Changes to Facebook – a brand perspective

Posted on: April 23rd, 2010
Facebook is loving change right now. Every time I log on they’ve gone and tweaked something.  These changes are due to the release of a new version of F8, their development platform.  The changes will affect how people and brands operate on the platform but some changes will have far reaching implications that will re-define the web, but more on that later.

Image by David Reece

For now, I’m writing this post from a brand perspective and first, let’s get straight that Brand/Business Pages are now called Official Pages.  Just to clarify:

  • Official Pages are maintained by an ‘authorised representative’ of a business, brand, celebrity, or organisation and shared content appears as news in individual News Feeds
  • Community Pages (see further below) are new and don’t generate stories in individual News Feeds, and they are not maintained by a single author, they are maintained by Facebook in association with Wikipedia

Official Pages – say goodbye to ‘fans’ and hello to ‘others / likers’
Official Pages will no longer amass fans, people will now just ‘like’ Pages. Facebook says this is a more lightweight way to connect on the platform (…and they are rolling out the ‘like’ concept across the broader internet).  Page wall options now show the brand name and ‘others’ instead of fans (I hate this).  You’ll notice also that Facebook is changing their language by focusing on ‘making connections’ across the platform. Connections are pitched as the main way you express yourself on Facebook. Personally, I’ll be sticking to calling people fans because saying “You have 3000 likers this week Mr Client” sounds naff.

I see both positives and negatives to this move.  Being a fan, I think, has more meaning than just liking something.  I personally prefer to identify as a fan – it implies a certain level of passion.  I’m a fan to only a few brands that I really love but I imagine I could like a bunch of brands with less commitment or interest – I suppose that’s the point from Facebook’s perspective.  This said, I won’t be liking more Pages because I don’t want my News Feed overflowing with brand info. On the flip side it might reduce brand obsession with the number of fans they have and allow Page owners /admins to focus more on interactions rather than the race for a larger fan base.

Promotions on Official Pages – not any more
In November last year Facebook released their promotion guidelines for brands using the platform. Prior to the guidelines Facebook was a veritable ‘free for all’ in which brands could run giveaways, competitions, contest and promotions however they chose.  Competitions are a win-win on Facebook because punters get free stuff and brands get spikes in their fan base, as well as interaction.

I read the new guidelines very closely, many times over, and afterwards reflected on the fact that lawyers and tech nerds should not write documents for the greater public.  Over at Ogilvy’s blog Kristin Parrish provides a great interpretation of the guidelines but in short, you can’t run promotions on Facebook in any shape or form; you need a third party application to do it for you.  Alternatively, you can hold a competition outside of Facebook and talk about it on Facebook but you cant use the platform in any way to administer the competition.  The recommended app is great, but it means you need money and preparation time, you can’t just run a quick and dirty giveaway at the drop of a hat – if you want that, head to Twitter.

However, some brands (heaps actually) are still running competitions without the app that don’t adhere to the new guidelines. As I commented on Julian’s blog recently, I can’t figure out if this is ignorance or cunning because brands risk their Pages being disabled without warning.  It does happen and good luck trying to get the Page back – if you’ve ever tried to contact Facebook you’d understand why.

Community Pages – what are they?
The idea is that Community Pages are created around topics, causes or experiences (i.e. cooking or cycling). They are said to be the best collection of shared knowledge on a topic (note: I had to use TechCrunch’s examples because when I looked for Community Pages in Facebook I couldn’t find any as Facebook hasn’t updated its search functionality to show them).

Community Pages apparently allow you to learn more (without you having to leave the platform… clever) and hear what others are saying about a topic.  A key distinction is that the content comes from Wikipedia and people can’t edit or add their own content.  Facebook says that “we update the information and profile picture based on the article for that topic in Wikipedia.”

So you can’t actually do or say anything on Community Pages.  There is no wall but if you happen to mention ‘cooking’ in your chit-chat on the platform, Facebook picks that up and adds it to the Page via a ‘Related Global Post’ feed. This feature enables you to “see what people are saying about the things that matter to you, and discover the friends and people who share these connections with you.”  Nice in theory but it doesn’t seem very community minded if you can’t interact.  I’m not sure I totally get it but I am sure this new addition is a ‘work in progress’ which will somehow be appealing to advertisers.

Overall, this move is designed to stem the flow of people setting up Official Pages around general topics which breaks Facebook’s Page Guidelines.  Check out Silk Charm’s recent post about Facebook shutting down these Pages.

That’s enough for now but I’ll highlight some of the other (maybe scary?) changes Facebook has just announced in a subsequent post.

Posted by Renee Creer

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