Facebook Leadership, Privacy, & Social Recruiting

Over the past few weeks, Facebook has stayed in the news. While most companies would love the resultant free publicity, many of the stories have not been positively skewed. After introducing new platform changes designed to accelerate the adoption of the social web at their 3rd annual f8 developers’ conference, Facebook got some unwelcome attention from United States legislators regarding their evolving privacy policy. Just this past week came news that a site glitch had resulted in private chats being accessible by other friends. While these types of missteps are expected for such a young company that is rapidly growing, users are starting to question if Facebook is serving as a good proxy for their movement into the social web. If current users are concerned, new users (those who have not yet joined) may decide that until pending privacy concerns are addressed it’s not worth the hassle. For vertical industries that are information based like recruiting, how Facebook manages existing and future user privacy concerns will determine the success of not only the platform but also businesses that seek to leverage the social web to meet their strategic goals.

Trust Matters

Let’s face it, on most sites; most users don’t even bother to read through the privacy policy or terms of service. The main reason being, most users trust site owners to faithfully protect their individual privacy. However, the recent changes and bugs are moving users into a default of mistrust. As this recent infographic shows, Facebook’s privacy policy has been rapidly evolving over the past several years. This is unfortunate and could have widespread ramifications for the future evolution of the social web. If users automatically assume that their personal information will be shared in ways that might do them harm, they will be less likely to share this information now and in the future.

Social Web Leadership

Given Facebook’s massive user base, 400 million and counting, this platform is becoming the default for the social web. As the standard bearer for this shift, their privacy policy could either accelerate the widespread adoption of the social web or stall it completely. Some argue that if you don’t like their privacy policy, then you can choose not to use the service. If there were a credible alternative and Facebook had not built in such strong network effects, then this might be an option. Unfortunately, the rapid growth of the site along with the interconnectedness of each individual network make the switching costs for each user very high. Not only does an individual user have to make the decision to switch. But, they also have to convince their friends and their friend’s friends to switch. Depending on the size of your network, this is virtually impossible.

In order to engage with their target audience, many companies enthusiastically created fan pages on Facebook. Initially, there was a great deal that you could learn about your fans as a page administrator. Now, users are so concerned that their personal information is being misused that it is hard to learn anything about who is becoming a fan of your page. In fact, I would argue that it is now easier to learn more about a new fan by checking their profile on LinkedIn, Twitter, or via search engine than by viewing their Facebook profile. Why does this matter? If you are focused on building a targeted community of prospective candidates, then it is very important to learn about people who have opted-in to joining your fan page. If you can’t get the information from the platform that a portion of your channel strategy is built around, then there is limited utility. Instead of arguing for users to quit the service if they don’t like the changes, Facebook needs to embrace their leadership role in creating acceptable standards for the emerging social web.

–Omowale Casselle (@mysensay)


About the Author: Omowale Casselle is the co-founder and CEO of mySenSay, a social recruiting community focused on connecting talented college students with amazing entry-level employment opportunities. Our solution integrates social media, real-time web-based communication, and intelligent analytics to enable employers and students to discover, interact, and connect with each other.


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