Don’t Bully the Mainstream!


Loyal Facebookers take one to the head.

Early adopters are critical for a technology to go mainstream, but once a technology is mainstream early adopters can be a problem.  A big problem.

Here’s why.  Early adopters of technology are almost exclusively digital natives.  They thrive on technology – and understand how it works inherently.  These are the people who enjoy reading technical manuals and can program their TV remotes to do their laundry.

Early adopters also happen to be most people who work for technology companies – especially designers, developers and engineers.

Technology companies – from software providers to social media platforms – don’t know how to stop tinkering with, altering and transforming their products.  It is built into their DNA.  They are, after all, engineers and developers and this is what they do.  They are constantly adding features, removing others, changing the user-interface.

And at the beginning the feedback they usually get on these changes comes from early adopters.

Unfortunately, once a technology goes mainstream these changes can be deadly.  Mainstream audiences hate changes – especially big changes to interface.  When the button they relied upon to press is gone or moved – they react badly.  When the interface becomes unrecognizable mainstream users get confused and feel like they have been tricked.

This brings us to Facebook.

Facebook had a simple user interface in the News Feed.  They managed to convince (or entice) the mainstream to use its product to the tune of 800 million users.  This meant going way beyond early adopters to convince millions of late adopters (mainly middle-aged and older people) to trust in the platform.

These are the people who can barely change the batteries in their TV remotes.

So it was an enormous gamble for Facebook to change their user interface last week.  So it’s no surprise that many of these people dislike it.  In fact, many active social media users dislike it as well, according to a poll by Mashable, a social media news site.  The poll shows that 36% of its readers hate the new interface and only 22% love it (the remaining 42% haven’t tried it yet or are still assessing).

It remains to be seen if Facebook just made its biggest mistake (remember its users hated the News Feed at first, but came to love it). But it is worth noting that Google+ – Facebook’s primary challenger – announced shortly before Facebook’s changes that it had grown to more than 43 million users since June (racking up 9 million users in the two days after Facebook’s announcement).

Will this be a trend?  Is Facebook the new MySpace?

What do think?  With more than week after the changes to assess them – do like Facebook’s new interface? Are you bailing to Google+ or another social network?

Links:

Early Adopter Disease

Mashable poll on Facebook changes

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