Facebook halts rollout to address comms

PALO ALTO, CA: Facebook's decision to delay the launch of its social networking site to a broader audience was linked to its PR team's desire to better understanding on how to communicate to existing constituents.

PALO ALTO, CA: Facebook's decision to delay the launch of its social networking site to a broader audience was linked to its PR team's desire to better understanding on how to communicate to existing constituents.

"We need to do a better job of communicating to people how the site works, what we're launching, and how that will change how they operate on the site," said Melanie Deitch, director of marketing for Facebook. "We haven't set a new date yet because we really want to be sure we do a good job of communicating to our users what it is that's coming and how it'll work."

A Harvard student launched Facebook in 2004 as a social networking community for college students. Since then it has allowed only high school students and individuals from well-known companies to join as well. It is perpetually rumored as acquisition fodder.

The furor arose when the company rolled out news and mini feeds features, which delivered customized alerts that notify users when their friends have updated their profile or made other changes to their Facebook activity, without telling their users. The company instead embarked on a press tour to pre-brief reporters at long- and short-lead publications about the new feeds and expanded registration. When the feeds launched, tens of thousands users loudly protested that the features infringed on their privacy.

"We learned that we needed to do a better job of communicating to users what we're launching, how their information will be viewed and shared, what's changed, and how to operate moving forward," she said. "We didn't do a good job of that."

The feeds launched on a Tuesday; by early Friday morning, the company had added the privacy features to the product.

Deitch said Facebook's AOR Blanc & Otus provided strategic counsel.

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