Update: Facebook added the ability to “unmerge” your page with places.
Note from Beth: It has been less than a month since we launched the Zoetica Salon on my Facebook Page, a free peer learning space where we are discussing a monthly theme (this month is measurement) related to nonprofits and social media, sharing resources, as well as answering questions and sparking conversation. The Salon has been a terrific listening post and generated some good ideas for how-to posts like this one from Kami Huyse about how to use google analytics to track social media campaigns
Last week, we heard from Ivan Boothe about a concern with merging Facebook pages with Facebook Places. He agreed to write a guest post.
Guest Post: Don’t Merge Your Nonprofit Facebook Page With Places Page by Ivan Boothe
If you’re a nonprofit with a mailing address, you may have already received the card in the mail from Facebook: An invitation to claim your organization’s Facebook Places page. Don’t do it: You will lose more than you will gain.
Facebook Places allows people to “check in” when they’re at your organization, publicizing you to their friends. Places also allows companies to offer “deals” to people who check in (like 10% off), although how that applies to a nonprofit is less clear. If you already had a Facebook Page, when you go to claim your Facebook Place, Facebook Profiles
And that’s where the trouble starts: On your new merged Facebook Place-Page, as the screenshot indicates, you will no longer be able to
specify a default landing tab.
What we’re losing:
Default landing tabs are a powerful way to convert visitors to fans. Instead of new visitors simply being dumped on your Wall, nonprofits (and other companies) could create custom tabs, welcoming new visitors, introducing them to the organization, and encouraging them to “Like” the nonprofit.
Earlier this year, Facebook announced they were dropping support for new custom tabs that used custom-page-creating applications
Indeed, a custom landing tab was recommended as a Facebook best practice for nonprofits.
Now, however, it appears all visitors to a nonprofit’s Facebook Page will be directed to the Wall. What’s more, with tabs being de-emphasized by their move to smaller links under your profile, it’s less obvious how new visitors can find out more about your organization.
Will default landing tabs disappear from all pages?
Since at the moment this only appears to affect Places pages, and any existing Pages merged with a Place, it’s unclear whether this is simply a roll-out bug or something more long-term. Thursday afternoon, Facebook rolled out the ability for Page administrators to “toggle” between posting as their personal profile and as a Page identity. Then it turned out the roll-out was accidental , and Facebook rolled it back.
But given that Facebook first removed the default landing tab a few months ago , reinstating it after an uproar but only temporarily my guess is that this is the direction of things on Facebook. To date, Facebook officials have declined to specifically address this issue, directing those who inquire to their generic online help center.
The missing default tab functionality has been reported for company merged Place-Pages as well, so it’s not nonprofit-specific. It seems a default landing tab has never been available on things categorized as Community Pages initially auto-generated from interests listed on profiles.
So at the moment, it appears that default landing tabs are not available on Places pages or any traditional Pages “merged” with Places. My prediction is that it won’t stick around for the rest of the Pages on Facebook.
What’s in it for Facebook?
It’s not clear to me what the advantage of this is to Facebook, other than a general “standardness of experience” for users. Facebook has been vocal about how its first priority is the average user’s experience (for the benefit of advertisers) rather than how organizations are using it.
Yet without any way to (substantially) customize the Wall, this seems like a net loss for both organizations and regular users. New visitors will no longer have an easy way to be introduced to an organization, and organizations will have to carefully cultivate their Wall to at any moment appeal to both current fans and new visitors.
I’d also be surprised if some of the companies that have discovered this aren’t voicing their displeasure to Facebook.
On Thursday, there were reports that all/ nonprofit pages were now defaulting to the “Info” tab regardless of what default tab was set. It’s unclear if this was widespread, was simply a bug, or was part of the accidental roll-out of other features.
Solutions and workarounds
The solution for now seems to be to avoid merging Pages and Places. In the long-term, making sure your Page’s logo quickly communicates your mission is probably a useful move.
What are your thoughts on these changes to Facebook? What are you experiencing on your Facebook pages and does it vary for you across traditional Pages, Places, and merged Place-Pages?
Ivan Boothe, Rootwork.org, is a Drupal developer and consultant to nonprofits around online organizing and social media. A co-founder of the Genocide Intervention Network, he now works primarily with the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Casino-Free Philadelphia. He co-organizes the Philadelphia NetSquared meetup, and is a board member of the Peace and Justice Studies Association.