Facebook’s Death Knell?

Ringing the Death Knell

Is that the faint tinkle of a death knell I’m hearing for Facebook among its once rabidly loyal small business owners?  Probably not! It’s more likely just the echo of the reverberating collective screams heard on Twitter and Facebook and around the blogosphere since yesterday afternoon when word started to trickle out that Facebook had announced via its Developers Forum that Facebook Pages (formerly Fan Pages) could no longer have landing tabs unless they had at least 10,000 fans (in the new lingo fans are “likers”) or unless they advertised on Facebook. (See Jonathan Mast’s blog posting for more background).

Poof, all those gorgeous designer Welcome pages were wiped off the Facebook map — even the ones that had more than 10,000 fans. Then just as suddenly they reappeared. But for how long? All Facebook, a blog that bills itself as “The Unofficial Facebook Resource” reports that Facebook appears to have reversed the decision.

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Disappearing Act of Facebook Business Pages

Such edicts are a reminder that it is not, and never has been, Facebook’s goal to be a trusted partner to its growing coterie of small business users. If you’re not one of the many small businesses who had created a branded Welcome page for your business, imagine how you would feel after spending your valuable time or money on designers to create these pages only to have them removed (with no warning) in one fell swoop when Facebook decided to change the rules. With limited resources, small businesses must choose their marketing channels carefully, and Facebook once seemed to offer a cost-effective way to display and peddle ones wares while building a large, loyal following on one of the most popular social media platforms.  (Here are some examples of designer Web pages, but hurry before they disappear: Mari Smith, Denise Wakeman’s The BlogSquad and Social Media Examiner).

So what’s the answer since there’s no substitute for Facebook on the horizon (yet)? Proceed cautiously and let’s not forget what Chris Garrett, co-auther of the book ProBlogger said about that pesky little ownership problem with posting content to social media sites (See JAGWIRE’s ”8 Hot Social Media Marketing Tips” blog posting. Tip #5). The answer is to create your own social media hub in the form of a Web site or blog so that it won’t matter what the social media flavor of the month is or whether the rules change or not. These third-party social media applications should solely be used as distribution channels to drive people to your own hosted site.

Facebook’s latest antics follow closely on the heels of its controversial privacy policy changes that expose everyone’s “likes” and “dislikes” and what they do online (if they don’t turn that feature off).  It does seem that Facebook is still deciding what it wants to be when it grows up. Who will it serve beyond the almightly dollar?  That Mark Zuckerberg and his band of merry men and women sure are shaking the foundations in the process.

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2 Responses to “Facebook’s Death Knell?”

  1. Felix Yeung says:

    Thank you for a thoughtful post, especially in the context of relying on third-party apps for messaging and brand-building. Of course the initial attraction of Facebook was the easy and ready availability of (1) the brand-building infrastructure; and (2) potential audience / customers. Best of all, marketers talk about builidng a destination for customers, and in Facebook’s case, the destination is already open, built, and buzzing with traffic.

    Unfortunately, Facebook is also teaching business owners, by way of a very bad example, how not to short-sightedly promulgate service and policy changes. The sudden changes and equally-rapid reversals, all done without planned, coherent communications, contribute to the image of Facebook steamrolling over user concerns with little regard for even its most loyal supporters. What started out as a “cool” application is now drawing comparisons to other “big bad monopolies.”

    Worst of all, Facebook is making users very wary of engaging more deeply with the platform, which in turn negatively affects how they will interact with small business owners on the site. For example, one might see fewer people joining groups or becoming fans of pages built by business owners, for fear of compromising their privacy. Building marketing momentum on Facebook may become increasingly difficult.

    I certainly see Facebook continuing as a valuable forum for notifications and messages, but I agree with your assessment that it serves better as a channel to drive traffic to one’s own site, rather than as a final destination.

  2. JAG says:

    For an update on Facebook’s retraction of this “temporary”edict see: http://www.insidefacebook.com/2010/05/20/facebook-creates-removes-restriction-on-landing-page-tabs/.

    It seems that after the outcry, landing pages and Welcome Pages will remain available for those who have under 10,000 fans and for those who don’t spend $25,000 in advertising with Facebook (for now).

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