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ATTN Small Businesses: Major Changes Coming Soon to Facebook Fan Pages

December 15, 2009
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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 small businesses and in some cases, not in a good way. I think those businesses with national and international brand recognition, lots of fans, and technical resources will benefit and the changes will hardly affect them. But small businesses are going to 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 business’ 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 businesses 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 small businesses 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 Honda and Coca-Cola, then you are going to have to re-design your Tabs. If not, they might look broken or poorly designed. I have never actually found a small business that knows how to use the Static FBML App to create custom Tabs… the webinar How Small Businesses Can Successfully Use Facebook Pages and Twitter is essential.

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

If your small business 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 businesses, but down the road my guess is a company will use this new API to create a Facebook Fan Page App that will allow small businesses 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 small businesses have wanted for almost two years… wonder who will do it first? My guess is Involver or Sprout.

What do you think? Will small businesses will adjust to these changes like they have to previous changes before, or are these changes so dramatic that small businesses 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 businesses in the long run?

Related Articles and Resources:
Webinar: How Small Businesses Can Successfully Use Facebook and Twitter

5 Things All Page and Brand Managers Should Know
Alert! Facebook Pages Are Changing: Are You Ready?
Note to Agencies and Page Managers:

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. mrsscott permalink
    December 15, 2009 9:26 pm

    Wow! These are some good things to know. I am currently updating small business FB and Twitter pages for a living and this will affect my business too. I sure hope it makes small businesses get better at it. I don’t think anyone is leaving FB anytime soon.

  2. December 16, 2009 1:50 am

    Great post, very similar to the one we wrote on our blog. Thanks for mentioning @sprout as a resource to create custom Facebook Fan Page solutions. Feel free to reach out to us for any of your Fan Page questions.

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