I'd been nervously awaiting a major redesign of Facebook Pages since the cat was "accidentally" let out of the bag in mid December (FYI: it likely happened on purpose to test user reaction). What's being termed an 'upgrade' rolled out Facebook wide last week, in preview form to Page admins, who have the choice to upgrade now or have it force fed come March. I went ahead and made the transition with my Page after extensively studying and testing the new layout and capabilities. If you're not a Page admin, you can tell if you've stumbled on a reconfigured Page if it closely resembles redesigned personal profiles, with tabs moved to the left and five images at the top.
I'm not going to provide a step-by-step tutorial of all the changes. What I will attempt to go is address the key changes - the best ones - and the ones that leave a lot of us grinding our teeth in frustration. Context is key. What is Facebook trying to do when they roll out a redesign like this. What direction are they taking us? Because knowing where they're going is essential. Are they responding to the collective voice of the Page admin community? Or could they really care less what we think, because afterall, the Gen Y braintrust behind the kudzu-like growth of The Social Network knows what's best for Main Street, right?
Overall, I'd give the redesign a B-, and three cheers for a much needed focus on businesses and organizations. I've long thought that Facebook was neglecting Main Street, an opinion officially confirmed last Fall during Advertising Week in New York City. In the Marketing That Connects Session I attended on September 28th, Mike Murphy, VP of Global Sales at Facebook, admitted they'd been placing the lion share of their focus on two communities: users and developers. The business community, the other main component of Facebook, had played third fiddle to zillions of consumers and creators of third party applications like Farmville that attract legions of addicts players. Murphy, who left Facebook in October, told the business-centric crowd that they were on the back burner no longer. The affable and approachable advertising vet was kind enough to listen to me get some Page frustrations off my chest when I tracked him down after the session ended.
It's well known that Zuck and company were focused on hyper user growth, the theory being that revenue would then follow. With revenue near $2 billion in 2010, according to eMarketer, cash is starting to flow in like a river. And I believe revenue growth will be the key driver behind most every Facebook move from now on, to justify its stratospheric valuation - $50 plus billion, secondary market - and keep the growing number of investors, led by Goldman Sachs, happy. With that reality as a backdrop, I want to highlight some of the recent changes made to Pages.
Email Notifications and Spam blocking
Clients of mine have always asked why Facebook didn't give them the ability to receive an email nudge when someone posted a message on their Wall, illeviating fear that they'd not be immediately aware of something important, profane, or spammy. That capability is finally here. Instructions for Admins: choose Edit Page, Settings, and make sure Email Notifications is checked. Spam filtering is also a new option. You can choose from three Spam block settings via Edit Page, Manage Permission ... and/or choose to block individual words via a comma separated list box.
Pages can strap on shoes
Your Page is no longer just a destination. Now it's an entity that can Like other Pages, comment on other Page walls, and enable you to easily (once you get the hang of it) toggle back and forth between Admin and Personal modes so you can comment on your own Wall as the Page or as yourself.
This should help illeviate the mess created, and terms of service violated, when Admins use a second 'personal' account to offer more options when interacting and communicating on a Page Wall. Instructions for Admins: choosing Account (personal), you'll now see 'Use Facebook as Page'. That gives you the option to 'Switch' to Page mode on any Page you admin. You can then travel to another Page, Like it, and choose to add that Page to a new 'featured Likes' rotating section on the left sidebar of your Page. Bugs noticed: When visiting other Pages in Page mode, I'm noticing that some Liked via my Personal account are already Liked from my Page ... and others are not. This is confusing, and is most likely a bug. I've also noticed that sometimes when I visit another Page while in my own Page mode, custom FBML Tabs are not loading. But when I switch back to 'Jeff', they load fine. Weird.
Categories can be changed
One of the biggest frustrations for Page Admins has been the inability to make needed changes, to a Page name, custom URL/username, and category. You can now mark one of these off the list.
When you look at upgraded Pages, you'll notice the Category (Local Business in my case, at least for now) under the Page name. Instructions to Admins: By clicking Edit Info, you'll be taken to Basic Information (also accessible via Edit Page) where you can decide whether to select a more appropriate category. I encourage Admins to test different categories, because information options (About, Company Overview, etc) vary. Choose a category that logically fits your brand and offers impactful info boxes. Note: it looks like Facebook has added a 'General Information' box to all categories, a very good move, as many Pages have been using a misworded box like 'public parking' to display pertinent information.
Not So Good
Tabs moved to left
I love the way the upgrad tour describes the moving of Tabs to the left side of Pages.
"Navigation Where People Expect It". In other words, since personal profile tabs have moved to the left, everyone should expect Pages to be the same. The problem with this: before the upgrade, Tabs were very noticeable, similar to website navigation, drawing our eyes to various Tabs/subpages, whether custom (Welcome, etc), or provided by Facebook (Info, Events, Photos, Reviews, Videos). I have a strong feeling that moving them to the left and decreasing their size will mean less visits to Tabs, save for any designated as the landing page for new visitors ... AND (taking us back to my point about revenue) those Tabs chosen as 'Destination Tabs' for pay per click ad campaigns. Facebook is a business, and it wants Pages to advertise, both to grow your Fan base, and also to promote special offers and content via custom Tabs. Making Tabs less visible to the casual eye is one way to force encourage businesses to carve out more of their marketing buget for Facebook PPC ads. Note: in parallel, one particular change to Personal Profiles is going to help targeted ad campaigns. The personal data you see above the five images on your Profile page can draw your attention to outdated information buried in your Info page. Keeping this up to date likely helps ad targeting.
Chronological order missing
This may have raised the most fur since the upgrade option rolled out last Thursday. For some unknown and extremely frustrating reason - I can't tie this to the revenue point - Facebook is now giving Admins two options to display messages on Walls: 'Page (name)' or 'Everyone'. Choosing to show Page comments as the default setting will let visitors see messages in chronological order, and that makes sense. But choosing 'Everyone' now shows what Facebook terms "the most interesting posts" ... a combination of Page and Fan comments whose order is determined by a combination of the number of 'likes' and 'comments' under each Comment. Page admins can choose a special 'Admin view' to see the most recent comments. But this option should be available to anyone. This change is confusing at best, infuriating at worst.
Suggest to friends for Admins only
One way to kick things off when a business first sets up a Page is to use the 'suggest to friends' feature. In the past, anyone could visit a Page and choose that feature, and invite friends they felt might want to connect with/Like the Page. With the upgrade, this option is now only available to Page admins, crimping one way to spread word about your Page's existence. Only reason I can think of for this? Push Admins to use PPC campaigns to grow their Fan base. When you create an ad, you can choose any number of targeting options, including 'friends' and 'friends of friends'. Carpet bombing friends of friends with a visually attractive and creative ad can definitely help you gain connections. Understand, I am not against advertising. The first part of my career in radio was spent writing and producing numerous radio ads, and I enjoyed it thouroughly. I just want to highlight the trends that are happening with Pages, so Admins understand the likely reasons behind the moves. I encourage clients of mine to consider Facebook PPC campaigns. I rarely see small businesses in my area advertise this way, and I think many could benefit from a combination of local PPC ads and offering deals via Facebook Places (that's another blog post).
What's still missing
While Facebook has poured cool and refreshing water on several simmering Page frustrations, they have yet to address a couple of things that I consider glaring flaws:
Updates to Fans are pretty worthless
When you 'send an update' to Page Fans, that message goes into an 'Updates' folder that is quite hidden from view. When you send a direct message to someone from your personal account, or from a Group ... that direct message will get noticed, since it triggers a red notification alert. Pages should have the same ability to DM Fans that Groups have. In the past, I've felt this lack of ability was due to people at Facebook deciding that businesses would overuse this feature and carpet bomb Fans with direct messages. If that's the case, it would be very self policing. Fans irritated by too many DMs would simply 'unlike' a Page. Problem solved. In any case, give Admins/Pages the option. My new line of thinking is this feature may be activated one day, but treated like a competitor to email marketing services like Constant Contact or Emma. Fees may apply for its use.
Ability to change Page name and username
Kudos to FBook for enabling category changes. The next logical step is to enable Admins to change the Page name. I know, there's a downside, brought up by a Twitter connection when I tweeted my thoughts about this recently.
Brad has a good point. But if Fans were notified when a Page name changed, they could decide to unlike if it disagreed with them. Also, you can change a Group name right now, and wouldn't the same line of reasoning apply? Having the ability to change Names would go a long way to helping a variety of brands untangle initial mistakes. Take franchises for instance. If you have hundreds of franchises jumping into social media - without guidance/rules from corporate HQ - they may use any number of naming conventions, which could and does lead to a lot of confustion when searching for a local franchise you want to connect with/Like. Once a company gets its act together and decides to straighten everything out, they can't. Names, and Usernames (custom URLs) are set in stone. Unless you have less than 100 Likes. If that's the case, you can change your Page Name.
Overall, the Page upgrade has more positives than negatives. I don't know why images have to be so prominently displayed, like they are on personal profiles. If you have an opinion on that or anything else I've discussed or failed to mention, please let your thoughts be known in the comment section. These are my opinions. I'm curious if you think I'm on target with my thoughts about revenue and the direction of Pages. And on the topic of user feedback, there IS a place that you can let your voice be known when it comes to things like the Page redesign. Because the feedback pages are hidden down a zillion rabbit holes, I question Facebook's desire to really, sincerely listen to the user and Admin community. But if enough of us shout our thoughts (respectively of course), they can't ignore it. When the Beacon ad platform was announced, the public backlash was so fast and so overwhelmingly furious, Facebook was backtracking within days. So let them know what you like, what you don't like, and what you'd like to see when it comes to Pages. Your feedback about upgraded Pages can be shared with Facebook here.