Timeline for Facebook pages – the key changes

If you run a Facebook page, the changes announced this week are important for you to know about. In a nutshell, the swanky new design led Timeline display that we’ve been seeing on personal profiles has come to Facebook pages. Some of the changes will be a bit annoying (work you’ve done previously could become irrelevant now) but as with most Facebook changes, these guys know what they’re doing and it’ll almost certainly result in better experiences for your fans.

Here’s a summary of some of the biggest changes:

Cover photos (the big photos on the top of the page 850 x 315 px) give you the opportunity to create a strong visual identity to your page. Here’s some inspiration from Mashable if you need it – 20 Facebook cover photos to inspire you.

Custom tabs have changed position, size and the number that are visible above the fold – instead of having a load of tabs running down the left hand side of the page, you get just four large tabs at the top of the page underneath the cover photos. This is going to be annoying for page admins that have developed a lot of content on their Facebook page, and it’ll force you to think carefully about which are the most important.

Custom welcome pages for non-fans are gone. Having a friendly page incentivising people to like your page has been important for the last couple of years, but they are no more – users will now land on your timeline, and there’s no choice about it.

Content layout has changed – those familiar with the Timeline will know about the two column layout, with the line in the middle representing time. This will provide some challenges as people learn how to use the layout effectively. You can add deep history to your Facebook page if your brand has some serious history – you can add milestones to give the timeline depth.

Sticky posts it’s now possible to keep a post at the top of the timeline by pinning it to the top of the page (where it’ll stay for a week) – this is going to become a critical space for pages to post their key message.

Messages – something people have complained about for years with pages – you can now message your fans – but only if they message you first. So it’s something you can use to encourage people to get personal responses from you. You can turn this option on or off in your Page edit menu.

A new admin panel which appears at the top of the page gives a snapshot of recent activity, messages and even gives tips (we’ll have to see how useful these will be).

These are the big issues you need to think about immediately. All in all, this is quite a significant change, so if you run a Facebook page, it will be well worth your time getting to grips with how things now work.

There are a very useful posts from some of the big social media agencies in London that are well work a look – here’s my top three:

  1. Blog post on Mashable about the key changes you need to know about by Victoria Ransom, CEO of Wildfire Interactive
  2. Katie Glass from FreshNetworks posts about Facebook page changes
  3. We are Social post about how they redeveloped Bulmer’s Facebook page and the lessons they learnt.

Protecting an area of rainforest the size of Wales

We are helping the Size of Wales with their environmental campaign. Check out the video to find out more. Our work is focused on using social media to raise awareness and money.

Please leave a comment on the YouTube vid which will help to boost its ranking. You can also like the Facebook page to follow the latest news. For each Like, Size of Wales’ partners will contribute £1 to the fund.

More info on this project to follow shortly.

Artist abandons Twitter and Facebook – and explains why

Hugh Macleod is a well known cartoonist who has a blog by the name Gaping Void. Here is an excellent and thought-provoking post from last month:

Earlier today I told everybody on Twitter and Facebook, that I’m leaving Twitter and Facebook.

Why?

Because Facebook and Twitter are too easy. Keeping up a decent blog that people actually want to take the time to read, that’s much harder. And it’s the hard stuff that pays off in the end.

Besides, even if they’re very good at hiding the fact, over on Twitter and Facebook, it’s not your content, it’s their content.

The content on your blog, however, belongs to you, and you alone. People come to your online home, to hear what you have to say, not to hear what everybody else has to say. This sense of personal sovereignty is important.

And as I’ve said many times over the years, Web 2.0 IS ALL ABOUT personal sovereignty. About using media to do something meaningful, WITHOUT someone else giving you permission first, without having to rely on anyone else’s resources, authority and money. Self-sufficiency. Exactly. […]

Read the rest of the post for more of Macleod’s reasoning. It’s interesting to read the various responses around the web to the post.

I admire Macleod’s idealism. In general I’m inclined to agree with his points about Twitter and Facebook. They are companies with their own objectives and although the services are free, we should think about if we should use them – and how. (Incidentally at the time of writing Macleod appears to be back on Twitter but let’s ignore that and focus on the advice.)

I wouldn’t recommend Macleod’s advice for everyone in every case but I would say that it is of particular relevance to artists and creative people who ‘create content’. As always it comes back to the nature of your set-up and what you want to achieve.

The nature of the bargain: your organisation, Facebook and Twitter

Dave Winer has been developing a theme of open systems on his blog over several months. Today he looks at the recent French decision to prohibit media promotion of web services run by companies:

In the United States, the media are making a huge mistake re Twitter and Facebook by treating them as if they were open systems like the web or email. In fact, and they know this, they are corporations with eponymous services.

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In France, in the spirit of being open to competition, the government has prohibited the media from using the names of the services unless the story is specifically about the company. I think this is very smart, compared to what we’re doing and not doing here.

In the United States, not only do the media treat Twitter and Facebook as if they were public utilities, like the open web, it’s actually even worse. The Library of Congress, which is part of the government, is subsidizing Twitter, by doing a complete archive of Twitter, before making a serious attempt at archiving the web. This helps cement Twitter as the medium of record, which is ridiculous. The market is just getting started. How can you justifiy the government taking sides over other equivalent (or better) ways to communicate, that are not owned by a company (like the web, for example). If this isn’t against the law, to use taxpayer funds to help a company achieve dominance over competitors, it should be against the law.

You can read the rest on scripting.com.

I regularly use Twitter and Facebook and sometimes recommend them to organisations for certain projects as part of the work we do at NativeHQ. But that doesn’t mean I’m entirely trustful of these and other services for the long term. These are free-of-charge-to-user services provided by companies and paid for by advertisers. Furthermore they offer very few ways of exporting your data or contacts and moving to a rival service, should you want to.

That’s a very different deal from, say, buying a domain name, some hosting and setting up a blog or wiki which you control, which is independent of any company (even, say, WordPress or Twiki if you’re running the code independently) and which can be backed up. Or, setting up a subdomain and running something like status.net, the open source Twitter clone, within your organisation or community. In practice the core code for those systems is free of charge but you will spend money getting them set up and maintained. My point is the freedom and control you get with them.

So should we use the free-of-charge hosted services like Twitter and Facebook, the services which don’t bring the freedom? For cost-free web services, it’s difficult to make a categorical decision which applies to all cases. Even the paid web services (like Flickr, which has a mixture of free-of-charge and paid premium users) suffer downtime, get acquired, modified – and sometimes closed. Long-term reliability could be one of the things you’d be looking for and these weaknesses reduce the score, at least in that category.

I have a feeling that a lot of the innovation we will see in the next few years will be focused on replicating the feel and capability of some of these social media services in a way which is distributed across the web – small pieces loosely joined – just like websites are. The closed systems provide the initial idea, the impetus will come from business opportunities and individual will and the result will be open systems of many kinds which restore power and control to the users. That might sound less convenient than the comparatively slick centralised systems we have now. But I believe developers will find a way to make it work in a friendly way.

But that’s where the prediction ends. As befits the NativeHQ blog, this is a practical blog post about what you can do now.

So for now if you want to be where the people are in 2011 centralised systems like Twitter and Facebook can feasibly – but not always – have an important role to play.

When and if? As with many questions on which our work here hinges, it depends. I can say with certainty that the benefits to you will come at the possible expense of some of the weaknesses and the potential problems. And I owe it to the people we work with to be clear on that.

How you use these tools is important too. Here’s just one example: are you putting your organisation’s news and information on Facebook only, perhaps on a Facebook page or worse still, your own personal profile? You could be missing a whole bunch of people  – particularly if they’re not habitual users of Facebook, are using Google search, are on your website, are looking at your email newsletter or any number of other places. You also miss some of their comments and restrict the visibility of the conversation. In that case I would look at putting your content on the web and then sharing a link on Facebook instead. For programmers it’s the difference between passing along a reference and passing along the data, the values. It will probably make your content more accessible – appearing in a Facebook feed as well as being on the open web, with all the benefits that brings.

NativeHQ’s take on Facebook, in the Western Mail today

Here in Cardiff we keep a close eye on the Western Mail, so thanks to David Williamson for including my views on Facebook in his wide-ranging piece published today:

Carl Morris, a digital media consultant at Cardiff-based NativeHQ, thinks Zuckerberg wants Facebook to be the internet equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife – a site that provides every tool you could want.

While he respects the achievements of its founders, he compared Facebook to a “walled garden” with its corporate-controlled environment.

He said people should remember that the site is a business which makes its money by appealing to advertisers.

“People think that when they join Facebook they become Facebook’s customer but you’re not the customer – you’re what’s being sold,” he said.

While I stand by David’s faithful quotation of my words, such an articles can only ever be an introduction to the topic at hand, particularly where the practical use of technology is concerned. So although generally critical of Facebook’s failings in the article, I do make fairly regular use of it – both in my work as a digital media consultant and personal life.

As with any tool, where, how or even if we use Facebook on a project depends on the objectives. In technology there is no perfect tool for every application, only pros and cons to any choice.

Incidentally, I would have to disagree partly with one of the article’s quotations from Prof Chris Price of Aberystwyth University:

“I don’t worry about Facebook at all,” he said, adding that he is not surprised people are turning to the social network to send messages to their friends instead of using a single e-mail account. But he said he does not expect e-mail to die, instead becoming the medium for professional communications.

The professor said: “In some ways it’s quite a sensible split.”

He also expects people to have multiple identities online to reflect the different nature of their relationships in real life.

“People talk about having one Facebook account for their friends and another which is the one their parents can look at,” he said.

Yes, people do have multiple identities online and have excellent reasons for doing so. (Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly failed to emphasise this fact, arguably because it drives Facebook’s growth and chimes with his philosophy.)

But don’t create multiple personal accounts! There’s no need, it’s potentially confusing and certainly creates more work for you. There are multiple ways of controlling visibility of your posts, photos and other content on the basis of individual people and friend lists, via what Facebook calls the privacy settings.

Another point I made to David at the Western Mail, which unfortunately didn’t make it to the final article, is that web services such as Twitter and WordPress which default to everything public can be said to possess – paradoxically maybe – better privacy policies than that of Facebook. They have fewer privacy settings, it’s very clear that your posts will be findable on the web, therefore you as a user have a clearer idea of who can read your posts. And if you’re not comfortable with something being on the web at large (rather than an ill-defined semi-public like your Facebook friends), you won’t post it in the first place.

Of course, in practice, privacy is a wider issue than software settings.

A musicians’ intro to digital media

On 2nd July 2010 I did a presentation to some Wales-based musicians about digital media, online and music business. The host was the Welsh Music Foundation (thanks to them) and our venue was Chapter in Cardiff.

It was an introduction to digital/social media with some practical tips and points for discussion.

Here are some notes which summarise my presentation and our discussion. These are mainly aimed at the musicians who attended but you might get benefit from this if you’re a musician who earns from your music.

Definitions

What do we mean by digital media?
“the creative convergence of digital arts, science, technology and business for human expression, communication, social interaction and education”
from Digital Media Alliance Florida / Wikipedia

I’ve purposefully used the umbrella term digital media, which covers social media, social networking and categories like live streaming. An expert may quibble with my definitions here but let’s say we’ll err on the side of the practical.

A useful metaphor is:
People having conversations online

This takes place with text, video, photo, audio, slides and other images. Because of the public nature of these conversations it’s important to note that it is:
People having multi-way conversations online

Examples of digital media

Technologies include:

Blogs, e.g. WordPress, Posterous, Tumblr
Social network services, e.g. Facebook, Myspace
Wikis, e.g. PBWorks
Link sharing, e.g. Delicious
Collaboration tools, e.g. Basecamp, Google Docs (a very important use of digital media)
RSS (allows you to subscribe to multiple blogs and other time-based feeds and read them all in one place)
Live streaming, e.g. Ustream.tv
Streaming/hosting services like YouTube for video and Flickr for photos

History of media and media revolutions

Printing press
Telegraph
Telephone
Photography
Film
Radio
Television
Internet and web

The main point here is to think about how society, culture and business changed as a result of these new technologies being widely adopted.

Characteristics of digital media

It is easier to form groups online, according to shared interests, campaigns, fans and so on, with all kinds of fascinating outcomes.
Recommended book: Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky – about the ease of forming groups online

People like to remix, re-use, re-create, re-version their culture, not just music. Go to YouTube and look at fan videos as just one example. Some musicians release their music under a licence which allows this to happen legitimately, within the normal legal framework of copyright.
Recommended book: Remix by Lawrence Lessig – about the culture of the remix and challenges to our traditional ideas of copyright

“Every company is a media company”
Rick Burnes, former NYTimes.com editor

Online tools every musician should know about

YouTube

I call it the most popular online music discovery service – because it can stream music in video form. Are you on it? If not, why not? There may be a legitimate case for not being on YouTube but you need to at least consider its potential reach.

When I mentioned this at the session several people complained about YouTube’s royalty rates. While true YouTube doesn’t pay much, the main advantage could be in people discovering your music and raising revenue from other sources. Video embedding is a key feature which helps bloggers to introduce their readers to your music.

Ideas: music videos, interviews, tour diaries, live performance footage

Flip have many affordable portable video cameras.

Your blog

A blog is a set of posts organised by time. Every artist and band online should probably have some sort of blog, even if it’s just a news feed of your latest gigs, releases and media appearances.

The way musicians express themselves through a blog varies wildly. Some like to post diary entries and reveal things about their life and work to various degrees, others do not. Both are fine. Some have elaborately designed blogs and others choose minimal design. Either way or something in between is fine. Be yourself. But don’t ignore it – having a blog is like having your own media channel that you control. This is pretty much vital.

Your website

A musician’s website and blog should be on the same domain – in most cases.

Adding a blog post or news item to your website should be painless. If updating your current website is a chore it may be worth spending some money to make it smoother. You’ll enjoy it, which is how things should be.

My favourite website software is WordPress. It was originally conceived as blogging software but has been extended and adapted to run full websites. Many websites around the world now run on WordPress.

Two main ways of running WordPress
wordpress.com
You get a free blog with the name yourbandname.wordpress.com
You can choose different themes.
You can pay fees for extra services, e.g. to have it redirected to yourbandname.com seamlessly

wordpress.org
WordPress is open source so you can download the software for free, run it on your own hosting and publicise yourbandname.com
You have total control over its behaviour and appearance. You can choose different themes or design your own. You can extend its functionality by installing plug-ins. In practice you’d probably ask a designer with the technical knowhow to install it and design/build the theme.

Other people’s blogs

Being featured on blogs can be a key way of growing buzz around your band. Use Hype Machine and Google Blog Search to find blogs already featuring similar artists or your genre. Start reading them and get in touch if you have something relevant.

Facebook

There are three kinds of presence on Facebook.
– individual user profile
– page
– group

The page is Facebook’s offering for brands, companies and organisations. Usually the page is the correct one for a band, artist, label or venue.

Do not get an individual user profile for a band. Facebook may take a dim view of a non-person having a user profile. Even if you’re a solo artist, it pre-supposes a two-way friend relationship which exists in the offline world. So consider having a profile for friends and a page for fans.

In general Facebook’s customers are its advertisers and you play in their garden and by their rules. Be careful about how much time you invest and be sure to evaluate if you are getting value back.

Myspace

In general its value for reaching fans is diminished because attention has gone elsewhere. It’s worth having a page for your music and photos because agents and other music industry people are in the habit of using it. Most bands should not spend too much time on it. Certain genres are stronger on Myspace than others. Know your genre!

Twitter

Some artists are good on Twitter and can use it to update fans.

It’s far more proven as an excellent place to keep up with news, including music industry news.

Don’t necessarily believe what anyone says about it – try it yourself.

Email lists

People still use email. Its value is diminishing, again because of fragmented attention. But it may be worth running one.

Make sure anything in the email address is also on your blog or elsewhere online. People want to search for it and link to it. Don’t limit the audience to the mailing list!

Recommendations: Your Mailing List Provider and MailChimp (both slightly different)

Don’t send email to people who haven’t opted in. Never spam people. Never ever.

Some thoughts about business models

Record business is not the music business

“Disruption” – technology companies like it, record companies don’t necessarily like it

In the 1980s certain parts of the record industry were extremely concerned about home taping – imperfect analogue copies. Now we have perfect digital copies. What now?

Copying is not the same as stealing – they are covered by different laws.

Throughout history, forms of copyright infringement have become licensed uses, e.g. public performance, radio. What we now think of as illegal may become licensed. Whether or not this is true, people WILL copy your music. They might use filesharing networks, they might use the web or they might use memory sticks. But only if your music is good enough.

What could you do if you knew 1,000,000 people had shared your music?

Some will still buy the CD or the vinyl. Some will attend your gigs and buy your merchandise.
Some will buy the digital files because they value the convenience or because they want to pay out of gratitude.

“Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.”
Tim O’Reilly, technologist and publisher

Examples of perfect digital copies in other industries

Software companies make their source code available for free under open source licences and sell what can’t be copied – services, consultancy, customisation, support, advertising/sponsorship and premium paid features. Examples are IBM, Mozilla, Red Hat and Automattic/WordPress. You could go into competition with any of these companies using their own software.

Consultants and experts are blogging their advice for free. Again, you could go into competition with any of them using their own material and (what were formerly known as) trade secrets. But often these consultants and experts are accruing MORE reputation and MORE work through the ease of access and widespread distribution of their advice.

Despite copying of films, cinema has large screens, good sound and the experience – all of which are uncopyable. Compare watching a laugh-out-loud comedy at home to being in a big audience at the cinema. Recently cinema has been adding 3D to the large screen experience of many films.

2009 poll: people who admitted unlicensed downloading spend an average of £77 a year on music – £33 more than those who claimed NOT to download.
Poll by Ipsos Mori for Demos think tank

Kevin Kelly says “A creator needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.” (Discuss…)

Male-female ratio on social network services

Here’s a chart of the male-female ratio on different social network services – including Facebook, Twitter, Ning and so on.

(I don’t know how reliable the figures are.)

Fallacious Celebrations of Facebook Fans

On the O’Reilly Radar blog, Mark Drapeau is talking about US government Facebook pages, but the advice is just as applicable to anyone with a corporate or organisational Facebook page:

The meaningful question is not about who has more fans, but about who can authentically and transparently – and usefully – interact with citizens to provide social and intellectual value and become the pulse of their conversations. Here are some questions I have for governments and agencies running Facebook fan pages: What are the names of the people running the pages? What are their titles? What city is their office in? Where do they blog? Which events are they attending this year? (Can I meet them there?) How are you going to get your fans engaged in your mission? How can I tell you my stories about military service, or foreign travel, or amateur astronomy? Would those stories be helpful to you? How are you using social media like Facebook to get citizens involved in their government?

Indeed, this is applicable to any social media activity. In order for your activity to work – for your community and for you – it’s impossible to automate it or just set something up and leaving it running in the background. The value is in the human interaction.

Why Business Needs To Get Social (via Forbes)

Check out Joshua-Michele Ross’ insightful article for Forbes magazine, Why Business Needs To Get Social.

In passing, he mentions the impressive 3.5 million fans which Coca-Cola has gathered on their Facebook page. In fact, that page was started by two fans, unofficially and independently, before Coca-Cola caught on.

Overall though, as Ross highlights, we should get accustomed to the word “social”.

If the last 100 years was about gaining efficiency and innovation through scale and tight control of resources and communications, the next 100 will be about finding more fluid, open models of collaboration and cooperation. Playing on this new field has different rules. It requires shifting our concept of business from a legalistic model to a social one.

It’s a bold claim but there’s something very appealing about this prediction.

Why Facebook has never listened… (via Scobleizer)

Good conversation starter about Facebook’s long term business plans written by Robert Scoble, in case you missed it.