Last week Facebook announced major changes to the structure and functionality of their Business Pages. Current information seems to indicate these will have a major impact on the way companies and customers interact on the network – but is this really the case?

Rather than review all areas of change, we’ve detailed the key changes that will to impact your ability to reach and engage with your customers and generate value from the Facebook network.

We’ve also made some initial recommendations for ways your business can accommodate and potentially capitalise on the changes, due to be rolled out to all Business Pages over the coming months.

New v Old Facebook 2

All about timeline & tabs

The two most significant differences to a customer landing on your Business Page is the new single column layout for the Newsfeed and the disappearance of the image based Tabs navigation bar – so favoured by community managers to promote their own content.

Timeline tweaks

The change from two columns to one for page timelines actually makes the new Business Pages look a lot like personal profiles and replicates the current user experience on mobile (and mobile is now clearly leading the way the site looks for future desktop development).

New Facebook Page One Column

Along with the Cover Image, the page Timeline will remain the key area Business Page managers have control over for communicating more promotional messages.  With only one column available for updates managers will need to be ever more mindful of who’s on their page, what they are interested in and when they are viewing – so that they can maximise the effectiveness of the content they’re producing.

We’ve assumed that the ability to pin a key update to the top of your timeline remains – and this is still a useful tool – but it needs to be used carefully as a single static highlighted post could quickly look like a page that’s not being updated if it sits in that top slot too long.  The new layout also probably means the end of the Highlighted post function.

Tabs trashed – Apps are back!

The other big change for business pages is the removal of the Tabs navigation in favour of a single “More” button – and a “below the fold” Apps panel in the new left hand info column. This will have implications for the visibility of custom apps used for integrating other channels (like Twitter or Instagram) and publicising competitions too.

New Facebook Page No Tabs

Whilst this change won’t impact campaigns designed to bring an audience into your Facebook page much, it is going to impact interactions with Apps designed for ongoing engagement. Generating activity through these Apps will need more investment in timeline posts and media spend as users will have to scroll down the page or click the More button to find your Apps whilst browsing.

It’s possible that companies will start experimenting with a more commercial use of the cover image that sits at the top of every Business Page in an attempt to highlight custom app content and promote offers. But without being able to link from this image directly to an app it’s not going to be easy to drive meaningful actions.

How to counteract these changes?

We don’t see any magic bullet for the removal of the Tabs navigation – but more than ever having an active, customer orientated approach to page content and management, blended with considered ad spend is going to deliver best results.

Some recommendations for when your page changes.

  1. Use the simple Facebook page insights (available to all page admins) to understand when your customers are online and what content they are most interested in – then optimise your posting schedule to give them more of what they want when they want it!
  2. Use the “Pin post to top” option for your timeline content more actively – making sure that you don’t leave a post highlighting a new tab or a competition up there blocking the top slot 24/7 as this would reduce the visibility of potentially more engaging content.
  3. Respond to any engagement from customers as quickly as possible (insight indicates a response to a comment within 30 minutes is best). This will engage your audience and maximise the potential of earned (rather than paid) reach of any message.
  4. Experiment with promoting Apps and Contests using your Cover Image using a call to action like “Click the More button below for more info”.  It seems likely there will be an option to order the list that you see when you click this button. You can put a piece of featured content at the top and see if it delivers some value, though 2 clicks to get to your app is bound to reduce impact.
  5. Post regular status updates with quality images and links to your competition and engagement Apps. Make sure these include a link in the first 85 characters and a strong simple call to action.
  6. Allocate an affordable sustainable budget to promote these posts ongoing, using the “promote your post” option available to Page admins. This will ensure your customers see your key messages about App content and give you the best opportunity to build a community that you can work to convert to customers.
dv mobile

The cost of engagement

According to Facebook all the changes are intended to “make it easier for people (your potential customers) to find the information they want” and whilst the changes are no doubt guided by general user experience on the social network – they also follow a trend to commercialise engagement with customers on Business Pages. This means that increasingly you need to advertise to develop conversations that you can convert.

Nobody should be surprised by this as its Facebook’s business model to gather a mass market audience, then charge businesses for engaging with it via their network. Once again this underlines the key with all social media activity for business.

Who’s customers anyway?

Whilst customers are talking to you on someone else’s network (be it Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google + etc) – you don’t have full control of that relationship. Strictly speaking, they aren’t YOUR customers – they are the host network’s.

The really important bit of  being a social media marketer is to create interactions and nurture conversations in the social channels your customers are active in. Doing this well, raises awareness and drives consideration of a company’s products and services and enhances their reputation.  But done better still, we should also be striving to migrate these potential customers off the host network, to the company’s email database – to their website – or to an e-commerce platform – and in the nicest way possible,  work to convert them to a sale.

Only then can they be considered your customers – and in that respect nothing has changed.

Investing in the future

So is Facebook still worth the investment? Whilst it still delivers un-matched reach and high quality contextual targeting for ads – yes for sure.

Is Facebook forever? Almost certainly not – but your website, email data base and reputation are – so focus on the benefits Facebook can bring to these channels.

To use Facebook marketing to drive traffic to your website, capture invaluable email data and enhance your reputation with our campaigns, click here!