The Facebook Trust Dilemma

The recently announced Facebook Job Board has inherent risks for everyone –  users, advertisers, and Facebook itself.

Facebook became what it is today by innovating – “moving fast and breaking things.”  While that may be a viable strategy for a start-up, by social networking standards they are now an established business.

Do you think IBM or Apple would publicly advocate breaking things?

It is becoming apparent that Facebook has not considered that it may be time to revise their manifesto.

Moving fast and breaking things is admirable for innovation, provided it doesn’t cannibalize the very structure that served to build the business into what it is today.

Observation Changes Behaviors

Recruiting works well for helping LinkedIn monetize their business because that is the reason people use the network – either to find a job or business opportunities. How you use LinkedIn is congruent with the purpose of the network – to connect people with others for practical business purposes.

The clearly understood purpose of LinkedIn determines your behavior on their network – because you know you are being watched and by whom, you behave accordingly.

Knowing that businesses are now able to use Facebook for job search, those eager for work are going to start policing their profiles to be what they believe employers want them to be – not who they really are.

This of course compromises Facebook’s primary revenue stream.

Compromised Social Graphs Affect Advertising

What made Facebook profitable was giving advertisers the ability to target consumers within their vast network with laser accuracy, thanks to the power of Facebook social graphs. For example, you can target buyers based upon whether they are politically liberal or conservative, which is something the average Facebook user is not aware of — until they lose a job opportunity as a result.

Facebook has a dilemma. They created an environment in which most people feel comfortable being themselves, yet now they have injected yet another element into the platform that is guaranteed to compromise it.

The opportunity for employers is the average Facebook user is much younger than the average LinkedIn user.  However, this younger generation that grew up with Facebook has already taken steps to protect their privacy for the time when they enter the workforce – such as completely deleting their account and starting fresh.

The bottom line is Facebook needs to decide what it wants to be.  Is it going to be social network, a business network, or something in the middle. Just as in politics, there are risks associated with compromise, such as alienating your core constituency.

Transparency Wins the Game

One of the reasons Facebook is meeting so many challenges is a lack of transparency and access. Over at LinkedIn you can read blog posts by co-founder Reid Hoffman, and even join groups managed by LinkedIn employees. Even Google has hundreds of community managers that hold Google+ hangouts to connect with business leaders – real people reaching out to their users.

To my knowledge, there is no way to easily connect with anyone at Facebook. The Facebook blog is located within the walled garden of Facebook, and while others can make comments, there is never a response from Facebook.

Let’s be honest, many people simply do not trust Facebook, and more are piling on every day. That’s where Facebook needs to focus their efforts right now.

If Facebook expects to continue to grow its user base, keep advertisers happy, and make their job board successful, they need to quickly make some strong moves.

This means fixing things – not breaking them. I’m not sure I see that happening.

How about you?

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts – and please share with your social networks.

Until next time, Jeff

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  1. Couldn’t agree more on the transparency point, on a number of fronts. Firstly Facebook need to become more transparent as a service provider. Secondly, they need to provide greater transparency regarding our data; explicit (posts I create) and implicit (facts that may be derived about me).

    It just drives me nuts how obscure Facebook is, specifically in terms of the visibility I have on my own data. I can’t even get a clear picture of my own social network, much less all the other data that is attached to my profile.

    End of rant! 🙂

    • Jeff Korhan says:

      Marie – It is unnerving. You hope you don’t have a major problem because you are out of luck if you do.

      Everything is a mystery and it really seems as if much of it is by design. Facebook and private apps using FB are hanging their hat on the younger generation — yet even they don’t trust FB.

      My guess is as the other channels become better options it will hopefully become a wake-up call to Facebook.

  2. Nice article Jeff. I do think that the Facebook Job Partnership is a good thing and it is always refreshing to see the public and private sector collaborating to solve relevant issues. If the job app helps connect users w/open jobs, I am all for it. The application is still pretty raw, but has real potential to add value to individuals and the public at large. For those interested in a review of the job board, along with a demo, I recommend the following:

  3. Its tough because and especially now that Facebook went public that they have to constantly change. If they don’t change the investors and the users will get bored!

    • Jeff Korhan says:

      Tom – I was thinking the same thing – more specifically, what that 1st shareholder meeting is going to be like.

      I used to work for a “big oil” company and those meetings were always entertaining because shareholders have a right to speak, and oh, do they speak their minds.

      Just like Internet trolls, they’ll buy a few shares just to have the opportunity to stir the pot.

      It’s going to be interesting. 🙂