Facebook growth chief: You lose users if you try to trick them

Alex Schultz, VP of Growth at Facebook

Above: Alex Schultz, VP of Growth at Facebook

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat
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SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook vice president of growth Alex Schultz is a well-respected marketer, in part because he’s a staunch advocate for quality acquisition tactics that will drive engagement — and firmly opposes gimmicky ones that erode user trust.

“If you really have a long-term view on this, you cannot be duping users because they will not stay with you. Retention is the number one thing we focus on,” said Schultz during a fireside chat with Foundation Capital general partner Steve Vassallo at VentureBeat’s GrowthBeat 2014 event.

What Schultz was referring to is the practice that a lot of startups, especially younger ones in a rush to reach a certain registered user count, are resorting to. These often include tactics such as automatically sending invites to a user’s contacts or opting them into them things by default instead of letting them choose to on their own.

“Those users will cease to trust you,” he said. “Retention is the number one thing we focus on [at Facebook]. You can’t trick users into doing that.”

Schultz’s unit may be a called a “growth” team, but instead of creating landing pages with hidden opt-ins or sharing requests, it’s focused on adjusting the product to make it easier for new users to sign up and get comfortable — and hooked. For example, Schultz and crew are currently focused on the Indian market. They’re studying what phones Indian consumers own, how they use them, whether Facebook’s interface is making it easy for them to navigate and not get frustrated, how to help them easily find and add new friends once they’ve signed up, and so on.

“A lot of the folks arguing for these short terms hacky things, are not looking at the long view. Mark [Zuckerberg] takes the long view,” he said.

Schultz also advocated for a close relationship between the growth and product teams, as much of the mechanisms that help you grow must be built into a product, not merely added.

But Schultz’s view of growth is not only about adding user acquisition mechanisms but also about removing points that prevent people from joining. The trick, however, is to balance removing friction and falling into duping mechanisms.

“There’s a really fine line between removing friction and duping users. … Tricking users hurts users. Adding friction hurts users,” he said.

But ultimately, having too much friction is what will put the nail in your growth coffin, according to Schultz.


More information:

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 1.39 billion monthly active users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 we... read more »

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