Isn’t it funny that many social networks call the folks you choose to associate with “friends”? How ironic then that Facebook’s recent Beacon clusterf… er, kerfuffle was one of the least consumer-friendly actions any of us have seen in a long time.
Do social networks have to play by a different set of rules? Must they protect their customers more than any other site? Should you behave different when engaging your customers on a social network?
You should always treat your customers like they’re friends. Very fickle friends.
Look at Webkinz. Silicon Alley took Webkinz to task for peppering kids with ads, and acting “unfriendly.” In practice, it appears a tempest in a teapot. Anne Zelenka, over on GigaOM says it’s no biggie. Speaking as a father of two Webkinz-addicted kids, I agree. Frankly, the ads for sugary crap on TV bug my much more than banners for movies and I’m relieved that Webkinz keeps the links within its friendly confines. Webkinz is acting far more friendly than most companies, while finding ways to grow their revenues. Even better would have been if they’d provided more of a heads-up, but, their actions reflect thoughts about what their customers would care about.
Whether you’re a social network or a more traditional business, increasingly success depends on collecting the best group of customers. Treat them like friends. Treat them the way you would want to be treated. After all, sticking it to your friends costs you friends.