Randi Zuckerberg Just Reminded Us Why It’s Important to Understand Your Customers

by Mack Collier

If you use Facebook, you’ve been there.  Either you post a goofy picture that you THINK is only going to your ‘Close Friends’ and it ends up being shared with the world, or someone tags you in a photo that goes public when they didn’t intent it to.  It’s long been a problem for Facebook users, and it speaks to how incredibly convoluted and confusing the privacy settings are on the site.

Well yesterday, it seems Randi Zuckerberg, Mark’s sis, got stung as well.  She posted a pic of her family having wild reactions to seeing the Poke app on their smartphones.

She meant to post it privately to her Facebook wall, and that’s what she thought she was doing.  It turns out with the way her privacy settings are set, she apparently didn’t realize that her subscribers could see the pic.

And one of them did, and posted it on Twitter.  And then Randi went apeshit.  And then a LOT of people pointed out the irony that facebook’s privacy settings are so confusing that even Zuck’s sis can’t figure them out.  After much teeth-gnashing, finally this happened:

In social-media circles, we call this a ‘tone-deaf response’.  To be fair, we probably shouldn’t be sharing her photo, even if she did (unwittingly) make it public.  And I’ve shared it twice now on Facebook via articles that included it, so if that makes be an indecent human being, then I guess I’ll have to take the blame for that.

But I don’t think people are sharing Randi’s photo because they are indecent people that are trying to hurt or embarrass Randi.  I think they are sharing Randi’s photo to back up what they have been saying for a while now:  That Facebook’s privacy settings ARE damn confusing!

The big problem I have with Randi’s response is that she’s placing the blame on others for sharing her photo, and not on her brother for creating a site that has such confusing privacy settings.  By blaming others to the point of lecturing them on human decency, all she is doing fanning the flames of a her self-created firestorm, and making it obvious to Facebook’s users that she either doesn’t understand their concerns over the site’s privacy settings, or she doesn’t care.

On the other hand, if she had laughed this off with something like ‘Wow, guess it’s time to talk to my brother about making those privacy settings less confusing!’, it would have garnered her a lot of goodwill with FB users, and likely would have resulted in far less sharing of the photo.

Remember, it’s not the initial action that determines the social media crisis, it’s how you respond to it.

Again, I totally get why Randi is upset about her photo being shared when she didn’t want it to be.  But I don’t think she understands why people are sharing it, and that’s where the disconnect lies.

Kirsten Wright December 26, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Nail, head! I can’t help but laugh at her anger. I feel bad that the photo was shared, because no one wants their personal photos aired to just anyone. But…the way she responded to the situation is laughable. I like your suggestion of a response – that would have been the proper way to acknowledge the real issue at hand. The reality is (and I tweeted this morning): Don’t post ANYTHING on social media (“privately” or not) that you wouldn’t want to become public.

Mack Collier December 26, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Hey Kirsten! Yes if Randi would communicate that she is a little more sympathetic toward why we are upset, I think we’d be more sympathetic toward why SHE is.

Christoph Trappe December 26, 2012 at 1:56 pm

As I’ve said many times there’s really only one way around this kind of thing:

Assume everything posted on social media (whether an account is locked down or not) is public! Or can easily become public.

Mack Collier December 26, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Yes Chris, a good reminder indeed!

Alisa December 26, 2012 at 5:25 pm

I thought for a while about whether or not to share it on social media, since I do respect her feelings. Then I realized that the photo was everywhere already, so my sharing it wasn’t going to matter a bit. I totally agree – if you don’t want something to go public, keep it private – which means NOT putting it online.

Also agree, she could have been more human and less high and mighty in her response. Sympathy vote lost.

Mack Collier December 26, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Alisa that was pretty much my thinking. I had already seen it several times on Facebook and besides if anything, the photo itself makes Randi and Mark seem easier to relate to.

Ah well…

Lisa Magoch Johnson December 26, 2012 at 5:26 pm

When a photo is shared as public and has that little share button underneath, people assume it’s meant to be shared. It’s not about human decency. How many cute quotes and pictures do people come across on Facebook on a daily basis that they shared? That’s a lot of people to get permission from.
That’s why I like the privacy settings when they work right. If it is set only for friends, then FB won’t allow the photo to be shared.

Mack Collier December 26, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Exactly, and when people see something being shared publicly by someone named Zuckerberg, there’s absolutely zero reason to assume that they don’t know that it’s public.

Alan Wolk December 26, 2012 at 6:28 pm

I agree with your post 100%, Mack, and just wanted to add that the fact that it’s a very innocuous photo – she’s not drunk or making out with a stranger, nor does she have random food hanging out of her mouth– makes the virulent reaction even odder.

Which is why with social media, email, texts, phone calls and face-to-face interaction, the old “count to 10 before you respond” rule is still a classic.

Mack Collier December 26, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Hey Alan! Exactly, the photo makes them look ‘more normal’, if anything. You see it and you think ‘wow hey, they are just like us!’

Then Randi goes out and lectures us on human decency and blows it all to hell 😉

jen December 26, 2012 at 7:27 pm

If you don’t want something to be seen by everyone, don’t post it to the internet! This is one of the most important lessons we teach to our children as they started using email and the internet. It is a shame that some adults forget to follow the lessons they are smart enough to teach their children!

Karen Swim December 27, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Mack, Kristin’s comment says it all for me too. You hit the proverbial nail on the head. While Randi no longer works for Facebook she still represents the brand. This was an opportunity to create good will but her reaction simply reinforced a privileged mindset that disregards the experience of “regular folk.” I still hold out hope for change but Randi’s comments are eroding my optimism.

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