[UPDATED INFORMATION BELOW]
On Tuesday, Facebook took the hardest bashing of its short history, with FORTUNE’s Josh Quittner echoing the rest of the blogosphere in a post ruefully titled “RIP Facebook?” This follows Monday’s news that Facebook confirmed a finding by security firm Computer Associates that Beacon still sends information back to Facebook even when you are not logged in. (For a complete history of the last few weeks, check this New York Times article by Louise Story.) Subtract a few key advertisers, add a lawsuit questioning the allegedly shady history of Facebook’s founding and an attempt by Facebook to block First Ammendment rights, and Facebook seems to be embroiled in a PR quagmire.
The question on everyone’s mind is: Where is Mark Zuckerberg?
WOW! A score of 1942! Congrats, Mark!
Was he working off a little stress while in between Crisis Control sessions with his PR team? The blogosphere doesn’t think so. Just look at this post by Robert Scoble advising Zuckerberg to say something (this is just the nice stuff):
Facebook’s PR machinery is hiding its head in the sand and hoping this story goes away.
Hint: it’s not.
Do the press conference. Admit you screwed up. Take your shots. Look into the camera and say you’re sorry.
Crisis PR hint: don’t answer company bashing with text messages. Do it in video and with live events. Have the CEO do it.
So what exactly can Facebook do to pull themselves out of the muck:
1. Zuckerberg–not a PR spokesperson–needs to admit to the community and advertisers he made a mistake.
- Explain that FB learned the hard way that privacy is important.
- As a result, FB wil allow a members to Opt-In (as opposed to currently being forced to Opt-Out) to Beacon.
- FB apologizes profusely and promises to make the selling and use of member data a transparent process.
2. Utilize the social media upon which FB is built.
- Eat the loss of prime Ad real estate and post the video apology in a banner over the newsfeed, not in the New Features” group.
- No blog posts since mid-November. Fix that.
- If you are feeling a little more hip: Create a live videocast (to be archived) with live questions being submitted through the community and Twitter.
3. Send an open letter to blogs and top-tier publications. Reach out to the reporters and bloggers who feel used and lied to.
- Better yet, do a video blog tour with top bloggers (ala Don Imus, et al.)
4. Appoint a User Privacy Guru to launch an educational program on how member data is handled and what members can do to protect their privacy.
- Create a Privacy Rights/User Data partnership with other social networks.
- This transparency and education will regain user trust.
5. Community Managers address bloggers concerns as they come up.
- Don’t hide behind your PR spokesperson. Get involved!
Don’t forget your community (and your financial success) is based on the users. You have to listen to them and respect them. If they aren’t happy, they’ll easily move on to the next big thing. Part of me hopes that FB really thought users would see the value in Beacon. The other part thinks that FB only saw the dollar value it could gain from Beacon.
Social networks are trusted spaces. Facebook differentiated itself as the social network where members could control privacy settings, thereby allowing only some friends to see certain things. We felt like Facebook was a safe place where we could share our lives with our friends. Beacon violated that trust. It’s sad and I feel completely used.
A quick Twitter poll asking what Facebook could do to regain trust yielded several responses, all easily summed up by Kyle Flaherty‘s Tweet:
What can Facebook do to regain your trust? Or do you feel Facebook has done nothing wrong?
[UPDATE: This morning, Mark Zuckerberg posted an apology on Facebook’s Blog. Is that enough? Do you trust them again?]