UPDATE: Major Changes Coming Soon to Facebook Pages
[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