3/29/11 9:00am EST -- New FB restrictions severely impact fanpage administrators.
FB continues relentlessly to push business/fanpage administrators to improve the quality of their pages. FB also has continued to add new restrictions on page administrator’s ability to promote their business/fanpages by severely limiting their ability to communicate directly with their fans.
To this end we have seen:
1. The new functions that are now available with the *new* page layout. Automatic notifications, 'use FB as page' are the most notable of these significant improvements. And iFrames clearly offer advanced coding capabilities especially for higher lever, interactive content. However, it is still too early to see widespread positive results utilizing these new capabilities.
2. At the same time, neither the ‘suggest to friends’ function nor 'updates' are working. In addition, changes in the way the News Feed is *managed*, have significantly reduced the power of "posts by page".
When post impressions were first introduced last fall, our ratio of impressions to fans averaged 100-150% depending on the *quality* and *timeliness* of the post. Now our ratio of impressions to fans is averaging near 50% of fans. In other words, the same posts have one third of the *impact* today, they had three months ago. We have received multiple reports from all across the FB platform of similar numbers.
We do not anticipate the full restoration of these functions by FB.
So we all find ourselves in the same position. While, on the one hand, we have more to offer our visitors and fans; on the other hand, we are even more severely restricted in our ability to communicate directly with fans.
A classic case of two steps forward and one step backward, or maybe one step forward and two steps backward.
The dominant challenge for most all business/fanpage administrators today is clearly "how to promote your FB page with the tools remaining in the FB toolbox and on your desktop."
Some ground rules for the future:
1. Our definition of "success' is a process that starts with a clearly stated and fundamental business problem and that leads to a 'business solution" using some key parts of the FB platform.
2. FB will continue to emphasize quality over quantity. We believe that the fundamental reason that suggestions, invites and updates have all been either restricted or eliminated is to reduce what FB considers as 'spam'. One FB engineer was recently quoted in a recent interview that "FB had taken steps to eliminate *95%* of spam. While we may think that this is classic case of 'the baby getting thrown out with the bathwater', we also know that most days, it does not matter what we think.
3. FB ads are the not the magic solution. The average cost per new fan, we believe, is too high and the ability for most pages to effectively target, time and control the ads is weak to non-existent, especially when compared to other marketing alternatives.
4. FB will continue to introduce more new functions and opportunities at a rate that is indigestible for most business/fanpage administrators. These too will be subject to rule #1 above. They will not in any way replace 'posts by page', 'updates' or 'suggestions/invites' as a means of communicating directly with visitors and fans. The most recent of these are FB Deals and FB Questions which were introduced last week.
5. The importance of integrating external marketing methods with the FB page will become even more self-apparent. There are two reasons for this. First, there are some important marketing and sales functions that business pages require that FB will never provide. Second, the paradigm shift may well be to move people to the page by externally marketing the page as opposed to the old concept of letting FB drive traffic to the page and then moving people from the page to your website.
6. As always, page administrators will continue to deal with what we call the "FB quirks" such as temporary platform instability which appears on 'launch' day, poor documentation of upgrades, unannounced platform changes and non-existent inside-FB customer service. Not the least of these are the inherent conflicts between FB corporate goals and those of the individual businesses represented by business/fanpages.
7. Understanding the unique dynamics of the FB culture, which is radically different from that for external websites, will become even more important to business/fanpage administrators.
8. The overall stakes of the game have been raised considerably. The costs of building, maintaining and promoting a successful business/fanpage will increase. The old days of 'build it and they will come' using the basic (free) FB toolbox, may well be over. Pages that prosper in the future will be pages that:
1. Invest regularly in content that is on the cutting edge: compelling, focused and fresh.
2. Find creative and affordable ways to get their visitors and fans to interact with the business/fanpage in more ways than just a click on the 'like' button or 'suggest to friends'.
3. At the same time, the specific business purposes of the page must also be achieved.
4. Develop new benchmarks for measuring page performance, including realistic expectations based on a sound market analysis of potential.
5. Aggressive test, measure and fine tune content on an ongoing basis. The biggest mistakes we consistently see are 'poorly managed' pages.
For those pages that move to the next level, this is good news as there should be less clutter and less noise to overcome. For those that don't, their pages will quickly become obsolete, simply ineffective or 'more trouble than they are worth'.
At the Custom Fanpage Help Center, we believe that the investment and effort in FB business/fanpages can pay off exponentially. To that end, we have and will continue to develop and implement strategies for successful business/fanpages.
We have had the opportunity to visit thousands of pages and meet with hundreds of administrators to resolve issues and problems at multiple levels. We see what has worked and we see what doesn't work in ways that single page administrators will never have the opportunity to see. We also see the "FB rules" changing as they change. Clearly what worked months ago may become obsolete overnight? On the other hand, some principles and techniques that have always worked will continue work well into the future.
That said, there is no 'secret sauce'. Nor will there be.
The reason is simple. Each business that has a FB business/fanpage is truly unique, with its own market dynamics, its own culture, its own "rules of the road" and its own financial requirements and restrictions.
However, there are common characteristics of "successful" pages and there are common characteristics of "underperforming" pages and those commonalities are the fundamental ingredients in the "recipe for success". The 'recipe' only becomes "secret sauce" when the unique characteristics and requirements of the underlying business the business/fanpage represents are added.
Nobody, including us, makes "secret sauce" in their first attempt. Anybody who makes that claim, we would suggest putting that in the "too good to be true" category and walking away. "Secret sauce" requires ongoing testing, patience, commitment and, yes, a small amount of *luck*. Most importantly, it requires understanding how your business works and how FB works.
Read more at www.facebook.com
We do believe our experience in business and on the FB platform positions us well ahead in the learning curve.