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

Above: Alex Schultz, VP of Growth at Facebook

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat

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 1.15 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 w... read more »

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18 comments
Harsimar Bir Singh
Harsimar Bir Singh

Huhh. They have done it so many times ...that it almost seems like they are saying - only we are allowed to do it...

Alwin Chan
Alwin Chan

Yes, and you've been trying to trick for a while. Why do you think you turned into a glorified version of Flickr?

John Velcamp
John Velcamp

Easy haters. Alex is one of the few out there advocating doing the right thing. I trust him.

Robert Lewis
Robert Lewis

When did we get to the point where this is considered an insight?

Wally Kolcz
Wally Kolcz

Then he concluded the discussion by saying 'Unless you're Facebook..then you can screw with your user base and experiment on them..because..let's face it...where ya gonna go? Google+???'

Georges van Hoegaerden
Georges van Hoegaerden

The long of Facebook is in danger because the economics of its social system violate the most rudimentary principles of a free-market mechanism. Freedom cannot not exist in a world where we are forced to abide by one definition of freedom. So, what Facebook needs to learn is that the success of any social system, and the meritocracy of its participants, is dependent on the yet to be implemented freedom of freedom. 

Richard Ortega
Richard Ortega

This comes from the company that ran a social experiment on users and didn't tell them and never said anything until they were exposed.

Gary Bottom
Gary Bottom

It's hard to respond to this as ironic when you're posting to it on Facebook. Agreed, though. Long since the time of IRC where you could make your own messenger logging turned on or off. They'll see their users of messenger dip 20% off by doing it.

Megan Janel Zimmer
Megan Janel Zimmer

From the same company currently forcing their users to download an additional app with a horrifying and malicious user agreement (Messenger) - right on the heels of wide-spread deleting of said app. Sounds like the exact OPPOSITE what he is talking about here. Are you sure you work for Facebook? Cause that makes you a hypocrite.A few days ago I deleted Messenger because of the insane privacy violations in its user agreement. Today I get a message in the Facebook App itself that they are doing away with FB chat in the app and requiring you to download Messenger....or else...receive no messages.

Darren Slaughter
Darren Slaughter

You mean like telling companies to build a community on a site then start to charge them to reach said community? Hmmm. Makes sense.