So Facebook roll out their new timeline feature to business pages, to a bit of a mixed reaction. It’s a bit of a curious move, as in a stroke they have removed one of the features of the old pages that businesses exploited to the full to gain as many ‘likes’ as they could.
Nope, it’s not a reference to any Facebook scandal, but rather a means by which companies, ahem, encouraged visitors to their business page to ‘like’ it. So how did it work?
- Facebook business pages allow you to create multiple tab, each with different types of content (wall, photos, events, etc.).
- Using a Facebook-specific markup language, it’s possible to have a tab that looks like a web page.
- It is also possible to choose which tab is shown first to visitors who are not fans.
- On a tab you can display different content to fans and non-fans.
You can see a tab like this in action by looking at the page for our weekly Google+ Hangout – Coffee and Tech
We haven’t tailored the content for fans/non-fans, but if you imagine a teaser message being displayed to non-fans, offering some compelling content if they click on the ‘like’ button then you’ll get the picture.
Using a fan-gate like this, companies have boosted their number of fans considerably, thus getting their content onto their fan’s timelines, spreading the word to their friends.
The brave new world
The new Timeline for Pages changes this model in one crucial way. You can still have different types of tabs, and presumably still display different content to fans and non-fans on appropriate tabs, but visitors will always see the new timeline first. So there will be no opportunity to encourage people to become fans before they progress further into the Facebook micro-site.
If it ain’t broke…
I’ve been pretty sanguine about previous Facebook changes, sometimes they have been a nice improvemnt, sometimes they smack of change for change’s sake. But this one really confuses me. Many, many businesses use Facebook fan-gates effectively to gain fans and spread the word about their business virally. Some may object to the method, but for most the opportunity to gain a free gift in return for liking a page has been a transaction they’ve been happy to undertake.
I fully expect the number of likes gained by business pages to go down. You can argue that this is more representative, that the likes are more ‘real’, probably with some justification. But I’m sure most pragmatic page owners would rather more likes that not. There just doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason to use the new timeline, and so its introduction will be resented. Hardly the reaction Facebook would ‘like’!