Big Changes For Facebook Pages?

17th Dec, 2010

Last night Facebook accidentally began to roll out a new look to their business pages. Immediately the online community began checking out these changes, and many page admins began to complain. The new look came with new navigation and features, that both had advantages and disadvantages. Mashable published the following Facebook statement:

“While we are always experimenting with new features internally we are not making changes to Pages right now. Organizations invest a lot of time on their Facebook Pages because millions of people find them useful everyday. We remain committed to providing ways for Page owners to customize and control the experience on their Page. If we do make changes, we will provide partners with advance notice.”

Which is good to know, because some of the changes accidentally released would have had a big impact on how brands conduct their business on Facebook. While I’ve spoken about how Facebook need to get the customer experience perfected first, they still need brands on board to make it profitable. The new look brings the feel of the page more in line with the recently launched new look profile pages.

So lets have a look at what changes were in the accidental release last night;

New Navigation

Much like the changes to the personal profiles, the tab navigation bar has been moved into a new left bar menu location under the wall logo. This pushes the wall and info tabs, apps and the soon-to-be no longer supported FBML tabs to a less prominent left and down screen position.This positioning is not only less visible, but also impacts on the Wall Logo – the key branding point for business pages.

Impact on Wall Logo

Changes in layout and design will always draw a certain amount of complaints from fans and admins, but complaints will eventually subside as people become more familiar with the new layout. The new look also impacts upon the size of the wall logo, not so much in their size, but in their use. Wall logo’s are 180px in width and up to 580 px in length – the length can vary, which means the positioning of the new navigation menu will also vary. Pages with short logo’s will feature the new navigation menu more prominently, longer logo’s will push the menu into a less prominent position. The menu will contain the links to any promotions or apps on the page so brands may have invested a lot of money and time in these. Which could result in businesses having to sacrifice key branding space on their page in order to give their investment more prominence (and thus more traffic, use and value). Just compare the first screenshot above with this below.

Facebook Questions Moved Front  & Center

Facebook questions have been around for some time, but their use hasn’t been widespread amongst businesses. In the prototype the Questions option sits beside the status update link. This change can only make the service more visible, and this may be a change we will see rolled out eventually.

Info Text Box is Removed

The change in layout has also removed the information boxes under the wall logo. These boxes often contained links, company information and details. They’re use was becoming less and less important, often repeating text that can be found on the ‘info’ tab, which only served to clutter up the page.

Landing Tab’s Removed

The first ‘tab’ non-fans see is the wall. It’s possible to change this landing tab to any other tab on a page – such as an app or FBML tab. The benefits of using a different tab for landing was that it gave brands an opportunity to tell non-fans why they should become a fan. This could be done by offering exclusive content, competitions and offers. These types of promotions will now feature in the new left menu under the wall logo. This isn’t the first time Facebook has removed this feature. Last May it was removed suddenly and just as quickly reinstated after page admin’s complained. From Facebook’s point of view landing tabs interfere with the user experience, by reducing the process familiarity, or that’s their argument. It is also a lost revenue opportunity as Facebook could be charging brands for adverts in order to drive traffic to those promotion/landing tabs. I wouldnt like to see this removed in a new design. If it was I wouldn’t be surprised if a new version of landing tabs are introduced for a fee. It’s too big an opportunity for Facebook to ignore.

Admin Account Management

Up until now the posting to pages by admins was a strange process. First you had to link a business page with your personal page (or a fake personal page created to keep your real personal page separate). Then admins could only post messages to their page as the business name, could only like a comment as their personal name, and could only contact fans under their personal name. It’s been possible to work around these issues, but in this day and age it seemed archaic to say the least. The prototype design will allow admins to post under their personal and business names, although contacting fans privately issue hasn’t been addressed.

Comment Notifications

On a personal profile if you receive a wall comment you received an email notification and an onscreen prompt in the top left menu bar (the little globe would display how many notifications you have). The new layout looks like it also comes with the prompt but not the email update. This is a service that pages have been screaming out for – how do you know where and when someone comments on your page. Maybe the fan posted a photo comment, or replied to a status update from a month ago, page admins would have to regularly check for new comments or use services such as Page Notifier, which is good, but not perfect.

While many thought this was an official roll out of the new look fan pages, Facebook might want to rethink so many changes that will affect how brands use the network. Or has Facebook just become just too big to fail? No matter how many changes it makes to fan pages, the brands will remain as the opportunity to connect with a world wide global audience is too important to ignore.