Wednesday, March 7, 2012

FB's Timeline Restrictions - Bad for Nonprofits?

New Things Scare Me!
As you know, I search for content inspiration from a lot of different sources. In particular, I look at business blogs because small businesses have a lot in common with small nonprofits. I found this post by Jay Baer at Convince & Convert (via Social Media Navigator) and thought, "Dang. Why am I just now hearing about this?" 14 Ways New Facebook Betrays Small Business definitely has application for a small not-for-profit. I'm going to go through the 14 'betrayals' and see how they translate. In addition, I'll spend a little extra time at one or two because you might want to see a how-to.

1. Cover Image

Not that big a deal to me. Any small NP worth its salt will either have someone on staff who can do this or has already got a volunteer. Nonprofit Facebook Guy (if you haven't liked his page yet, what's wrong with you?) makes it even easier by providing a free Photoshop template

2. Prohibition on Cover Promotion

FB now says:
Use a unique image that represents your Page. This might be a photo of a popular menu item, album artwork or a picture of people using your product. Be creative and experiment with images your audience responds well to.
Cover images must be at least 399 pixels wide and may not contain:
  • Price or purchase information, such as "40% off" or "Download it at our website"
  • Contact information, such as web address, email, mailing address or other information intended for your Page's About section
  • References to user interface elements, such as Like or Share, or any other Facebook site features
  • Calls to action, such as "Get it now" or "Tell your friends"
All cover images are public, which means anyone visiting your Page will be able to see the image you choose. Covers must not be false, deceptive or misleading, and must not infringe on third parties' intellectual property. You may not encourage or incentivize people to upload your cover image to their personal timelines.
This one is a little more problematic. Even if you never run a 50% off deal, you may want to include your website or promote an event. You can still do it, you just have to be more aware of what the image will contain. For example, here's a cover I did recently for the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County (a small arts & culture NP) to promote their annual fundraiser, which this year has a 1960s theme:

You'll notice ticket prices, the website, share, and calls to action are not present. The most prominent information is the name of the event and the date on which it takes place. Information about entertainment, auction items, etc., comes in the form of storytelling posts - i.e., content.

3. Death of the Landing Tab

Again, I don't see this one as a biggie. You'll still be able to add a few custom tabs if you want to and the way the timeline is set up, people will be able to engage right away, which is what most probably prefer.

4. Pinning and Starring

I agree with Jay that having to figure out what to Pin and Star adds an extra layer - but not a thick one. If you don't already know what posts are more important than others, you probably have bigger problems. So, for those of you not aware of them (as I wasn't), this is what Pins and Stars are -

If you have a post you think should stay up at the top for a while, you can Pin it there.

You do this by clicking on the little pencil icon to the right of the post title. A drop-down menu appears and you can select "Pin to Top." If you want to, you may also choose to change the date of the post, hide the post on your page or delete it. There's also a Report/Mark as Spam..., but that's because the little pencil icon shows up on everyone's posts, so you'd use this (presumably) on someone else's content, if needed.

Once you've Pinned a post to the top, it's marked with a gold bookmark. To further highlight it or to remind you why this post hasn't moved down the Timeline the last few days, I dunno.

Star a Post - at the bottom of the pic to the right you'll see that if you hover your cursor over the star on a post, the tooltip 'Highlight' displays. If you click this, FB will resize the post to cover both columns of the Timeline, giving it extra prominence...

...which can be good or bad, depending on the post content. For example, the Cultural Council had uploaded several photos to FB about the construction of the new Arts Education Giving Tree (Artis). This is what the post looked like:

As you can see, the post reduced the number of photos shown from the 17 uploaded to the album to 9. So what would happen if the post were Starred?

As you can see below, the post now takes up both columns instead of one and the number of photos has been further reduced from 9 to 3. With a layout like this, you'd almost think you were viewing a slideshow and (like me) start unconsciously looking for an indicator to move to the next photo. But of course there isn't one, because it's not a slideshow.

Regardless of whether you use standard or Starred with multiple photos, a reader is going to have to click on the pictures to be taken to the album if they want to see everything. Other types of posts might not be so problematic, but each one will be slightly more of an experiment than you might have liked.

Whoa. This post has gotten ridiculously long and I haven't even gotten to Number 5, yet!

5. Direct Messages

Now when you visit a brand page, you'll see a "Message" button right underneath the cover photo. Jay says this will be one more mailbox to have to keep track of. Yeah, but when you're trying to increase engagement, I don't think that's all bad.

6. Activity Stream

At the top of your Timeline, your recent activity will be highlighted in the right-hand column under your Cover Picture. As Jay points out, if you're not very active, this will become very apparent. I'm thinking though, that with many applications now providing ways FB-approved ways to post to your page, you may be able to fill those gaps with content from your usual social media rounds like Twitter and Pinterest. You have to ask yourself how important FB is in the social media scheme of things for your nonprofit. If your constituents engage with you a lot there, then you should be giving posts on FB a certain priority so that there aren't big gaps in your Activity Stream.

7. Penalty on 3rd Party Apps

Yeah, this one could be a problem. Because of the lack of resources, your NP, like a small business, may be using a 3rd party app to post to more than one social media platform. FB would naturally prefer that you make your FB posts from FB, so they are apparently penalizing some 3rd party apps by choosing to reduce the prominence of updates made using them. This simply means that if you use an app like Networked Blogs to post your latest blog update to FB, it won't look as pretty (actually smaller and kind of looks like a classified ad) as it would if you had made the update directly on FB.

Which apps are approved and which aren't? I wish I knew. I know Pinterest is, because otherwise, why would it get so much space in my Timeline? Not only my recent activity is shown there, but also what my boards are and which boards I follow. If anyone has any clue about where the 'approved' 3rd Party apps list is, please let me know!

Okay, that's enough madness for now.  While I was reading Jay's post, I saw he had a link to another post on the Timeline's Pros and Cons from that is well-worth the read. Next week, we'll get to the remainder of the 7 'betrayals' from Jay.

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Jay Baer said...

Thanks Robyn. I appreciate you spending time on this. It's important stuff!

Robyn McIntyre said...

Hey, Jay! Yes, it is important to know what the changes are, but even more, to suss out the intent and what it will mean to small nonprofits and businesses. Thanks for writing the original post on this subject.