There has been a lot of hoo-ha about change recently. First of all there was a big fuss about Barack Obama and his campaign to become President, which everyone liked a lot. Then a few weeks back Facebook went and changed their interface, which not everyone was so keen on.

Change is an odd thing, and taking Facebook as an example, is also quite interesting from a social media point of view. People don’t tend to like things to be different, especially if they don’t get a say in how that something is going to be different, even more so if it is a change that will affect how they organise their social lives. Facebook invited people to share their opinions on the new interface design, but only after the change had been implemented rather than asking for their input before.

The problem with always asking, is that whilst people tend to be more accepting to change that has come about because of their input, people do not always come up with intelligent input. This is not to say that people are not intelligent, just that they do not always know what they want until you provide them with it.

Glenn came up with an excellent example of this using a mobile phone. If someone had told you that they were making a portable telephone (think before mobiles here) and asked you what features you would like on it, would you ever have suggested that the ability to send text messages to people was a good idea? Would it even have come up in a consumer focus group? Probably not, but now consumers have got so used to the idea, that releasing a phone that doesn’t have the capacity to send a text message seems absurd. These things come about as a part of a product’s evolution, and some of the best ideas are complete accidents or have their foundations in what may seem at first to be ludicrous ideas. The more people involved in the decision making process, the more likely the accident or silly idea is to happen.

It is important to think about this lesson when we talk about using social media as a way to bring consumers in on the decision making process. Facebook got away with changing the product and asking questions later, but Facebook are so big and such an integral part of people’s lives that they will most likely continue to use it regardless of the way it looks. When doing it your brand and your products and your customers, it is best to involve them along the way, give them a little prompting and actively involve everyone as part of a community. Maybe it will allow you to speed up your evolution a little bit.


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