Posted April 24, 2009 8:17 am by with 7 comments

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Based on a post for the General Counsel for facebook-logoFacebook, Ted Ullyot, the results for the Facebook vote are in and the new rules / terms of service are in. Or are they?

As I read the post my greatest question was did they actually get 30% of their active users to vote so the following statement in a post from Facebook’s Grand High Poobah, Mark Zuckerberg, would play out

We encourage you to participate and make your voice heard. For this vote and any future one, the results will be binding if at least 30 percent of active Facebook users at the time that the vote was announced participate. An active user is someone who has logged in to the site in the past 30 days.

There was a ton of speculation around what that number actually was. Based on Ullyot’s post announcing the results (this seems so silly in light of covering important votes like political elections, doesn’t it?) there are a few questions raised. Ullyot states

The more than 600,000 users who voted constitute a significant number of people, but at the same time that’s a small number compared to our user base of more than 200 million. We made significant efforts to make voting easy and to give everyone the opportunity to vote — including by translating the documents and voting application into several of the most popular languages on the site, showing a message about the vote on users’ home pages, and running advertisements and videos across Facebook promoting the vote.

Ok, 600,000 voters. If this were to be binding then that means there are only 2 million active users. Even if only 50% of the total Facebook user number that is popular to quote now (200 million) are active then 30 million votes would be needed for a binding result. Either way this is some bad math for Facebook.
So what’s the real deal here? Facebook is saying that

the preliminary numbers indicate that approximately 74.4 percent of users who voted chose the proposed documents – the new Facebook Principles and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities – over the existing Terms of Use

74% of 600,000 remember. So unless Facebook fesses up to much lower usage numbers or they choose to ignore the 30% rule this vote is strictly a PR move. They can actually still do whatever they want because their requirement of 30% of the total users being involved in the vote for the results to be binding probably was not met. If it was met then advertisers are going to be very interested in that ‘unspoken result’ that says ‘well, looks like we only have 2 million actual users in the last 30 days’.

Ullyot’s post says further

We’d hoped to have a bigger turnout for this inaugural vote, but it is important to keep in mind that this vote was a first for users just like it was a first for Facebook. We are hopeful that there will be greater participation in future votes. In the meantime, we’re going to consider lowering the 30-percent threshold that the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities establishes for a user vote to be binding.

Also, in an attempt to look like this vote is ‘rubber stamped’ by the loudest proponents of change the Facebook post gives links to the 4 biggest people involved in the ‘movment’. Looks good unless you actually click on the links and see that they are all dated prior to the results being reported.

So basically this ‘result’ is in question still. Advertisers will be very interested in how many people are actually using Facebook vs. those who just have an account. Also, all of this reaching out to the people stuff could really be just a big PR play with little substance. Or, if there is an actual statement buried somewhere that says this is or is not a binding result, either there are only 2 million active users in the last 30 days of Facebook or people don’t care nearly as much as we think. Either way the folks over at Twitter must be snickering because once again Facebook’s attempts to be transparent leave the waters more muddied than ever.

  • PR move. But last I heard, FaceBook was still a private company, not a public utility, so they can do whatever they want and people can choose to use their service or to go elsewhere. It’s a good PR move…unless lots of people read Marketing Pilgrim.

  • I take it if the results are “in” and they want to change the TOS, they will. Who’s there to stop them? And if there is anyone, will they stop them?
    I personally think the 30% are more of a marketing plot than anything. It makes us believe that they are very customer-oriented…

    At the end of the day, if I don’t want to be subject to those TOS, then I will simply delete my profile. End of story. There are so many alternatives out there…

  • @David – of course lots of people read Marketing Pilgrim!

    @Frank – I’m sure advertisers are doing the math–0.3% engagement on a hot issue, doesn’t hold out much hope for much engagement for their ads. 😉

  • @Andy – The savvy advertisers will certainly do that math but many people get enamored with the ‘public’ numbers like 200 million users and a week from now won’t even know this even happened. As with most things in our economy it’s the SMB that takes the brunt of this because they are thin on resources and information. They will think “I have to advertise on Facebook” because of how ‘important’ it is and then wonder why the ROI is disappointing.

    Facebook over estimating it’s importance from the LA Times

    Frank Reed’s last blog post..Having a Facebook Mind

  • Although this data is from Facebook, note that the 200 million number they’ve posted is for active users:

  • @Jordan – I guess when they say active they mean……what do they mean? It’s hard to imagine that only .3% of these active types cared enough to vote. I just think that advertisers will need to be extremely wary of what Facebook professes to be the potential audience for their message.

    Frank Reed’s last blog post..Having a Facebook Mind

  • A very ineteresting post on marketing online i will foloow your blog very good advice…thank you

    Frank’s last blog post..Review Of SlumDog eMillionaire-Online Money Maker Without Using SEO