Social media immaturity

Social media platforms like Facebook are like the American healthcare system: useful so long as you remain perfectly healthy for your entire life. But if you sneeze, you might be royally screwed.

Doing business with Facebook is like getting service at a public clinic. At best, the company provides indifferent service if you have a problem (assuming you can even get a human being at Facebook to respond to you). And the company is notorious for making seemingly random changes that frustrate its fast growing user base.

As a software executive once told me, “The problem with Facebook is that it’s run by a bunch of kids who have too much power to make important changes without thinking through the impact on its business partners. They lack the experience to manage some of the fundamentals of doing business, like communicating clearly how its technology developments and changes to setting will affect others.”

I don’t know how much youth is the factor at Facebook as much as a lack of maturity and sensitivity. In a recent blog post, Steve Furman made a similar comment: “just when you think things are getting there, Facebook makes a major change to the design, or code, or interface and suddenly much of what you have made is now broken, or will no longer be useful to you. It’s frustrating, and should cause all brands to take a step back and re-evaluate the role external social networks should play in their company strategy.”

But Facebook isn’t the only social media titan lacking a grasp of service.

Since mid-February, my Foursquare posts have stopped appearing on my Facebook wall. Finding any help from Foursquare has been just about impossible. It’s so-called support page is nothing more than a DYI ghetto without any path to really getting a reply from anyone at Foursquare. Recently I resorted to complaining on Twitter. At least I got a reply:

My first reaction was, “Hey – don’t whine about how hard it is for you to keep up with your 7.5 million users.” And then I did try @4SqSupport. I received a few suggestions for tips, but they did not work. I have since started to use Gowilla.

Even worse is the way social media publishing site Issuu deals with customer service problems. I recently encountered a problem and was directed to an FAQ page that was even less helpful than Foursquare’s.

To address a question not covered on the FAQ, I was routed to, where I was required to create my own user profile just to ask a question:

Several weeks later, I’ve not found an answer to my question. And I’m not satisfied.

So what’s the answer here? Just accept the fact that poor responsiveness is the price we pay for free sites like Facebook? I don’t think so. Facebook, Twitter, and its social media cousins have been around too long, and their brands have become too visible, for consumers to accept poor service. To paraphrase this post by Nicole Ferraro about Twitter’s own problems, the time has come for social media to grow up.