Why Facebook never listens to users and why it won’t start now


Uber-geek Robert Scoble responds to the current furor over the Facebook redesign and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg saying disruptive companies don’t listen to their customers.

He thinks it’s a brilliant decision. Say what? Isn’t it a credo of modern business, especially for tech companies, to listen to the customer and give them what they want? So what’s going on?

My former boss, Jim Fawcette, used to say that if you asked a group of Porsche owners what they wanted they’d tell you things like “smoother ride, more trunk space, more leg room, etc.” He’d then say “well, they just designed a Volvo.”

His words were meant to get us out of letting the customers run our business mode we often found ourselves falling into.

Lots of people are foaming at the mouth on Facebook about the new design. But they always do that when it changes. Yet it keeps growing. Hugely. Facebook has 180 million users now and is adding 200,000 – 700,000 users a day. Think about what that could do if managed well. Zuckerburg has been.

Let’s say you’re walking down University Ave. in Palo Alto, California in a couple of years (or, really, any street in the world) and you’re hungry.

You pull out your iPhone or Palm Pre or Android or Blackberry or Windows Mobile doohickey and click open the Facebook application. Then you type “sushi near me.”

It answers back “within walking distance are two sushi restaurants that more than 20 of your friends have liked.”

Wait a second. “Friends have liked?”

Sounds to me like serious competition to Google, as well as Yelp. Real time info on stuff vetted by your friends. Factor in companies and businesses having a major Facebook presence, with them also being reviewed by friends, and you could have something highly useful to users as well as advertisers.

Facebook can monetize what they have in all sorts of ways

Advertising can be diced and diced almost any way demographically. They can aggregate data on what their users are doing for companies for research and customer feedback purposes. Facebook groups could sell stuff and they get a cut. And so on. With 180 million users and growing, these numbers could be huge.

Zuckerberg is not listening to you because you don’t get how Facebook is going to make billions.

Zuckerberg is right. He shouldn’t start listening to his users now.