Page owners saw a number of improvements in the design and features available for their marketing and community-building efforts this year. The social network eliminated a few features, but these moves seemed to be in favor of promoting engagement and avoiding spam.
Facebook redesigned pages in February to include a photo strip above the Wall. Many pages have used this as an opportunity to show off their creativity and increase branding. In October, pages became even more visual when the social network made photos up to four times larger within posts. This led some pages to start posting images including large text. Since Facebook had also begun displaying the number of times a post was shared, some pages saw a viral effect from this strategy.
This year Facebook introduced several features that help page owners manage their communities. A long awaited notification system was put in place in February. Since then, notifications have become even easier to access from multiple areas of the site, including the homepage. The social network began automatically hiding posts and comments it suspected to be spam or those that include words that page owners add to a blacklist. This reduces the effort admins must take to maintain quality on their pages.
The social network also added a “Use Facebook as a Page” feature that allows admins to initiate conversation and respond to posts on other pages. So far, this seems to be used more by individuals and small businesses than major brands. People can also post as their pages through Facebook’s comment plugin that many sites have implemented this year.
A few user-facing changes created new ways for people to interact with pages. The Questions feature, launched in March, gave page owners a way to ask structured questions that gained viral reach through the News Feed.
A recommendations box on pages that [includeS] an address allow users to share their opinions about a location or a business. Writing a recommendation generates a story in the News Feed, and friends’ recommendations stay pinned to the top of pages as a way to influence other users.
One change page owners have mixed feelings about is that people no longer have to Like a page in order to comment on it or mention it in a post. Many page owners would prefer to build their audience by requiring users to become a fan in order to interact there. From a user perspective, this is a welcome change because people do not always want to subscribe to a page’s updates or indicate to their friends that they “like” something simply because they have a comment or question. And as page owners begin to focus more on the “Talking About This” metric than Likes, this can be seen as a positive move.
In October, Facebook overhauled its Insights product for pages, adding new social metrics about the number of users reached through organic, paid and viral means, as well as data about how many users clicked on posts or shared it with friends in some way. The additional information and graphs are a step in the right direction, but many page owners will need further guidance to understand how to take actions to improve and measure success.
The social network flirted with real-time insights in January, but the feature was inconsistent and eventually scrapped. Reach and People Talking About This for individual posts are available to admins after about a day.
In April, Facebook removed the option for fans to send page suggestions to their friends. Users could previously send direct invitations for others to Like a page. To reduce what some users would consider spam, the company took the feature away from fans, but left it for admins. Fans can still use the Share button to post a link to the page or write a recommendation that their friends can see.
With the new Messages, page updates — direct messages sent to all fans — were often relegated to the Other folder few users knew of or bothered to check. Even before this change, page updates had low open rates so Facebook eventually scrapped the feature in September. Some page owners saw this as the social network working against them.
The Discussions tab application was removed at the end of October. For a few pages, these were active areas for fans, but because Discussions lacked notifications, they were difficult to moderate and generally went unused. Facebook eliminated them to encourage more activity on the Wall. The Wall, however, is not organized by topic as Discussions could be and posts are more easily lost in the stream. This will be an issue for the company to address next year, possibly with a redesign to make pages more similar to Timeline.
Facebook also eliminated the option for automatic feed syndication through the Notes app. Some pages shared news or blog posts by syncing an RSS feed with Notes. To encourage page owners to customize posts for their fans, the company got rid of this functionality.