In case you've missed it, Facebook is in the process of unveiling a major update to its Pages platform, striking what should be a happy chord for businesses and brands that use the world's largest membership-based social networking site to engage with consumers online. Feature changes and enhancements go into effect for all Pages on March 10 and include:
Simplified Page Navigation: Just like Facebook's personal profile pages, Page navigation links (what used be viewed as tabs at the top of a business or brand's page) are now located on the left. This may seem like a minor enhancement, but from a usability standpoint it's huge. One site with one navigation scheme should always be the case, whether you're Facebook or a small not-for-profit with a five-page website. Perhaps a bit jarring at first -- because you don't know where your customized tabs went -- Page navigation can now be found under your Page's profile image.
Use Facebook as Your Page: By far, this is the biggest and most welcome feature enhancement for Page admins. But it also has the potential to be one of the most worrisome. First the good: When you click "Use Facebook as insert-business/brand-name-here" (available via a link at the top right of any Page you administer), you're able to 'like' other business or brand pages, proactively cross-promote with marketing partners and brands, and leave comments on other pages your business or brand likes. Now the bad: Businesses and brands -- after they 'like' your Page -- can leave unwelcome or inappropriate comments on your Page. Now you have to keep a sharp eye out for messages from competitors, partners and others who feel it's OK to communicate with or about you in plain sight of your customers.
Enhanced email Notification for Page Admins: Given the fact that businesses and brands, not just people, can now post on Page walls, you need to know when fans and other Pages are interacting with your Page. With Facebook's new interaction notification feature, you receive instant notifications via email, which allow you to moderate your Page's activity in real-time. Click the new "Edit Page" button (at the top right of your Page) to set defaults for email notifications.
iframes for Page Tab Apps: If you use a custom Page Tab or are planning on building one, you should now do so using iframes, a function that affords a separate HTML document to be inserted into an HTML-derived page. Facebook is phasing out Facebook Markup Language (FBML) in March. So if you have a Facebook Tab App built using FBML, you need to talk to your developer immediately about what this change may mean for your application or customized default Facebook Tab.
Photo Placement: Business Page photos now appear at the top of the Page, just like they do on personal profile pages. And since most businesses' Facebook photos are a random collection of unconnected images, now would be a good time for you to post a series of new images that you actually want your customers and fans to see when they first land on your page.
In my opinion, Facebook's new Page layout and feature enhancements for businesses and brands are a step in the right direction -- although it's not perfect. Take for instance the "Everyone" filter on the Wall that provides Page admins with a new way of letting people see what Facebook says are the most interesting posts first. Problem with that is, you might not want everyone to see what Facebook's algorithm deems to be the most interesting first. Maybe you want content to appear in reverse chronological order.
Like I said, it's not perfect, but given time, I think you'll discover these enhancements and features to be highly beneficial in the pursuit of connecting and engaging with your customers online.
Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. For more information, visit MikalBelicove.com.