Facebook Confirms Removal of Suggest to Friends Feature from Pages, Reducing Virality

Facebook removed the Suggest to Friends link from Pages last week when a bug caused the feature to load incorrectly. However, an article in the Help Center confirms that the option will not be returned to users, and that they should now use the Share button to ask Friends to Like a Page. The closing of this viral channel should reduce Page suggestion spam, but may also stunt the growth of Pages unless they pay for more ads.

Suggest to Friends was originally implemented in March 2009 to help admins grow their Pages, which had launched the month before. Admins would often use the About box located beneath the link to encourage users to invite friends. Users were limited to sending approximately 20 invites at a time.

Admins will still be able access the Suggest to Friends feature on their own Pages, though it is stil broken at this time. Users can’t access the feature, but can instead use the Share button, located at the very bottom left Pages. The Share button allows users to make a post of the Page to their profile, “which may appear in their friends’ News Feeds”. Users can also opt to Share directly to specific friends via Message, and can send up to 20 of these at a time.

The change will hurt Page growth because the Share button is significantly less prominent and easy to use than Suggest to Friends. The Share button is buried where few users will notice it, whereas Suggest to Friends was above the fold and just below the eye-grabbing profile picture. Shares to the feed may reach more users, especially if coming from someone with many friends, but the conversion rate is likely lower since the posts are mixed in with other compelling content.

If users happen to click the tiny “Send as a Message instead” link, they’ll have to remember and type in names rather than use the Suggest to Friends’ multi-friend selector. Messages do generate red notification counters on the top navigation bar that attract attention, but neither posts nor messages explicitly instruct recipients to Like the Page, further reducing the likelihood of conversion.

Page admins with “Click ‘Suggest to Friends'” or similar calls to action in their About sections should change them to read “Click ‘Share’ at the bottom”. As when Facebook shut down viral channels for applications, this change will force Facebook Pages to increase their reliance on paid marketing, like the new Sponsored Stories ad unit.

[Thanks to Alex for the tip]