This post is by Jim Belosic, co-founder and president of Pancake Laboratories, the creator of ShortStack, an application built on the Facebook platform that offers affordable, white-label tab design including contests, commenting, sharing and many other easy-to-use features.
Since Facebook converted personal profiles to Timelines, the rumor mill has been fired up with the speculation that Pages will soon follow suit. On February 15, Facebook executives confirmed these rumors and announced their plan to add Timeline for Pages this month. Although no one is exactly sure what this means for brands and for third-party platforms (such as ShortStack) there are changes ahead that will affect everyone.
The relationship between Facebook, developers and businesses:
Facebook could have created a closed, static platform that gave every Page the same basic features. Instead, the Facebook platform is open to creations from third-party developers, and this says a lot about their approach to their relationships with developers and businesses. Custom tab applications like ShortStack allow businesses to create custom tabs that encourage fans to interact with each other, help increase a brand’s presence, and provide content, contests and promotions. Companies rely on their custom tabs for gathering user data, generating sales, customer support and much more. In addition, companies spend a lot of money promoting their custom tabs through Facebook ads. Businesses spend lots of money on Facebook ads to drive traffic to their custom tabs. According to February 2012 data from Kenshoo, Facebook ad budgets grew 109% month-over-month in the fourth quarter of 2011. It could be argued that a large percentage of the traffic seen on Facebook can be contributed to third-party services and thus far in Facebook’s history, they’ve shown to value this and the profit it brings to the platform.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has undergone significant changes, and it won’t be the last. The good news is that since the introduction of Pages, the platform has always allowed for businesses and brands to offer more than just an Info tab. Facebook has kept this feature, which leads to the belief that they respect a brand’s presence on Facebook and would want to keep the methods developed for brands to maintain their presence. It would be a surprise to see them get rid of these features.
How to prepare for Timeline changes on Pages:
No one knows exactly what Facebook is going to do next until there is an official announcement, which will come on Feb. 29 at the first-ever fMC event. However, Facebook does have a 90-day notification policy for breaking changes, so third-party platforms will have time to learn what will be changing and how to adjust their services.
What businesses need to keep in mind is that there is going to be a lot of hype and a lot of press around this change. Rumors will fly and the energy will be hard to ignore. However, it’s in Facebook’s best interest to expand upon current capabilities, not limit the things everyone loves and relies on. Facebook has gone through numerous overhauls in the past, and businesses and third-party platforms have stayed ahead of the game and adjusted.