Time for businesses to finally bite the Facebook Timeline bullet

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This article was previously published on Social Media Overflow in 2012.

Now that Facebook has given all Pages the new Facebook Timeline there has never been a better time to move your business from a personal profile or a Group to a proper Facebook Page. Sure there are some issues with it for businesses that had pages previously, but to a business that hasn’t used the old pages previously, this shouldn’t be much of a drama.

The reason for this is the optional Direct Message function that allows fans to privately message a page. Pages do not have to use this feature but it is probably there to counter Twitter’s direct message feature, as Twitter tends to be where most people go to sort out any problems with a business.

In many cases, this direct message feature is a great improvement over the old pages. I have noticed in the past that a lot of businesses, especially sole traders or local tradespeople have made groups or personal accounts for their businesses rather than pages. I have spoken to some people I know who have done this and asked them if it was because of the Inbox feature and it was.

When pages did not have an Inbox it made it hard to resolve any private issues. Any questions and sometimes arguments would often be shown on the Wall. Facebook probably forced this to make pages appear more active, but it could cause problems too. It was possible for page owners to privately message fans, but this caused its own issues such as:

  • If the admins of a relatively big company are accessing this through their personal accounts, do they really want strangers to know who they are? Especially if trying to fix a problem with someone who has a negative attitude.
  • If the admins are sharing an account to log in with and manage the page, why not just use that shared log in as a profile instead of a page anyway?
  • If the fan has strong privacy settings you may not be able to message them at all without having them added.
  • If multiple admins are all messaging from their own accounts, it is hard to track who has already spoken to someone already and what they have said. This is also an issue if that person stops working for your company or doing that role.
  •  If conversations occur from an admin’s personal page, they could continue after hours when they are off the clock.

Now that fans can message a page directly, it means they can fix any problems in private. Multiple admins share the same inbox and can see what each other have said.

Here are some additional benefits of Pages for those not using them yet:

  • If you have a fixed address for your local business you can add your address and people can check in on your page.
  • No more huge group conversations. A typical rookie mistake for a group member is to start a conversation that was shared with every member who hadn’t previously opted out of group chat. This annoys most of the other members and can make people lash out at that person or get frustrated with the group.
  • No more notifications every time someone posts. Many groups are poorly set up and will automatically notify every member whenever someone posts but this could be changed and members can opt-out but it is annoying.
  • Post as the Page not as yourself. Previously admins had to talk as themselves on the page. This is a problem if people are not immediately aware you are the admin. Now there is no doubt that you are an admin because your name will appear as the brand. If there are multiple admins or the admin wants to post as themself there is an option to toggle between posting as yourself and as the page.
  • Pages get analytics data about their page which can be useful to gauge how successful your page or posts are.
  • You can have a custom URL for a Page. It is possible to do that for groups, but it requires making a Facebook email address, which isn’t that difficult, but if you haven’t already done this, don’t go using up your custom URL on the group when the Page is more worthwhile.

Profiles acting as a Page

  • If your business is using a personal profile, it is limited to 5,000 friends, each of whom you have to approve manually. Fan pages are unlimited. The only advantage of using a personal profile now over a fan page is that you can post on the walls of your friends/fans. This is pretty spammy though and will probably annoy people. You are better off playing by the rules and doing things properly like everyone else.
  • Facebook advertisements are geared towards use by pages, not personal accounts.
  • Personal profiles now use Timeline as well, so anything about Timeline you don’t like about on a personal profile will be similar on a Page anyway so you have to deal with it regardless.
  • It is possible to make up old posts about your company and put in any old news on the page to make it seem like it has been around for ages (if you are worried about starting with an empty new page).

For some businesses, the Inbox could be annoying and may choose not to use it because it creates more work. There might not be enough time or manpower to keep an eye on that as well as manage the rest of the timeline page and all the other social networks.

There are several other things that may bother some businesses about Timeline Pages, but for one that is still using groups or personal profiles instead, they shouldn’t be an issue. So, if your business is still using a Profile or a Group instead of a Page, now is the time to do make the change.

The most effective way of getting all your existing friends/members to Like the new page is probably to copy/paste a message to them all individually explaining the change. If you have a profile, make sure you send it one at a time. This might take a while but is probably less annoying than making a giant group conversation, as it will annoy everyone because they will all get notified every time someone replies.

What do you think?

Written by Keith Nallawalla

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