Imagine that you walk into a restaurant and there’s no one there to take your order. You can’t even find anyone working in the place. Or you are waited on and place your order, but have to repeat it to three different people, because the servers won’t talk to each other. Or you’re told shortly after placing your order that you’ll need to choose a different item, because the menu has changed in the last five minutes. Twice.
You’d probably rip the place on every review site you can think of and then never return to that establishment. Yet we tolerate exactly that type of behavior from leading search and social media sites every day, and even reward them with growing traffic and more of our precious time. Why?
One of the biggest complaints about Facebook is of course its constantly changing interface, and its convoluted privacy settings have also repeatedly come under fire (as have changes to its privacy settings). The constant changes are a problem for brands not only due to the expense of keeping up to date, but also because the newest (Timeline) layout has reduced tab engagement.But the most appalling shortcoming of the world’s most popular social network may be how un-social it is.
Granted, even with its never-ending UI changes, Facebook is easy enough to use even for technophobic grandmas. But imagine that you did have a question, or something wasn’t working quite right, and you wanted to contact Facebook for assistance. Try this: go to Facebook and see how long it takes you to find any way to contact the company: phone number, email address, even a fax number. I’ll wait. Let us know in the comments below how long it took.
Given these issues, it’s little wonder that Facebook has the lowest user satisfaction rating of all the major social media sites. And Facebook’s size may be no defense against ultimate demise; it wasn’t all that long ago the MySpace was the largest social network, and the experience of social news site Digg—once valued at $100 million but sold recently for just 5% of that—is a cautionary tale.
Google not only accounts for 85% of all web searches but controls an astounding 44% of the global online advertising market. It’s the 800-pound gorilla of the web, and acts like it with increasing frequency.
The search giant has annoyed everyday users with moves like dropping popular tools (Picnik, Knol, Gears) and presenting search challenges when it sees an “excessive” volume of searches from a single IP address (yes, this was designed to thwart automated rank-checking tools—though it isn’t clear why those are a problem—but can be triggered by a much lower volume of searches; my daughter has had these thrown up while doing research for high school English papers).
Google has thumbed its nose at businesses, advertisers and SEO professionals as well through a series of recent moves like hiding a significant share of keyword data in the “not provided” category within Google Analytics, eliminating the Website Optimizer tool in AdWords, and the recent Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, which were designed to eliminate webspam but caught a lot of innocent sites in their wake.
The leading micro-blogging tool isn’t as friendly to other web services as its cute little bluebird icon would make it appear. Last year it stopped sharing tweet data with Google (bad for the SEO results of Twitter users) and more recently the company eliminated the ability to automatically share tweets on LinkedIn. And after six years, the platform still doesn’t offer simple and obvious functions like the ability to download one’s followers and tweet history.
These web giants are assuming we’re so addicted to their services that we won’t quit or go elsewhere, no matter what they do, change, or eliminate. But the next Google killer or Facebook killer may very well not be a better search engine or social network, but simply one that treats its users with respect. And listens.