How Is Facebook Like the Mob?

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Social networking sites are incredibly popular, particularly with college students. In particular, Facebook stands out as having the most penetration into this demographic. So, from a marketing perspective, it only makes sense that Facebook is the perfect place for universities to focus their social marketing strategies.

Not so fast.

The New York Times article How Sticky Is Membership on Facebook? Just Try Breaking Free describes how difficult it is to close your Facebook account completely. It seems that even when you leave, Facebook retains your profile in the event you decide to opt back in. This makes it really hard to become fully removed from the Facebook databases.

From a user support angle, I can actually see the logic in this practice. No matter how many “are you sure you want to delete this?” dialog boxes, someone invariably will complain that “I didn’t think you would delete it completely.”

From a higher ed marketing perspective, however, this inability to completely hide data you have entered raises some serious privacy issues. If an institution decides to use Facebook or some other social networking tool as a means to connect students, faculty and staff only to find in the end that they cannot completely wipe the data even after explicitly requesting that very thing, it opens that institution to everything from bad publicity to legal action.

Hopefully Facebook will address these concerns and adjust its account deletion polices and procedures. Sure the tech support staff will be faced with the unavoidable “I didn’t know that deleting my profile would delete my profile” complaints, but maybe they’d be better off without those customers anyway.

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