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UPDATE: Major Changes Coming Soon to Facebook Pages

December 13, 2009
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[tweetmeme] 12/6: The Twitterverse is buzzing today about profile changes on Facebook, but changes to Facebook Pages are coming too. Mashable is reporting that “Facebook Pages [Are] Getting New Design and Checkins“, but I would put much emphasis on the first sentence: Facebook appears to be on the verge of launching a new design of its Pages.



I have been following the rollout of these new Pages for almost a year (see below). To prepare for the launch of these new Pages, Facebook dropped Boxes on Pages, and then the Tabs got shrunk to 520 pixels. By the end of this year Facebook will move from supporting the Static FBML App to Iframes. And then just a few months ago, Facebook launched Facebook Places Pages, all seemingly leading up a new Page design with checkins and Tab and App navigation moved to the left (See the Brooklyn Museum’s Facebook Page, Ellen DeGeneres Show). While I can’t confirm it, and Mashable doesn’t mention it, I don’t think the location-check-in functionality is required. Rather, it is an option that Admins are given when they claim their Facebook Places Page – they can choose to merge their Official Page with their Places Page.



So again, you never know with Facebook until the changes actually go live for all, but nonprofit Admins should be aware that these changes are mostly likely finally coming very soon. Though the Pages make take a bit of getting used to visually, strategically I think the changes make sense, but that’s another blog post for when the Pages go live for all.



10/6: Wow. These changes have taken almost 11 months to roll out (see various other updates below), and according to TechCrunch, today is the day when the new profiles and pages finally go live. I caught a glimpse of what the new pages may look like back in August (re: www.facebook.com/pages/Hubstown/111260105555214), and at first I was a little taken aback, but after a few days thought I came to the conclusion that the changes make sense. Boxes and Tabs got very little traffic under the old design, and now Boxes are gone and the new layout may actually result in more people clicking on Tabs. If the Hubstown layout is the new Facebook Pages design, there’s an obvious merge with Facebook Places Pages. What I am curious about is where Community Pages will fit in with all this?



Anyway, I am on the road today and likely won’t be near a computer when and if the new Pages go live, so I just wanted to get out a quick update to let nonprofits know that today make actually be the day. Maybe. With Facebook, you never know. “Lockdowns” and meetings with the press are usually a good sign though that major changes are coming.

And of course, I’ll be covering all the changes in my upcoming webinars on Facebook and Facebook Apps.:)

9/14/10 Update :: Boxes on the left side of Facebook Pages have now been removed. The “Boxes” Tab is still there, but not for much longer. Learn more on Facebook’s Developer Roadmap. I am going to have to make some major changes to the Facebook Best Practices for Nonprofit Organizations. Utilize the Static FBML App while you still can!

8/26/10 Update :: Facebook has confirmed that at the end of 2010 they are dropping the Static FBML App for Tabs. You can continue to use the App to create custom Tabs through the end of 201o (and they will be supported in 2011), but beginning in 2011 Facebook will start recommending iFrames for custom Tabs.

So, the clock is ticking on creating custom Tabs for your Facebook Page using Static FBML App. You have four months. I’ll only be covering the Static FMBL App for Tabs in my webinar on Facebook and Facebook Apps through the end of 2010.:)

8/25/10 Update :: Interesting. Here’s an example of an Official Facebook Page merged with a Places Page. I don’t see any Boxes and the Tabs look to be about 520 pixels. Minus the map at the top and the # of check-ins on the left, is this an example of the new Facebook Pages? Could be, could be not. We won’t know until they are officially live for everyone. If so, I was initially a little shocked and not too sure I liked the new design, but after a few days thought, the changes make sense to me. More on that if and when these changes actually go live for everyone.

8/18/10 Update :: Boxes and the Boxes Tab will go away on August 23; Tabs will shrink from 760 pixels to 520 pixels. Possibly a News Feed change. [Official Facebook Announcement]

Interesting enough, these changes were announced in December 2009 (see below… back when Pages still had “Fans”!). For whatever reason, these changes are only just happening now. On August 23 to be more specific. The fact that Facebook has announced a specific date for the changes and is even allowing Facebook Admins to preview the Tab width change on Pages now in real-time says that they have learned from their past mistakes.

We will not know what the new Pages look like until they go live on August 23, or how it will effect the Static FBML App. Many nonprofits have used Boxes to add “Donate Now” buttons and e-Newsletter sign-up functionality to their Facebook Pages (see example). Hopefully the new Pages will offer a functionality that can make up for that loss, but I will say again as I have said many times before, I think 90% of the power of Facebook Page is in the Status Updates. Not very many people see those Boxes anyway.

As far as the other changes listed below, namely 1 and 4, the one about Status Updates no longer showing up to all fans in the News Feed did already happen… kinda. Not all Status Updates are guaranteed to show in the “Top News” News Feed. You have to get Thumbs Ups and Comment activity to get Top News News Feed exposure. The only thing here that makes me a little nervous is that Facebook has been testing a new homepage that removes the “Most Recent” News Feed. That’s the News Feed where 90% of the power is for nonprofits. If that is removed and “Stories” are not an equivalent replacement, then bring on the backlash!

As far as the Facebook API and e-mail addresses, I have no further data at this time.

So, we just wait and see what happens. I am giving a webinar on Facebook on August 24 and then again on August 31. Of course, the new Pages will be covered. Facebook does have a habit of slowly chipping away at the Page toolset with each and every re-launch, but they seem to have become better at listening to their users over the last six months, so let’s hope for the best!



12/19/09 Original Post ::
Scheduled to occur sometime between late 2009 and early 2010, some major changes are coming to Facebook Fan Pages. My first instinct is that the changes below are going to significantly impact nonprofits, and in some cases, not in a good way. I think those nonprofits with national and international brand recognition, lots of fans, and technical resources will benefit and the changes will hardly affect them. But small nonprofits are going have a harder time with the new Pages, at the very least initially, because:

1) Status Updates showing up in the News Feed to all fans is no longer guaranteed.

90% of the power of a Facebook Fan Page is being able to post Status Updates that can be viewed by fans in their News Feed. People don’t seem to read “Updates” much and don’t generally of their own free will visit and participate in your Page, so the vast majority of participation happens in the News Feed via regularly posted Status Updates.

When the new Pages launch, if your nonprofit’s Status Updates will show up in the News Feed will depend upon one of those mysterious Facebook algorithms. The Status Update algorithm will be based mostly on how many “Thumbs Up” or “Comments” your Page gets. Purchasing advertising from Facebook will also increase your odds of showing up in the News Feed more often. But if you don’t purchase advertising, or regularly receive Thumbs Up or Comments, then your Page and your Facebook strategy could easily stagnate. Engagement is now a lot more important. Having a good community builder as your Facebook Admin will be essential.

There is one possible silver lining here, and explains now why Facebook launched the “Live Feed”. Hopefully when the new Pages go live all Facebook Page Status Updates will continue show up in the Live Feed. At this point there is no way to know for sure, but Justin Smith of Inside Facebook says: “Even in the new Live Feed, Facebook chooses a subset of friends and connections if you have more than 250 overall, though you can increase that default number – to see all Pages updates, users will need to click on the “Pages” filter in the left hand menu.”

Thus, there is a good possibility that all Status Updates will continue show up in the Live Feed, but it might require your fans with more than 250 friends or connections to changes their Live Feed Settings and opt-in to receive your Status Updates in their Pages filter. It would stun me if Facebook completely shuts out small nonprofits and other less known brands from the News Feed and Live Feed. I know Facebook needs more revenue, but this would be detrimental to their long-term brand. They have to know that. The question now becomes will Status Updates in the Live Feed be as valuable in terms of ROI as the News Feed?

2) The Boxes Tab will disappear.

I don’t think many fans actually click on the “Boxes” Tab on Facebook Fan Pages. As I mentioned above, I think 90% of the power of a Facebook Fan Page is in the Status Update. That said, under the new design Boxes and the Boxes Tab will be removed and any current content offered in them will disappear immediately upon the new Pages launch. It’s unclear what will be in the left column of your Facebook Page when the new Pages launch (or if there will even be a left column), but from what I am reading, the new Facebook Fan Pages will be built entirely around Tabs. For nonprofits that means your Facebook tech skills are going to have to get much more advanced. You are either going to have to learn html to be able to utilize the Static FBML App to create your own customized Tabs, hire someone to do it, or you’re going to have to utilize services like Involver and Sprout.

I haven’t heard an outcry from developers about these upcoming changes, so perhaps the Boxes Apps will live on? [UPDATE: Most Boxes Apps will become Tabs] Facebook has said that all the content of the Boxes App will disappear (html, graphics, RSS feeds, etc), but the question remains are the Boxes Apps gone for good, or are they just be shifted around? Again, we will just have to wait and see.

3. The Tabs width will shrink from 760 pixels wide to 520 pixels.

This means if you currently use the Static FBML App to create custom Tabs, such the The Humane Society of the United States and the Special Olympics of Northern California, then you are going to have to re-design your Tabs. If not, they might look broken or poorly designed.

4. The ability to extract the e-mail addresses of your Fans will become available… maybe.

If your nonprofit has created a Facebook Page App or plans to, then there is a new API which your App developer can tap into to prompt users of the App for their e-mail address. This will initially only affect a very few nonprofits, but down the road my guess is a company will use this new API to create a Facebook Fan Page App that will allow nonprofits to extract e-mail addresses of fans for free or for a low-monthly fee. Such an App does not yet exist, but  has been something nonprofits have wanted for almost two years… wonder who will do it first? My guess is Involver or Sprout.

What do you think? Will nonprofits adjust to these changes like they have to previous changes before, or are these changes so dramatic that nonprofits will abandon Facebook or at the very least, less likely to put so much effort into building their fan base? Or will it prompt them to become better at using Facebook? Do you think these changes could help small nonprofits in the long run?

Related Articles and Resources:
Webinar: How Nonprofit Organizations Can Successfully Use Facebook and YouTube
[New Changes will be covered beginning 12/15]
5 Things All Page and Brand Managers Should Know
Alert! Facebook Pages Are Changing: Are You Ready?
Note to Agencies and Page Managers: Tab Widths Are Changing After All

48 Comments leave one →
  1. Michael permalink
    December 13, 2009 7:07 am

    I don’t think these changes will be harmful to our non-profit as we are small and technically savvy, but the changes that have taken place over at “causes” has significantly reduced our donation potential. The Causes app has become so convoluted that it makes it hard for any corporation to succeed.

    • Sue Anne permalink
      December 14, 2009 11:10 am

      Michael,

      I agree with you about Facebook Causes. The problem that I have with Facebook Fan Pages and with Facebook Causes is that every time I turn around, something seems to have changed. So, it’s hard to build any momentum because just when something seems to be working, Facebook or one of the apps goes and changes things.

  2. nonprofitorgs permalink
    December 13, 2009 10:07 am

    From @eadvocate: According to Facebook dev roadmap, most apps that had a box will have their own solo tabbed page – admin can add them. That could be good… still hope there is a way to display Static FBML on the home of the Facebook Page, not just in Tabs. Thanks Kendra!

    • December 13, 2009 7:57 pm

      The Facebook Developer Roadmap that Heather linked to above out has great resources. I highly recommend reading through it right now, as geek oriented as it is.

      For FBML: All of the “profile.FBML” and “profile.get.FBML” tags are deprecating because it will be moved to a tab method. I imagine a developer will take advantage of the opportunity to turn it to a tab.

      An interesting development is that you are not limited to your Facebook page to build pages for Facebook in the second quarter of 2010 when they launch the “Open Graph API.”

      Facebook will be “exporting and “importing” pages. A page on any website on the internet can be turned into a Facebook page with widgets. The website’s page will be in Facebook’s search just like a Facebook Page. When a user fans that website, all the websites updates and icons will be in the users stream on Facebook.

      Users can really customize their stream here so nonprofits can be strategic and take advantage:

      http://wiki.developers.facebook.com/index.php/Roadmap_Open_Graph_API

      I wish we had a Causes Open Graph API!

      • nonprofitorgs permalink
        December 14, 2009 7:05 am

        Hmmm… I know Google and Facebook are in all out war of who will dominate social search. Facebook can’t win without every brand being on FB…

      • December 14, 2009 12:55 pm

        You read my mind on social search!

        Perhaps the Open Graph API is the only way Facebook can beat Google in social search. Facebook can never compete with Google in local content. Many local businesses, churches and clubs have websites and no social media plans. The API widgets create a simple “social search” standard, like adding a url to Google’s directory. When the brand’s Facebook base grows, then the brand hops on Facebook. Outreach.

        Facebook can get into all nooks and crannies of the web specifically important to its users – without paying for bandwidth.

      • nonprofitorgs permalink
        December 14, 2009 1:03 pm

        You’re so smart Kendra.:)

  3. December 14, 2009 4:25 am

    I appreciate all the information you have given about the Facebook changes. This is a huge “heads up” for me.

    I am very sad to see how much Facebook continues to change and without seemingly to get better. Or at least I don’t understand their reasons for changing, maybe those making the decisions have a plan. In whatever case, it seems to be at odds with many who use it.

    I will be thinking about different ways to get people involved with our non-profit via social media without focusin much on Facebook. If the status reports do not show up in people’s feeds or you have to pay for them or if they only show up in live feeds, yada yada yada, it just becomes too complicated.

    I think Facebook is moving into being an entertainment platform and may not evolve into something that is super beneficial for non-profits unless they are large and are already well known. It is hard to build relationships with people when your non-profit is small and everything keeps changing.

  4. December 14, 2009 5:37 am

    I noticed that already apps cannot be added to the sidebar. Which in my opinion severely limits the usefulness of a fan page. Ask any users on facebook, I think most will agree that they never flip through tabs on a page. Michelle is right, these changes are really detrimental to smaller organizations because the strategy has to keep changing and the benefits of maintaining a page keep decreasing.

  5. December 14, 2009 6:51 am

    You’d think that Facebook would be trying to make the non-profit experience easier and more valuable, but from your initial review of the changes, it appears that they are continuing to make it a harder tool to use.

    As the manager of a non-profit program that sees the potential power of FB, I really want to use it effectively. Relationship building is what we need to do to succeed, but a tth esame time, I can’t devote all my time to figuring out all the little quirks and tricks FB makse you figure out all the time. Sounds like they are just adding to that burden. Frankly, if someone is a fan, why shouldn’t they get our status updates. They chose to create the relationship with us, FB shouldn’t be the mediator between us.

    Besides, if that is the formula, how would a new non-profit entry to FB every get to the point where they could be seen/heard?

    -Brian, Program Manager STRONG Fathers

  6. December 14, 2009 8:24 am

    It will be interesting to see if all the changes you’ve alerted us to unfold. @Brian and @Michelle make good points – connecting on Facebook should be getting easier not harder. While we are not a nonprofit org – we do have many years on NP experience – which is why we advocate a distributed presence on social media. Twitter, Facebook at the two biggest portals for reaching fans and potential supporters. Using them in combination is an important, or shall we say – essential strategy.

  7. December 14, 2009 9:21 am

    This doesn’t surprise me much. Facebook continues to trod along without considering what its users want. I had an outpost group until I discovered fan pages feed the updates to its fans. This was much more powerful as they were trying to be more “Twitteresque”. Now they are taking that away. Disappointing. Maybe I’ll join a “Hate the New Fan Pages” group and they’ll change it back again…

  8. Matt S permalink
    December 14, 2009 10:21 am

    Point 4 is interesting. The Causes app now asks for its users for their email address – perhaps they were given early access to the API?

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      December 14, 2009 10:25 am

      I think they have been doing that for awhile. I opted-in to Causes and was just bombarded with emails by them… Causes… not the nonprofit. As far as I know there is still no way for nonprofits to get the email addresses of Causes users… or donors. I suspect that has something to do with Causes’ revenue model.

  9. December 14, 2009 10:26 am

    Thanks for posting about these changes, Heather. I believe the changes to the News Feed/Live Feed were implemented in October — it happened just two weeks after we launched our FB page, and suddenly, our updates were not showing up in our fans’ News Feed anymore. Fans I talk to are still confused about the difference between the “News Feed” (which is the default setting) and the “Live Feed” options.

    Which really gets to Brian Clark’s point that if you’re a small nonprofit, or new to FB, you’re in a Catch-22. You need lots of fans interacting with you in order to get your updates into their News Feed … but you can only get those fans to interact with you if you get your updates into their News Feed.

    I *really* hope Facebook does not win its war with Google. Google has its issues, some significant, but for the most part it seems to do a good job of keeping things simple and meeting their users’ needs.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      December 14, 2009 10:31 am

      According to what I am reading… the new algorithm won’t be in place until the new Pages go live. If the algorithm is already in place, then small nonprofits are definitely *screwed* because I see none their updates in the News Feed. We will just have to wait until the new Page design goes live. Go Google and Twitter!:)

      • December 14, 2009 8:05 pm

        The pages may be “targeting” their messages… and you may have gotten excluded. Or at least thats my hope! I am not seeing messages from the Sierra Club in my live feed too (making it feel like a not so live feed anymore!) … so who knows whats going on.

        But the gist is, don’t implement custom tabs / things… use applications / companies out there that are doing the hardwork for you, and will change as the underlying FB / Twitter platforms evolve!

    • December 14, 2009 2:19 pm

      My concern is that advertising dollars are bending the algorithm. Streams are now advertisements themselves in a way. Advertisements are fine, but financially altered information is the wrong direction for social media. If this is not highly transparent and disclosed to all users, I have a moral problem.

      I agree Heather: Go Google! Go Twitter! I love the democracy of Twitter

      Do you have a link to information on how pages advertising with Facebook will be more visible in the News Feed?

  10. December 14, 2009 10:34 am

    I’d be curious to know how many NPs have a presence on Ning? I was happy focusing on both FB and Twitter, but with FB messing with us constantly I am looking for an alternative.

    • December 15, 2009 8:41 am

      We’re on Ning, which is perfectly suited for our purposes, and after reading this post and comments, think we’ll put less energy toward Facebook and more toward Twitter. There is such a steep learning curve associated with Facebook and it costs a lot in the way of resources to keep up with the changes…

  11. Margaret permalink
    December 14, 2009 10:48 am

    There is a new site coming out soon – Cause Share (www.causeshare.com or CauseShare on Twitter) that may be able to add to your donation potential, Michael. As Causes on Facebook has changed quite a bit. Check it out!

  12. December 15, 2009 8:28 am

    Yuck. Just when I thought I had it all figured out…

  13. December 15, 2009 9:17 am

    Here is a post that came my way via Bono Street Team on how to move your custom boxes page to a custom FBML tab. It looks like a fully coded and designed page. Hiring Heather who writes this blog is a very good solution if you do not have a designer.:)

    It has screenshots:

    http://www.kimwoodbridge.com/upcoming-facebook-changes-to-boxes-and-the-box-tab-that-will-impact-your-custom-fan-pages/

  14. December 15, 2009 9:50 am

    Although these changes are clearly concerning, there are a few ‘silver linings’ as I see it. Building your fan base NOW will allow you to gain leverage & momentum that others who come in later will not be able to ( not easily anyway!)
    Creating the ‘habit’ by these fans NOW to visit your page daily (however you do that, there are many ways!) will also help in that regard.
    To piggyback on twitfools, FB and twitter are far more powerful than many people realize, and having a plan that uses twitter to pull fans in is huge!
    The majority of my fans, and those of my clients come through twitter and through ‘mentions’ and ‘shares’ which will not be hindered by the above mentioned changes.

    The sky is not falling! In fact, in may be a great thing. I talked with someone today who predicted that people would be ignoring all fan pages soon as more and more people abuse the ‘suggest to friends’, and people become overwhelmed by them all. If the feed isn’t flooded w/constant ‘business-ey posts, that is less likely to occur.

    Focus on the tribe – focus on those who deeply believe in your cause, and talk to them, serve them and give them what they crave on that fan page, and they will come (and ‘like’ and comment!)

    just my humble opinion:)

  15. December 19, 2009 9:02 pm

    Thanks for the news hopefully this wont have too much of a negative impact on facebook for non profits!

  16. December 20, 2009 1:17 pm

    I agree man, its all in the teapot:)

  17. Jennifer permalink
    December 23, 2009 2:37 pm

    I’m so glad I came across this post! I work for a smaller non-profit and one of the things we have slated for 2010 is to increase our social media presence including a facebook page and twitter account. I think we’ll really have to be careful and strategic about what we put our energy into since we have a limited staff – thus limited ability to spend tons of hours figuring this stuff out.

    @benjaminchambers made a good point about this being a catch-22. I’d be very interested to know what other smaller non-profits have been doing and whether or not their efforts have been successful. Good luck to us all!

  18. January 16, 2010 1:07 pm

    Reading this I’m not actually convinced that status updates are shown on all fan news feeds now anyway. I’ve had conflicting reports from fans some saying they never receive my updates and some saying they do. There appears to be a growing number of facebook fan page administrators seeing this, and it’s got nothing to do with a fan page being hidden or not. Anyway, I do like the idea of email adresses potentially becoming available so crossed fingers on that one. My fan page also uses FBML but fortunately with small titles😛

  19. February 18, 2010 8:29 am

    What we’re seeing so far has been terrible for our small non-profit and our fans. I don’t know how Facebook could have buried Page information more, which I truly don’t understand. Unless a fan is sitting on FB 24-7 to catch our posts real-time or monitor their FB mobile, our post updates–which include our blog posts, which have been very popular among our fans–are getting buried in their newsfeed. On my own personal account (as a fan of my page) I had to search for 10 pages of newsfeed items to find my organization’s post from 4 hours earlier…and I was searching for it!! How many of our fans will go to that much trouble. “Gee, I wonder if Organization X said anything today…let me spend 5 minutes searching for it in my newsfeed.”

    Even Updates are buried. If you don’t have a message which prompts you to open your message box you’d never know you also have updates (which are INSIDE the message box). As a FB user I WANT to know when the groups I’ve joined have something to say without searching it out.

    Am I missing something? Can someone tell me how this is better for organizations who’ve already made a commitment to use Facebook as part of their communication outreach?

Trackbacks

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