New Facebook profile design imposes new restrictions on SMEs, experts warn

Social media experts have branded Facebook’s new ‘timeline’ design for business pages as restrictive and potentially confusing for consumers.

Facebook introduced the new design just last night, but concerns have already been raised that the new features restrict how companies will be able to display messages about discounts or other promotions.

The changes come weeks after the design was introduced for individual members of the social network. Businesses now have until the end of the month to work with their profile before the system is switched over.

The new timeline design places posts in chronological order, so users can simply scroll down and view the history of an account’s posts. But there’s a bigger problem surrounding the overall graphic design.

Analysts point out that under the old Facebook design, businesses could use ‘tabs’, which divide up content into different types of pages, such as ‘information’, ‘wall’ and so on. Companies were able to choose which tab users first saw when they visited their page.

That option is now gone and users will now see the same front page for every brand, restricting businesses that have directed fans to a particular tab showing off promotions or other information.

Social Rabbit chief executive Lara Solomon says the changes are a concern.

“People get confused with this sort of stuff in general, but having it on business accounts…may confuse them even more,” she told SmartCompany this morning.

Another problem raised by critics is that the new timeline feature changes the page designs, so users have two profile pictures – a larger, wide-screen picture that spreads across the browser, and another, smaller picture contained in a box. The larger picture is called the cover photo.

In some ways this is a blessing as it allows brands to more prominently display their brand name. But Facebook has put some key restrictions on what can be used in this photo.

“You can’t include purchase information, you can’t include contact information, or any references to features or discounts. You can’t even add calls to action,” Solomon warns.

That means you can’t include a website URL, you can’t include references to Facebook actions, such as “like” or “share”. You can do these in your profile picture, which is the smaller, square-shaped box, but this is much smaller than the cover photo and won’t be seen as clearly.

The changes have drawn the ire of social media experts, some of which have slammed the restrictions.

Although Solomon says it’s unrealistic to expect that every business will adhere to the new rules, it is true that Facebook has taken down business pages before.

“Really, what they’re saying is that you can have some nice pictures of your products and your brand name. But not having a call to action or anything like that seems a bit strange.”

The new design has, however, earned some praise for new features such as the ability to pin new posts for up to seven days, which allows companies to market specific deals or discounts that won’t be buried under new posts.

But Solomon says businesses need to be aware of some of the default settings, such as the need to pin new posts to make them stay at the top of the page.

“They need to be careful, otherwise your posts will be buried and it makes it look like you haven’t had any new activity for a while.

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