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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