Commentary

Newsflash: Facebook Listens

Since I didn’t go to SXSW, and have not become acquainted with the marvel that is Grumpy Cat, I spent the week – as was foreshadowed in last week’s column – hitting the refresh button on Facebook looking for my new Newsfeed.

And all I got was entrée into the meta-world of Graph Search. (Note to the people who put together the “Take a Tour” feature: demo-ing that you can find which of your Facebook friends went to your college isn’t all that impressive, because,  generally, the whole reason they are my Facebook friends is because they went to college with me.)

But now that I’ve waited a whole week for new Newsfeed and it hasn’t come yet, I’m wondering if my obsession with that Facebook-feature-I-don’t-have is misplaced. The real news may be that Facebook, famous for shooting out a new feature first and asking questions later, has recently shown an interest in listening to its customer base before it rolls out something as radical as a revamped version of Newsfeed. Wow.

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There was an offhand reference during last week’s Newsfeed press event to actual consumer input being solicited before the product rolled out, but what really caught my attention was this post today (hat tip: @awolk) from BTIG research, which shows screen grabs of an actual survey Facebook is doing among those whose account has been blessed with the new Newsfeed. (You have to register on the site to read it, but it’s free.)

It actually asks users how “satisfied” they are with their Facebook experience, whether they think Newsfeed keeps them up to date, whether they feel that with the new Newsfeed they see more or less ads, and a question that is destined to give a thumbs-down to the Newsfeed revamp: “Do you prefer the old version or the new version of Newsfeed?” Facebook is acting like users actually pay to use it or something.

Oh, why am I saying I don’t think people will like the new Newsfeed? Only because they always hate when their media habits get messed with, as anyone who has gotten all tied up in their underwear over a magazine redesign – I mean, back when there were magazines – can tell you.

In a way, though, how people answer that particular question is beside the point. Facebook, as far as I can tell, has seldom – if ever – used the good ol’ consumer survey to get a temperature read of how it’s doing. Maybe Facebook execs will like what they hear from this survey, or maybe they won’t. Or, maybe, they’ll rely more heavily on actual usage, instead of a few survey questions, to guide how they evolve the platform.

However, the mere existence of this survey demonstrates something: Facebook is learning to listen.

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