Facebook shareholders want to know how to use Facebook

The social network faces stockholders for the first time and finds that what they really want is customer service from Zuck.

Jennifer Van Grove Former Senior Writer / News
Jennifer Van Grove covered the social beat for CNET. She loves Boo the dog, CrossFit, and eating vegan. Her jokes are often in poor taste, but her articles are not.
Jennifer Van Grove
3 min read
James Martin/CNET

Facebook's stockholder meeting showed off two kinds of Facebook investor: the type with sour grapes and the kind who's totally bewildered by the site. The latter proved more vocal, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent much of his time during the one-hour, question-and-answer session responding to rants from older stock owners stumped by how the social network works.

Tuesday, the 9-year-old company convened its shareholders at the Westin San Francisco Airport hotel for its first annual meeting with the mission to approve four business proposals. The proposals, including one to reelect the company's eight nominated board members, all passed without a hiccup.

Then, Zuckerberg took over. He glossed over the company's goals -- mobile, platform, monetization -- and rattled off some previously discussed mobile milestones. He also admitted disappointment in the company's slumping stock price. Next it was time for questions.

Now, for the fireworks, right? Facebook would be forced to finally face the music, directly address all of those regular Joe and Jane shareholders who lost their shirts by buying stock during the IPO at premium prices. Sort of. Some attendees weren't shy about airing their IPO grievances, but more used the meeting as a platform to get Facebook customer service straight from the man who created the service.

Shareholders peppered Zuck with their social-networking concerns, you know the biggies. Why can't I call Facebook when I have a problem? Why can't my News Feed always be in chronological order? Why do apps need my personal information? These were the most pressing concerns of the day.

"I can't figure it out anymore," one shareholder lamented about Facebook's many privacy options. He also griped that Facebook's mobile application was harder for him to use than the desktop site.

"I do not know how to use Facebook," Rose, a woman who owns 8,968 shares with her son, said. "Some analysts have negative comments of Facebook, but I know you're trying hard." She wanted investment advice, advice that Facebook executives were unable to provide, of course.

A father of a middle-school-aged daughter asked the company for more parental controls. An elderly woman wanted to know when her favorite game, Gardens of Time, would be coming out of beta. Another man requested a light version of Facebook, because the app takes too long to load when he travels to other countries.

But the most vocal user in attendance, by far, was a woman miffed that Facebook won't let her view her News Feed in chronological order by default. "Call me a Luddite," she said, her voice getting more animated and demanding with each word, "but every time I open Facebook...it gives me what you consider the most important things, not what I want."

All's well that ends well though, right? "I'm not asking a question. I'm telling you: You're wonderful," said an elderly sounding woman, the last to address company executives. Cue applause. "Thank you so much for bringing this program to us."

Perhaps, then, the real revelation today is that Facebook can satisfy more of its investors by making its social network easier for them to use. At the very least, a Facebook tutorial is in order.