Friend(ly) Feedback: What’s the Right Way?

I consider myself a product marketer. Because of my former role as an Information Architect MANY moons ago, I approach marketing with this UX background in mind. I view how, where and why you communicate with your users as experienced from their point of view. (Which is likely why I’m on my self-determined quest to rid the world of “Login” used incorrectly as a verb, one website at a time. Facebook, you’re welcome.) So, as someone who not just uses these products but is also in a role where I help build and market them, I’ve been thinking recently about the best way to give feedback. This is especially tricky when a) it’s not your – or your company’s – product and b) the people whose product it is are your friends.

Recently, Foursquare made a change to their mobile app and while beautiful, one small tweak (the removal of the “Local” filter) has made this product really challenging for me to use. I *WANT* to use it; in fact, Foursquare is one of the apps I use the most, especially as someone newer to NYC & still finding my way around both the city & the friend circle. It’s been tremendously helpful for me to see where my friends are convening on any given night (*cough* Tom & Jerry’s *cough*) in case I wanted to join. But as a long-time user of the product, I have more friends on it in San Francisco & other places of the country, so being able to see where my local friends are is really challenging now that this filter is removed. It’s a minor change that probably affects a small number of users, though I’d argue that many of those affected are “power users” with numerous Foursquare connections in multiple cities, like me. 

Upon noticing these changes, I posted a question about them on Twitter. And then immediately wondered if that was the right medium. I had a few questions about the change, and tagged @Foursquare hoping to get an answer. I chose that method for a few reasons: I figured it would be the quickest way to get an answer as I had seen a lot of other people using the new release, and I didn’t want to bug my friends that worked there. Namely because they are the Founder & Sr. Software guy (Hi, Dens & Harry!) and I could only imagine the influx of messages they were getting, plus they’re generally super busy guys…me bugging them about product questions would only add to their likely already-full Inbox. 

BUT. Did I just inadvertently throw my friends under the bus? As a marketer, I am acutely aware of how criticism can spiral into a PR nightmare (see: Uber New Years Pricing, which is another story entirely and one I believe they ended up handling relatively well in the long run). Was my choice to ask the masses – genuinely not knowing the response – and following up with my frustration that one of my favorite products became nearly impossible to use hurting more than helping? I genuinely try to suggest solutions every time I surface a problem. In this case, I was hoping to add visibility that some of their power users weren’t able to use the product as they did before. But was it the right forum?

I’m not sure. I tend to have a pretty thick skin myself, but do know that negative feedback on something people have invested so much time, thought, energy, and care in can affect morale. And that it hurts more when it comes from your friends. Was I just a gigantic asshole (and am I exacerbating it by posting this piece?)

I hope not. I genuinely am interested in hearing everyone’s opinions on the best way to handle this in a world where we often look first to public forums vs. private notes. Forget that they’re friends; we should be considerate of this whether or not we know the people behind the product or company. So please, weigh in. What’s the best way – and where is the right forum – to offer constructive feedback?

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