord and not owning anything—their message, their connections, their platform. They don’t have a home base. And Facebook (and Twitter) are their only platforms.
Okay. Before you brand me as one of those weird “big brother is watching you” nut jobs, let me just say that I like Facebook. I like the ability to engage in longer conversations with people and build deeper relationships. I like the chance to promote my blog and my writing and my upcoming book.
I just know what I’m giving them in return.
And it’s huge.
What about you?
What do you think of Facebook’s changes?
Do you consider your involvement on Facebook “free”?
Anything to add here?