Why The New Facebook Profiles Are Not-So-Nice

Wednesday, 05 January 2011

Every day my Facebook Newsfeed is filled with more mentions of friends updating to the new Facebook Profile. This, of course, is what Facebook was banking on: you see your friends trying something new, and you want to see what all the fuss is about. But how many realize why Facebook is trying this new profile design? My guess is, not many.

The new look is designed to create more clickable links that are featured prominently in a user’s profile. Workplace, hometown, relationship status and other pertinent information are now displayed at the top of the profile on all tabs. This compels people to add more info to utilize the space, and convinces friends to stick around longer as they click through more links to other parts of Facebook.

The novelty of the new profile, as well as the widely publicized photo trick, makes people play with the new features and convince their friends to jump on the bandwagon. And while it seems like the new profile offers fun new features that help you quickly see new updates and content from friends, it’s really just “tricking” users into sticking around longer. With each new link Facebook creates within a user’s profile, Facebook guarantees longer time on-site. But at what cost to the average user?

Less (External) Link Power

The Info Box was one of the highest-ranking pieces of code in a Facebook profile, a 250-character editable box located right below the profile icon and perfectly positioned for both search engines and human eyes to see. But not anymore. The new profile relegates the Info Box back to the Info Tab, removing the opportunity for clickable links and most of the potential SEO benefit of a personal profile for job hunting, personal branding, etc. Keyword ranking ability is decreased, and it’s now harder to quickly send potential employers to your portfolio or resume outside of Facebook.

At the end of the day, pulling more targetable data from users and keeping them on-site longer helps Facebook make money by appealing to more marketers and advertisers. If Facebook can promise that each visit is 5 minutes instead of 4, and that each visitor clicks through 10 links instead of 6, they become more attractive to brands who are willing to spend money targeting users and driving to their Facebook Page.

What The New Profile Could Mean For Pages

What brands may not realize is that when or if these changes apply to brand Pages, it will be a huge setback for the SEO ranking of Pages outside of Facebook. It will also inhibit companies’ ability to drive traffic off of Facebook and to their own sites. Which is, of course, something Facebook has always frowned on and tried to discourage brands from doing. Their advertising guidelines strongly favor marketing that keeps users within Facebook, as do their promotion rules.

The new profile may be fun for users, but it’s important to take a look at why Facebook unveils new features. For a personal user, the social network is becoming less about friendships and more about connecting with brands. And for brands, Facebook seems to be aligning itself with big name companies who can afford extravagant promotions and advertising campaigns, while ignoring or hurting smaller businesses. It’s still a great marketing tool, but brands need to work harder than ever to keep up.

4 Comments

  • Yes, Facebook is all about information and increasing the value of the company. That is why FB’s estimated worth is over $50 Billion.

    It is interesting how easily and willingly we in the Facebook universe give up our personal information to anyone. There is so much of ourselves online and searchable. Yet, we still get offended when a clerk at a store asks for our email address so they can add us to their coupon blasts.

    Facebook will continue to evolve and mine for our personal data and we will continue to offer it up.

    By the way, I was one of those who uses the new profile but yet to get any job offers :-) .

    Thanks for the post.

    Comment by Steve — January 5, 2011 @ 11:38 am
  • I agree with your assessment of the design change. I have a facebook page for my business and that info box was key to consumers being able to quickly see where to go to get more information about my company. I am also a facebook advertiser. I have recently changed my facebook advertising strategy to send my facebook prospect directly to my website, bypassing my business page on facebook. This is unfortunate because I was trying to brand the page on facebook. Based on the new layout, I, like you, believe that it is too costly to hope that a prospect will click on the info tab to find a website or phone number to reach us.

    Comment by John Barucci — January 7, 2011 @ 10:02 am
  • I think there’s something to be said about making the user photos more prominent in the profile layout. There’s perhaps nothing quite as “sticky” for visitor retention than clicking through photos (and you may note the new photo “theater”). If you can be fooled into thinking that just browsing one photo is okay, and then making it easy to go from one photo or another, then you have a visitor who is likely to be spending some time on Facebook.

    Comment by Rio — January 18, 2011 @ 7:54 pm
  • FB will continue to evolve and roll-out new “features” that directly benefit the site. Some may hurt small biz, some may bless it. It’s a painful gamble if we’re putting too many eggs in the Facebook basket. It’s an incredible platform but marketers would be wise to use FB as an outpost. You can eventually draw traffic back to a self-hosted site where you have all the control.

    Comment by Jon — January 25, 2011 @ 8:15 pm

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