Facebook and the Art of User Retention

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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:
(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.
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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