This blog was originally written for Australian Businesswomen’s Network herbusiness blog on the 29th March, 2012 – by Bianca Board
Things change. Contracts come to an end, great TV shows get cancelled, your kids go to university. Hey, that’s life! But for a small business, placing your bets on a single resource means that any drop of change can be a tidal wave.
Facebook recently rolled out massive changes to business pages, and this small business tsunami you might have heard of – Timeline. I’m not usually one to whinge about Facebook changes, but this particular round of forced “upgrades” is particularly unwelcome. While a few of the features are clever and sleek, there are many more that are going to pose major setbacks for small business social media strategy.
The most talked about part of Facebook Timeline for business pages is the Cover Image: a big, splashy banner that goes across the top of the page. Sure, this is a pretty cool way of showing off a brand, but it presents some major problems for business. Facebook has set some really tight guidelines on what’s allowed in this “digital billboard”.
If you’re like most business owners, the very first thing you would normally do when introducing your business to prospects is tell them about your offerings and share your contact details. With the old Facebook design, this was easily done in your Skyscraper image and Welcome tab. Logical, effective…. Timeline’s Cover Image might be cool to look at, but those “first meeting” details are strictly forbidden from the design: no contact info, no calls to action, no promotions or sales. Further, the Profile Picture is now a tiny 180 x 180. That means there’s space for your logo and nothing more. Sorry about your sales pitch, guys.
The worst part? Like it or not, you’re going to have to convert your Page to this new layout anyway, and you’ve only got until March 30 to get ready. Many small businesses paid good money to have custom designs done for their Facebook Pages. Now with Timeline, the Skyscraper needs to be scrapped and there are other holes in the design that need to be filled before the new layout goes live. We’ve had to rework our offerings and, unfortunately for both us and our clients, the changes are enough that we’re forced to charge a fee to recreate these designs for the new layout. From one small business to the next, it sucks.
Another Feature Fail of the new Facebook is the demise of Default Landing Tabs. Sending new visitors to an enticing, strategic branded image was a powerful way of earning new “likes”. Hundreds of thousands of small businesses worldwide shelled out for custom designs to make their businesses “likeable” – driving traffic and building a fanbase however possible. Timeline drives a near-fatal blow to this high-conversion feature, sadly. The custom designs set up to run through third party apps still work, however they’re a secondary feature that now users must go searching for. If you had multiple third party apps on your Page, your next problem is going to be choosing among them, since you can only have 3 immediately visible in the top row of your Page (excluding Photos) . Easter egg hunt, anyone?
Perhaps it’s Facebook’s way of telling the world that they’re just as sick of the words “fan engagement” as the rest of the digital world is, but they’ve always taken a major swing at how fans interact with businesses. Everyone was initially super excited about being able to send private messages with individuals as your business (think of how much easier it would be to resolve complaints or share pricing information!), but no one ever dreamt that Facebook would be gagging users on brand Pages. In the new Timeline layout, fan comments are no longer a part of the “wall” (I say this in quotations because the Wall as you know it is also now defunct). Anything that an individual user posts to your business Page is now condensed down into a single box blandly labeled “Recent Posts by Others”. Who are these “others”? Facebook business pages used to be about the fans!
It’s a slap in the face as an individual user that my comments are no longer worthy of visibility on a business’s page, and as a business owner I’m tearing my hair out wondering how I’m going to convince fans to spend time on our Page in spite of this gag order.
Timeline coming to business Pages isn’t any real surprise. In fact, there are actually quite a few features like pinned posts that I really like. But being forced into rethinking the cornerstone of small business social strategy with such short notice just plain sucks.
Have you already changed your Page to Timeline? What do you love and hate about it?