Normally I’m pretty open to Facebook’s endless tinkering with their system. They give us a powerful and free service, so who am I to complain when my personal profile looks a little different? Sure, my home news feed is still a bit confusing to me (and it seems to change the day after I’ve finally figured out where everything goes), but for my casual banter and Gardens of Time addiction, Facebook serves my personal needs quite well.
Professionally, however, I have a gripe. I have a Facebook company page that serves as Collectivator’s official Facebook presence and it uses the new (now mandatory) Timeline format. As the site administrator it’s my responsibility to create content as well as encourage others to post their ideas, questions and opinions. In the old non-timeline days, people would sometimes post a photo of an antique just to show it off or ask a question about it. This post would be displayed with as much space and importance as anything I would post. I liked this. It was democratic and it gave more spontaneity and surprise to our Facebook page. It was also frankly easier for me because I had other people fueling the discussions.
My biggest problem with Timeline is that it forces all posts by others into one small box in the top right corner of the page. The comments are abbreviated so you need to expand the window just to read them, as well as see any pictures or other media. My theory is Facebook did this because they thought companies wanted to limit the impact of other people’s content on their brand page. If I was getting a bunch of “you suck!” messages, I guess I would want to limit that too. The fact is, however, that even negative feedback is important for companies to hear, and many companies like Collectivator actively seek opinions and comments from others. We are trying to create a community for our fans – not just an official Facebook wall for our press releases. More input is more entertaining and interesting for everyone! Where is the discussion? A good conversation is not just one person making all the announcements and everyone else nodding politely. It feels like on the new timeline I get the podium and everyone else is sitting on the floor.
In my quest to find any way to give posts by others more prominence, I did find a work-around (of sorts) on Alaina Wiens blog. The only option is for the site admin to change each individual post (one at a time) to be “highlighted” on the page. This puts the post across both columns of the page and right at the top. However, even if I take the time to do that to every post other people make, this elite status will still not show up in the default view of the page. The only way for posts by others to show up with any prominence is for each person who views the page to change their own viewing preference from “Highlights” to “Posts by Others”. So the options are really either see all me or all everyone else, but not both together. Default is always going to be the most popular view and I’m going to guess fewer than half of all Facebook users even know how to change their viewing preferences! This slight concession by Facebook to give us flexibility is really a weak solution.
So that’s my gripe. If you have any experience or thoughts to share about Timeline I’d love to hear your comments. Facebook is still a great tool but I think until they give equal space and importance to everyone’s posts their new Timeline has made pages less interesting, less vibrant, and ultimately less social.