That’s when The Consumerist posted a story about it, with the somewhat alarming headline: Facebook’s New Terms Of Service: “We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever.” Before long “Facebook terms of service” had become meme-of-the-day. Slashdot picked up the news, Twitter was abuzz with angry Tweets, and in general there was much commotion.
I’m sure there is some sound business rationale behind this decision, but in terms of pure public relations, this is poorly played. There certainly should have been some message management associated with this announcement. Simply changing the terms and placing a somewhat hidden disclaimer that most users will gloss over is not an example of public relations as an art form. I don’t think a business ever wants to “freak out” its constituents. And now the founders are scrambling to clean up the mess: “Facebook guru says nothing sinister in service terms.” That’s a message they wanted to draw scrutiny to?
Isn’t this a message that could’ve been managed better at delivery? Shouldn’t they have foreseen that such an announcement would be met with trepidation and incredulity? There is an art to public relations, or at least some disciplined rules of engagement. No matter how big you are, you are not immune to the laws of public-perception physics.
Just ask MySpace.