Social Media

Facebook and the Art of User Retention

Here’s something you won’t hear everyday, I deactivated my Facebook account last night. While that’s news on its own, there’s more. I didn’t do it because I’m dissatisfied with Facebook and it isn’t a permanent thing, rather perhaps I did it because I’m too satisfied with Facebook. I simply found myself spending too much time on Facebook when I should have been writing, or working on my startup, so I went into my Facebook account settings to disable the account. Here’s what happened next.
The first interesting thing that happened was Facebook asking me why I made this decision. Other websites do this, but Facebook used a very Web 2.0, AJAX-y form to try and convince me against my decision. For example, if you checked the box saying “Too many people bother me”, a little box appeared below it saying “Did you know Facebook has privacy features to stop this from happening?” I think that’s very shrewd and worthwhile for Facebook to do. While the system helps Facebook find out why people are leaving (something most sites do), the system goes one step further to try and prevent people from leaving.
Furthermore – and this was a little troubling/annoying – once I deactivated my account, Facebook told me I could simply log in when I was ready to re-activate and when I tried to re-activate, they would e-mail me with instructions on how to do that. But just a few hours later I received this e-mail from Facebook without actually trying to re-activate:

Hey Jay,
You recently tried to log into your deactivated account. To reactivate your account, follow the link below:

http://www.facebook.com/c.php?id=500848639&code=560401238

(If clicking on the link doesn’t work, try copying and pasting it into your browser.)
If you did not try to reactivate your account, please disregard this message.
Check out http://www.facebook.com/help.php?page=51 if you have any questions.
Thanks,
The Facebook Team

Despite what this says, I had not tried to log into my deactivated account. This message, by all accounts, should not have been sent to me until and unless I did try to log in. Either this was a mistake, or Facebook does this to everyone who deactivates hoping the person will see this and decide to reactivate even if they were not ready to. The second part is a little pushy on Facebook’s part and the whole strategy in general reminds me of how cell phone companies try to retain your service if you try to cancel by phone.

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22 thoughts on “Facebook and the Art of User Retention

  1. 1) Great article
    2) Can you blame them?
    3) That stupid pizza flyer still comes in your home mail box every week even though you don’t order pizza right?
    This my friend is called “drip marketing”
    Hope thats helps !

  2. True, but I would be a little put off if I had told the pizza company, in effect, “Leave me alone for now.”
    Very interesting concept, though. (Drip marketing.)

  3. So… no options like “I’m wasting too much time” or “Procastination”? Then they can say something like “Did you know Facebook lets you set a maximum number of hours a day to log in?”
    He he, it would be great.
    Concerning your particular problem, sure they need to get that tactic right and in the other hand they should offer us an option to totally erase our account and info from there servers.
    Asking too much?

  4. I don’t even mind if they keep my stuff on the server because I plan on reactivating at some point. They should just respect my decision and wait until I choose to reverse it.

  5. Another possibility for the email to be sent is that somebody you are not aware of logging in into your account or one of your machines/iPhone saving the session and logging you in automatically. In ether case, be careful :)

  6. I am highly in favor of going the extra mile to retain and delight visitors. I am TOTALLY and COMPLETELY OPPOSED to any action taken that LIES TO ME!!! {@WETHEAD: Yes, I CAN blame them and I do.)
    The issue is trust and credibility. Any communication that implies that I did something I did not do indicates that their integrity is seriously lacking and they can NOT be trusted.
    I avoid doing business with any company that sends email or other messages to the masses using this tactic. They fill up my email every day with nonsense about the mortgage I applied for (not) and other common actions.
    I realize this would work because if I was out applying for a mortgage I would probably not remember all the places I had done so. That I am not is the reason I know I did not. So yes, it works – but at what cost to their reputation.
    Shame on Facebook for sinking so low. I admire companies that take the high road and fail to understand why companies that are already so successful and have such huge growth potential feel the need to resort to such low-life behavior.

  7. Interesting. So my question is – would you have been more comfortable with an email that reminded you that it had been x amount of days since you’d deactivated your account, and if you were interested, here’s a handy link to reactivate your account and join back into the conversation?
    My personal feeling is this email might be a ploy to remind you and entice back. But going about it the wrong way.

  8. I would not mind a reminder after a set number of days.
    The e-mail I got, though, seemed like it was designed to make me change my mind immediately. Not a huge deal, I suppose, but more pushy than I would prefer.

  9. I really think you are pushing it. Facebook seemed to be very respectful and It took you under 3 minutes to de-activate your account? Probably under a minute. You are just looking to be controversial like any news outlet to pretend you have a news story. Nice try, try again.

  10. John,
    The issue was not how long it took me to deactivate. It was sending me an e-mail claiming I tried to log in when I did not. In fact, as you’ll see in an upcoming article, they did it twice.
    – Jay

  11. Is it to much of marketing? Retention technique? To be frank- I get annoyed with un-solicited things- whatever form or manner it is. I might as well try this.

  12. I actually think it it most likely a hacker like those found on myspace that tried to log-in to your account, not knowing it was deactivated….
    When I left facebook it did the same thing to me, minus the email…but I often changed my password to keep hackers/computer from gaining access to the account.
    This email shouldn’t have been sent to you…it wasn’t sent to me when I deactivated.
    I think, however, this is not nearly as annoying as AOL’s tactics for retention…
    Can we offer you 30 free more days?
    NO!
    Hehehe…

  13. YES – I agree!! It is so damned hard to deactivate things theae days – it almost seems like they glued to your hand with “crazy glue” and you can’t get them off. Why is that?
    If you say you ‘want to cancel’ then let me cancel!?! I believe it is illegel to not let someone deactivate from “Facebook” or anything else unless they kick you out!
    That is not fare to your reputation! I have read “THE TERMS OF AGREEMENT” ON EVERYTHING, I download, and no where does it say you can not cancel! I know it is long and boring to read the “Terms Of Agrement” (believe me) but it is true that not being able to cancel is NOT MENTIONED in those TERMS!!!!!! So what gives with these people, anyway?
    Is there any Lawyers out there reading this?????
    LYNN SHEDLER (January 6, 2008).

  14. jejejeje… it-s funny…
    I spend too much time in facebook yet…
    I’m not trying to go out yet… I’m trying to do some “autocontrol” (this word is used in english??)
    But, anyway… I don’t know to much companies that don’t do that (a plus for facebook) and, for the other hand… you don’t have any obligation with…
    Easy… I think that is lake an old lover… trying to come back in any minute… just disturbing you for a moment…
    Nothig else.
    SLDS!!
    MJ

  15. Humm….it’s all very tricky…drip marketing. There’s a super fine line between staying in front of your customers….and being pushy. I’m in market reserach, and I still struggle! But I have found that what works for me is to pretend like the whole thing is like dating.
    If I say to you (FaceBook) I’m leaving for now, I need a break…then give me my space (no pun intended!). And to say that you loggein when you didn’t is bad, and yes, too pushy. If that were a girlfriend you’d say “see ya!”, right?
    As a marketer you need to be willing to lose customers, give them their space. But don’t ever deceive them! THat’s the fastest way to create a negative buzz!

  16. Humm….it’s all very tricky…drip marketing. There’s a super fine line between staying in front of your customers….and being pushy. I’m in market reserach, and I still struggle! But I have found that what works for me is to pretend like the whole thing is like dating.
    If I say to you (FaceBook) I’m leaving for now, I need a break…then give me my space (no pun intended!). And to say that you loggein when you didn’t is bad, and yes, too pushy. If that were a girlfriend you’d say “see ya!”, right?
    As a marketer you need to be willing to lose customers, give them their space. But don’t ever deceive them! THat’s the fastest way to create a negative buzz!

  17. can some please email me to let me know how to contact someone from facebook (staff) i have a tech problem many thanks

  18. can some please email me to let me know how to contact someone from facebook (staff) i have a tech problem many thanks