What Facebook & Mr Z. is Facing in the Mirror… 1

By Kyle Austin


Personality #1: A $15 billion corporate empire. More then 57 million inhabitants or roughly the size of South Korea. The future of targeted advertising. The Next Google.

Personality #2: The place to be for social interaction. A hip hangout for college kids, created by hip college kids. The next Sigma Phi Epsilon.

Facebook has Multiple Personality Disorder… 

How else can you describe the way it handled the controversy surrounding its heralded new Beacon advertising program.  Mr. Z and Co. had a problem on their hands when Moveon.org and 68,000 users cried anti-privacy after finding out that Beacon was an opt-out program that was almost entirely impossible to opt out of. Then Coke said “Try Pepsi,”and people realized that even if they weren’t Facebook users other sites may be sending their information to Facebook.

So how did Facebook respond? Want to know?? Still waiting??? It didn’t, for nearly three days. Some comments from non-executives through text messages and emails floated around, but Mr. Z and the rest of his executive team were nowhere to be seen. Maybe they were looking in the mirror trying to figure out who they were or what they had become.

Their no-response made them seem like those Sigma Phi Epsilon brothers.  You could almost hear them saying, “If you don’t like what we’re doing here then leave, we didn’t really care if you were here in the first place.”

And with this no-response the media was unleashed. It had been waiting for this. The company that it build up over the last year. The glowing features from David Kirkpatrick and co. along with the equally glowing cover stories. Mr.Z even made the cover of Newsweek. It was time to to bring him and Facebook down in a fiery crash.

Those of us in the media business saw it coming. David even channeled New York Times columnist and former Masterpiece Theatre host Russell Baker with his observation on the scenario 

“The press rarely grants an Autumn reprise for those it loved in the Spring.”

His colleague Josh Quittner called for Facebook’s tombstone with this headline – RIP Facebook?

Reporters were flocking to take down the giant as Josh illustrated nicely “There’s so much blood in the water it’s attracting more sharks (reporters).” Until finally Mr.Z responded with a blog post to apologize and allow users to completely opt-out of Beacon. So although we still couldn’t see or hear the elusive Mr. Z, this was a start. The Blog at least somewhat read like he was the man running personality #1.

It’s not going to get any easier from here on out as he continues to run a $15 billion corporate empire and it’s time to do away with personality #2.  It’s time for him and the rest of his fraternity-loving executive team to grow up and lead this company. Embrace personality #1 and let your user base embrace personality #2. Believe me we won’t let you down, we’ll keep it hip. We won’t let Facebook die as long as you don’t kill it for us.

The whole story of Facebook really defines our generation and I’m telling you first hand; the college and post-college crowd isn’t going anywhere…Like many college alums I have started to dabble in other social networks for “professionals” like LinkedIN, but Facebook keeps pulling me back in. Why?

Because it’s about cultivating relationships with people I already know and have shared 3:00 a.m. bleary-eyed discussions with.  You’re more likely to hear “I Facebooked him/her” at last call then “I Googled It.”

Slowly after some time the college crowd will start to go back less frequently but they will still check-in from time-to-time and the next generation of college and high school students will carry the torch along with the business folks that are now making Facebook the melting pot that it is today.

Yeah, it started out as a great hook-up tool for frat brothers but it has evolved into so much more.  Involving your friends in everything you do online; is what Facebook has already turned into. It’s even more actually. It’s the tool to include your friends in everything you do in your life.

As long as Mr. Z doesn’t let the site become overly commercial, let’s users have the final say on their relationships and shows up in situations like this; Facebook will continue to be the company that we’re talking about next year – For all the right reasons, hopefully.

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