When Users Revolt: Changing The Heavily Used Social Media Tools Of Our Lives

-Users Revolting Icon-It’s a common discussion thread these days: one of our favorite products makes a big change to the way their product functions and within hours users are revolting. The latest in the series of big changes came from Twitter who earlier this week decided to disable a less used option to view all the @reply messages from users you were following. Whether or not you completely understand how Twitter functions, the important part of this story was that Twitter pulled the rug out from under many of their users who actively used this feature.

This is something that Facebook has done on occasion, including the most recent site design. The last time around Facebook gave users a heads up about the design change and they were able to prevent users from revolting. Most recently they didn’t and not surprisingly many users were infuriated. It’s a challenging issue for many of the social media platforms which have large user bases.

Many of the larger sites don’t give enough consideration when making drastic changes often yielding unexpected results. As I explained to a group of lawyers at an American Bar Association conference over the weekend: these platforms are tools just like your cell phone. They become integral components of our lives and if the developers behind those platforms regularly make significant changes, users will head for the door.

The one thing preventing users from heading for the doors are the substantial marketing opportunities presented by each large social platform. It results in a sort of arrogance by the creators. Mark Zuckerberg for instance confidently changed the existing platform with little notification. While they made a press announcement the week before, most users were surprised by the changes.

The relationship that platform owners and users share is a complex one which is why I’ve come up with the following four rules for platform owners and users, to help coexist more peacefully:

1. Platform Owners Need To Give Users A Heads Up About Upcoming Changes

This one is a no brainer. If you don’t want to piss off users, don’t make drastic changes without notifying the users. Imagine waking up one day to find out that all of the icons have been switched on your phone and the buttons don’t work the same way as they used to. That’s how the users of social platforms feel when the service they’ve grown to love doesn’t work the same way anymore.

2. Platform Owners Should Seriously Question The Decision To Remove Features

Getting ready to remove a feature that you think confuses new users? You may want to think twice about doing that. Rather than removing the feature, adjust the way the option is displayed so that users who currently take advantage of a given feature can still use it, but new users are less aware of it.

3. Keep Tabs On Their Follower/Friend Count, It’s Easy To Get Overloaded

For the users, it makes sense to reduce the number of friends or followers you have because it can quickly become unmanageable. If you must expand the number of friends you have or people you follow, take advantage of tools that help you filter out the noise. Having a large network on social platforms can quickly become overwhelming making it easy to decrease your use of the service in response to feeling overwhelmed.

4. Don’t Overextend The Number Of Platforms You Use

Did a new social platform just launch? New platforms launch every day and it’s easy to get dragged into using every new one that arrives. The only problem is that if you end up using all of them, you’ll decrease your impact on each one. Try to stick to one or two platforms to get started (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) and build your community on each one. If you find yourself with extra time, feel free to expand on to others but be warned: each new platform requires its own time investment.

Article image from Democracy for Nepal