Faced with the hardly surprising backlash this month to changes in its terms of service that claimed ownership of user content, Facebook Founder, Mark Zuckerberg, demonstrated once again why Facebook commands and maintains the distinction of being the world’s de facto social network. This has nothing to do with the ease of its interface or popularity. Rather, Facebook’s ability to listen to its community is what distinguishes it from its rivals.
While it may seem obvious, it bears repeating that the business model of these online networks is predicated on consensual social dynamics, and what we share on our Facebook page should no more become anyone else’s property than a personal story or photo we share at a party become the property of that venue.
As content continues to become the modern days gold rush, one can hardly blame a businessman as astute as Zuckerberg for seeing the advantages of owning user content. But just as the Facebook community that rallied against the changes was aptly described as the Facebook ‘Nation’, so Zuckerberg’s response in creating a ‘Statement of Rights and Responsibilities’ informed by ‘Facebook Principles’ was completely appropriate. With over 175 million members, Facebook would be the 6th most populated ‘nation’ in the world if it were a country, and such scale and influence demands its suitable regulation.
As Zuckerberg remarked in PC World, “companies such as ours need to develop new models of governance”, and the relationship between the brand and its community is exactly that. The brand owes its constituents transparency and accountability in terms of brand values and its members owe the brand loyalty in return. The fact that Facebook knows itself well enough to respond this way, and has the intelligence and confidence to invite its community to shape its future, demonstrates a self-awareness and respect for its membership that is an example for both online and offline communities.
Leadership is not defined by the absence of mistakes but by what you do when they occur. Facebook is clearly better qualified than ever to remain the world’s leading social network, and what Facebook does, others follow.