It would be easy to take the turning of the year as a time to sit down and recount all of the spectacularly hilarious—and occasionally sobering—moments when brands goofed on social media in 2014. But what about the social networks, themselves? "Who watches the watchmen?" as they say. Facebook's annual "Year-In-Review" tool might have been the meta version of a social media slip-up, and this one had the potential to affect every Facebook user.
What should have been a stellar example of personalization turned south, for some. Not everybody had a great 2014, or wants to re-visit certain events. Web designer Eric Meyer illustrated that in a heartbreaking blog post, in which he talks about how Facebook's cloyingly happy app kept popping up at the top of his news feed to show him a photo of his daughter, who died in 2014.
"In creating this Year in Review app, there wasn't enough thought given to cases like mine..." Meyer says, "or anyone who had a bad year. The design is for the ideal user, the happy, upbeat, good-life user. It doesn't take other use cases into account."
That's a point that Facebook—and any company, really—could take to heart. Treating people like, well, people, instead of some sort of product. And to be fair, Facebook has done a fair share of good on that front in 2014, as well. Internally, they've moved away from the term "users," going with the warmer "people," instead. Additionally, they've created an "Empathy Team" in order to better relate to the needs of those people who use the site, or the businesses that advertise on their platform.
With marketing strategy being an ever changing locus, is seems we may be witnessing a friction at the three-way intersection where personal data, personalization and customer experience all come together. Properly utilized, they can be a powerful tool to make people feel welcome and treated like real people. Improperly, the same tools can unwittingly drive people away.