Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Facebook - things to consider if venturing in at the moment

Although it seems like ages now since I set up the Warwick Uni Library Facebook Page and though there was a huge flurry of activity around that time while lots of libraries did the same, there are many libraries out there still debating whether or not to take the leap.

Over the last few weeks I have had several enquiries from other Libraries asking advice about how to set up a Page and what kinds of things to take into account. I have to admit, the advice I give now is somewhat different to the advice I gave to other Libraries a year or so ago. And it is likely to change again and again over time as Facebook changes again and again over time. . .so what's different now?

Pages Vs. Groups


Facebook Pages (for a while called "Public Profiles" while Facebook messed about with the interfaces but they seem to be Pages again now) were created by Facebook to be used by businesses and to provide a way for organisations to have a Facebook presence without using a "profile" like the one an individual user has. Terms and conditions for Page Administrators are provided and you should take note of them before setting anything up - although there is nothing there that you would not expect.

Pages give loads of great functionality and Facebook will even email the Page administrators with a weekly update of statistics (this is quite a new feature) such as how many new people have "liked" your page and how many people have commented etc. in comparison to the week before. You can also see the demographic information of the people who "like" the Page and graphs of how many "likes" you have over time and how many of the people who "like" the Page have opted out of your newsfeed content. This is a really useful indication of whether or not you sending interesting content out and whether or not you are sending it at a reasonable frequency.

Yes, I said "liked". Pages don't have "Fans" any more. As Facebook gets more and more similar to Friend Feed (which it bought in August 2009 for $50 Million) the option to "like" things has appeared all over the site and other options, such as becoming a fan of a Page have disappeared. ("Our Page has over 1000 Likes" just doesn't roll off the tongue in the same way as "Our Page has over 1000 Fans" but apart from that I'm not sure we need to care too much about this change). We can probably expect more interface changes over time as Facebook does seem fond of them and also as the Facebook team now includes people who came from FriendFeed and Google.

The MAJOR problem with Pages is that the person who creates the Page ends up with their personal Facebook profile tied to that page and this cannot, at the moment, be changed. You cannot remove the original administrator of the Page. This has obvious implications for businesses and I am stunned that it is the case. When I originally set up the Warwick Page in November 2007 I tested for this, and at the time I could remove myself or I would not have gone ahead. Now it seems this option is no longer available. The issue has been raised by hundreds - probably thousands - of concerned Page owners but Facebook so far have not offered any response that I am aware of.

This leaves creators of new Pages with three real options:
  • They (and their employers) can accept that they are forever able to edit the Page even after they have ceased to work for the company. (This is just asking for something to happen somewhere which later results in legal action.)
  • They can create a fake account and set up the Page from that. This is against Facebooks terms and conditions - Condition 4.1 "You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook". If you already have a personal account you are also breaking Condition 4.2 "You will not create more than 1 Personal Profile".
  • They can give up on Pages and create a Group instead.

Groups are getting more and more like Pages. They now have fully functional Walls just like Pages have and all the commenting and "liking" options for things people have posted on those walls. As an administrator you can send out messages to all the members, invite specific people to join, decide whether or not people need to be approved by administrators before they join (this is an option you DON'T have with Pages) and add extra tabs for your photo and video content or to hold discussions etc.

And the BIG plus with Groups is that you CAN remove and add administrators as you see fit.

Groups were not designed with businesses in mind and so do not give you all the demographic information you get from Pages, or the update emails with your stats.

The Facebook HelpCentre explains the difference between Groups and Pages as follows:
"Groups and Pages serve different purposes on Facebook. Groups are meant to foster group discussion around a particular topic area while Pages allow entities such as public figures and organizations to broadcast information to their fans. Only the authorized representative of the entity can run a Page."

Personal Profiles

A few organisations have set themselves up on Facebook with a Personal Profile as if they were an individual. I would not recommend this, and I don't really understand why people do it. You run the risk of Facebook deleting your account at any time because you are using the Profile inappropriately, it also means that people have to become Facebook Friends with the organisation and therefore potentially share more information with you than they want to which can put them off, also it means people can't just start following you and interacting with you immediately. They have to wait for you to accept their friend request - which is annoying for them, and slow for you - why delay them getting your information?

So once you have decided what kind of presence to have what else do you need to consider?

Who owns your data?

Much debate has gone on over the ownership of personal data on Facebook and this has tied in very closely with the recent outcry about privacy issues on the site - not just who OWNS the data but who can VIEW the data?

Presumably if you are joining as a Library or other organisation you actively want people to find and see and pay attention to your Facebook data (let's face it Facebook is more a marketing tool than an educational aid). So I assume the privacy issues are not so important in this context. But the ownership issues are possibly more important. Who owns the video tutorial, or the publicity photos you posted to Facebook?

This argument has been going on for ages, and mostly relates to people's personal data rather than company information on Pages. Part of the argument revolves around the idea that if you leave Facebook you cannot remove your data from it. Facebook explained back in 2009 that this was just the nature of the beast - once you have shared some information you have no control over what the person you gave it to will do with it. It's  no different really to cancelling your email account - if you move from Hotmail to Gmail you can delete everything in your own inbox and sent mail at Hotmail but you cannot remove everything you ever sent to any of your friends from that account - they have their own copies in their own email inboxes and you can't control what they do with those copies.

In February last year Mark Zuckerberg wrote a now somewhat famous blog post publicly stating "On Facebook People Own and Control their Information" I have not so far found any more recent comment from Zuckerberg on this topic. More of his time seems to have been needed recently to address the Privacy issues which are related, but different.

There is no indication in the terms an conditions, as far as I can see, that Facebook claim any kind of ownership, such as copyright, of what you post there. For example if you were a professional photographer and you put a portfolio on your Facebook Page and later decided that you wanted to use part of that portfolio for your own commercial gain - say by selling some prints - it seems Facebook would have no right to stop you. In those terms, it appears that your Facebook Page data is yours - you won't get sued for selling your own work after having posted it on Facebook. But does that mean you can stop Facebook from selling it? Honestly, I don't know, the countless blog posts, news articles and sections of Facebook terms and conditions and FAQs I have read over the last week or so leave me none the wiser.
If anyone reading this can clarify please do leave me a comment - I'd be very interested to hear.

If after all that you are still planning on going ahead, the next issue might be: What To Post On Your Shiny New Page

If you decide to set up a Page there are a few basic rules for content:
  • Don't overfeed your Facebook Page - Be realistic about how interested your "likers" are in the Library - don't post too often, don't post just for the sake of it, and remember, they will just switch off your feed if they get bored with you.
  • But do keep posting - The Wall is the first thing anyone visiting your Page will see and if it is long out of date they will assume the Page is not active and ignore it. 
  • You can cut down on maintenance time by pushing content from elsewhere - If your Library has a blog or even better - several blogs, you can use Yahoo Pipes to aggregate all the blogs into one RSS feed and push it to your Facebook Page. You get fresh, relevant content posted as frequently as the blogs get updated and you don't have to do anything you weren't doing already. (Just be aware of how much blog content gets published or you risk overfeeding).
  • Do include photos, videos and useful links - Despite some concern over content ownership (see above) it does seem that Facebook is not in the business of trying to restrict you in what you do with your own content (on the contrary, it seems that Facebook is trying very hard to get you to share stuff)
  • If someone comments on a post or photo respond to them - This will show you are paying attention to your audience and your Page is not just a one way street. 
What Not To Post:

I would advise that you don't put anything on Facebook that your students can't access by another means, such as your web site email updates, etc. This is for 2 reasons:
  1. Why limit your audience? Not all of your users are on Facebook and those that are may not know you are on Facebook, they are certainly not all fans of your library!
  2. Making people go through Facebook for your information means you are expecting them to sign up to Facebook's terms and conditions to access your content. You would not expect anyone to sign up to any other organisation's terms and conditions to acces any other free part of your service.
I think thats about all the basic advice I can give to those looking into setting Pages at the moment. One other thing I would suggest though, is to look at how others are doing it . . . 

Some examples of UK Library Facebook Pages:

Has anyone got any advice to add to those just starting out on a Facebook presence for their Library?

Is there anyone just starting out who has any questions?

1 comment:

Katharine said...

Jo Alcock has just been in touch to let me know you can now remove the original creator of your facebook page!
This must have happened in the last few days - what great news :-)