Facebook’s New Profile Page: Good For People (And Yes, Advertisers Too)

Facebook announced the new profile page, updating how member profiles are shown. I was pre-briefed last week by Peter Deng, the product manager in charge of the project, about the changes.

In a nutshell, the profiles are getting a new look with a few new features that will not only make them more functional to read, but also easy to update. I’ll detail those in a minute, but some perspective first. Why the big deal?

First, anytime Facebook makes changes to the interface, there is usually a huge outcry. Expect nothing less this time, especially because this is a person’s expression of themselves on Facebook. Learning from past experiences, Facebook is not pushing this out automatically to people, but instead allowing people to opt-in (you can try it out on the new Facebook Profile “About” page. You can see my new profile too.)

Second, the freshness of profiles is vital not only to the experience, but also to Facebook’s business model. Facebook has innovated a great deal to add new things associated with a person, such as the Pages of which they are a fan or recent “Likes” they have indicated. But the profile page remained an island, infrequently touched, infrequently updated.

And that’s a problem when the advertising that Facebook offers is keyed off the explicit information included in a person’s profile. Advertisers can target off that information but if you’re like me, you seldom look at or update the Info tab on your Facebook profile page.

So Facebook has an incentive to encourage people to not only update their profile pages, but to also make it much more reflective of their interests and relationships, making it a real reflection of the people and things that are important to them. And in so doing, people are providing valuable meta data to Facebook and its advertisers. Deng took care to emphasize that a person’s privacy settings are unchanged with this update – so if they do not want their information to be publicly available, it will not appear thus.

So on to the three key features that I believe are going to make profiles more functional, updated, and thus, valuable to Facebook in the end.

Profile Summary

A synopsis of each person will appear at the top of the new profile page. It includes typical “conversation starters” that get people talking – things like where you work, who you’re married to, where you went to school, etc. In addition, the latest photos posted by the person will also appear – again, complying with existing privacy settings so you only see photos that you have permission to see. In the past, these photos were hidden behind a link on the profile page, so now they are made visible, typically “above the fold”.

Featured Friends

This is one of the most interesting and in my mind, controversial new features. Each person will be able to designate a small number of people to feature as friends. This isn’t necessarily a “top friends” feature, but one where you can specify special relationships, such as family, colleagues, or if you’re a believe that you are defined by who your friends are, celebrity friends.

This introduces a whole new social dynamic into Facebook. Why did you pick Friend A and not Friend B to be featured? What does it mean when you remove someone – did something happen?

But this area also adds greater nuance to friends and relationships within Facebook. Currently, the only designation of a different weight to friends is in the “relationship” field, where you can show that you are in a relationship with one other person. But now I can have a group called “Family” or “College” or “Work” or “Girlfriends” to designate not only the importance of a relationship but also the nature of that relationship.

This becomes valuable meta data to understand who is important in my life – and hence, how influential someone is, or how influential I might be to someone. And a person who is featured on many profiles can be seen as far more influential and thus earn a higher “friend rank” weight than someone who is featured less frequently. Again, this is all valuable information — if not actively used today, then potentially in the future.

Interface Changes

There are several interface changes that will feel disruptive at first, mostly because the information you normally would find in one place are either gone or moved to another place. Case in point: the tabs that appeared at the top of the page are now links on the left hand side.

But I believe those types of navigational changes will be quickly and easily accepted. There will be a backlash at first, but the fact that Facebook is not forcing the changes on to people means that adoption will come because people are seeing the changes on other people’s profiles first.

One of the biggest pull to shift people to the new profiles will be the richness available in the Work profiles and interests. Anything associated with your workplace, such as updates by colleagues, chats, Likes, will appear. Again, you can opt out of having these features show up in your profile, but it will have to be a setting that you control.

In addition, images will usually accompany your stated interests, making it much more visually appealing to browse. For example, my favorite artists, movies, and books will all have images associated with them.

But by far the most valuable and entrancing feature to be added is the Infinite Scroll. Rather than have to click on a link to see “more” photos, friends, and wall posts, I’ll be able to just keep scrolling down and down – and the page will automatically load more information.

Overall, an update to the profile page is long overdue and I personally like a lot of the new features — and this is coming from someone who detests having to update my page. I have basically left it the same since I joined Facebook years ago…until today. What remains to be seen is if by making it more visible, accessible, and feature oriented if I will be motivated to update it as often. I do expect there to be significant push back from Facebook members, both because of the interface changes as well as the new social dynamics that will need to be gotten used to. And of course, privacy will always remain a valid and pressing concern.

But Facebook remains committed to relentless change, something that I greatly admire. But there’s a greater sense of maturity in how it pushes through the changes as well, an acknowledgement and maturing of the organization as it takes into account the fact that rapid changes and advances aren’t always appreciated by the now-mainstream audience that’s on Facebook.

35 thoughts on “Facebook’s New Profile Page: Good For People (And Yes, Advertisers Too)”

  1. I definitely am NOT a fan of the “new and improved” profile page. First, it looks like a resume. Second, and most important to me, it does not allow me the flexibility of posting text AND a link. For example, on my organization’s page, I post several news items daily – a very brief summary of the piece (text), and then provide the items as a “link” – can’t do that with this new interface. Very bad for my organization, as thousands get these daily posts… now what? Extremely frustrating!

  2. Does anybody know if I can “downgrade”? That is, go back to the original version? I am seriously worried about how this inflexibility will affect my organization’s social media following, which is considerably larger than our paid membership base. This glitch has potential to do serious impact and I’m not interested in requesting that 1000’s of Facebook “fans” migrate to another page.

  3. Thanks for the coverage Charlene.

    I think one of the other interesting changes is that they have brought the ads within the profile page frame, under the people you may know / friendship data, rather than outside frame of the profile on their own

    I’ll be keen to see if this impacts engagement / click through with the ads.

  4. The Facebook experience is unreliable. Things change constantly and now Facebook has determined how ‘to tell your story’. No thanks, we will decide that. Facebook, you cannot exist without us, now start respecting that! Facebook relies on personal interaction, that’s what’s in it for us, the users. By controlling the way we present our information it is becoming more and more a business platform at the expence of the way we choose to personally interact. What’s more important? Business at will, or milking out the potential clients? This new feel of facebook is entirely unattractive for me. Facebook is now like sitting at a bar with candlelight chatting to a beautiful girl with my CV tattooed on my forehead, spotlights on my wedding ring, microphones and meters stuck to our bodies monitoring us for useful data to determine which adverts will be shown on two TVs in front of us + plus a direct transcript of everything you say. And all the while thousands of friends are tapping you on your shoulder and saying that you were there and there. I will never go to that bar obviously!!

    I have noticed many changes to facebook and all of them are an improvement and have made facebook more enjoyable, no complaining from me, but some key elements of this New Profile have destroyed the very essence of what facebook was: something personal. I cannot create my own ‘way to show and tell my story’, unlike the slogan used for the New Profile.

    This is not a matter of getting used to, Facebook has changed its entire dynamic at user level. Its has become a different site, one I would not choose to join. With the removal of the status, the forced placement of career and education info and the photobar at the top, it has become some kind of dating site / job seekers site. It looks like LinkedIn. I have no control anymore of how people see the page that they arrive at when they first visit my profile… I have no more personality on Facebook and thus I am losing interest in Facebook. Facebook has become some XSS gadget site attempting to tell people’s stories for them, assuming that my CV is ‘who I am’ and thus assuming that the first thing I want to show people is my CV. Even though I went through university, and I have an amazing job, its not the first thing I want people to know.

    LinkedIn themselves issued a statement recently on forbes blogs saying something similar, and driving my point home: “In social networking, as in life, context matters. Most people do not want to mix their professional lives with their personal lives…” Facebook is now mixing professional and personal asif it does not matter… and its users have no choice. This is either highly ignorant of Facebook, or evidence of yet another privacy-disrespecting hidden agenda… like catering for developers at our expense. If that’s the case then I’m gone.

    Now I am not the only one that thinks this, and this is definitely going to affect people’s activities on Facebook. I for one have been awakened to how much I rely on facebook to keep in contact with certain people and I am now planning to revive my own blog and gradually withdraw from facebook to maintain some kind of independence of online expression. I will not be told how to tell my story.

    I don’t mind a certain degree of dependence, those little adverts in the corner tracking my likes and dislikes, no problem, I am enjoying a free service after all… but this free service has now become very unattractive for me, and untrustworthy. Facebook has no business in the way I relate to my friends and how I choose to ‘tell my story’.

    If I were Facebook management, for its own best interest (and not ignite some counter reaction where other social networking sites will benefit from) I’d make the photobar optional, make the so called ‘quick summary’ next to the user’s name customizable (able to choose for work, education or entirely one’s own description), and reinstate the status. This will allow you to fashion your OWN ‘way to show and tell your story’. And please remove that silly ‘See Friendship’ thing. I don’t need some web-based application organising my friendships.

    I however do not know if I will keep using facebook if they rectify it, I don’t trust Facebook of being capable of treating my personal online life with respect after something like this. The TOS and privacy policy of Facebook is not exactly trustworthy either, if I must believe what I am reading elsewhere online.

    PS: The photo page needs some addressing as well, its a clutter now.

  5. Facebook is forever changing, and will continue to do so. Some changes better or worse than others. What they must continue to do is try to ensure that they don’t lose user trust, and from what I gather and hear from many is that they are starting to question that trust.

  6. Trust is everything when users are putting their life on line (literally). If Facebook keeps making changes like this one, they’ll end up like MySpace. Very business-like, not fun enough. It seems like most people want to express their personalities. I fear the trust in Facebook is dwindling.

  7. I didn’t like the way My Likes were displayed. They were all jumbled up which made them hard to sort through. Also, the new interface had my external links (they were displayed in the upper left) buried so far down that nobody could find them. Other than those two things, I really had no complains and believe there will be more positive than negative changes.

  8. Akshay’s question is my question, too. On the old profile, there was a tab specifically dedicated to “Links”, where anything you linked in your profile would automatically go to be archived. I don’t see the “Links” link over on the left-hand side on the profile page now. Anyone know where it’s gone? I really liked that feature.

  9. RE: Links – someone somewhere else wrote “Found it…Just type “links” in the search box…then click “my links” at the top” – can’t test this b/c I have old version of profile

  10. While I understand all these changes and can appreciate the value of more in-depth meta searches for advertisers, the new profile has completely removed easy access to the “fan” pages I have up for my small company. People who view my profile now see – at the top – that I work for “Thunder Roads Texas Magazine” – with a link to a totally useless “community page” that I have no control over – that people can “like”…. and they are liking it – thinking they are liking my fan page. So, as a business, I’m losing potential exposure for my company through my fan page – giving it up to a useless “community” page.

    The next change I’d like to see is the ability to better identify who I am (used to be offered in the left column – now you have to click into my profile, click into my “info” through the left column, and scroll all the way to the bottom to find out how to get more information about my business…. that just plain SUCKS. I have found a way around that – by including links to my pages in the description my company through editing my profile. However – this does not solve the community page problem that I see is a huge issue.

  11. So noone addressed Tippity Treasures’ post…WHERE ARE THE LIKES???????
    I hate not having my links and likes accessible from my own page. Why do I have to type links into the search bar to find them? Stupid. And I still can’t find ‘likes’ anywhere, the search bar is no help. It lead me here, but there don’t appear to be any answers here either. Sigh.

  12. Now that this change has taken place, I wonder how many people are really that upset about it. I know that there was an option to change at first, and then Facebook just switched everyone over eventually. I was not happy about it in the beginning, however eventually I warmed up and noticed that I didn’t see any new groups forming that was called “I want my old Facebook profile back”. I agree that this is a good change for everyone, and it was overdue.

  13. Thanks for this post! Facebook is constantly changing and no one ever knows why. The made it a bit more understandable and now it makes sense for the changes facebook undergoes so often. I don’t prefer it always changing but I it makes it “easier” knowing why it does!

  14. Now that the changes are rolling out in force, it is quite interesting to see what people are doing. While I agree with a lot of what is said above in the comments, I’m also a firm believer that change is good. Learning how to adapt to change only makes us stronger, both as people and as professionals.
    Facebook has changed the way a lot of us communicate and express ourselves. Think back 4 years before Facebook became such a part of everyday life.
    Thanks for sharing the “why” behind these changes. While it doesn’t necessarily make it easier to handle the changes, it certainly does make it easier to accept them and move on!

  15. @Jackie: It is interesting, isn’t it! Especially when you read through these comments and see how vehemently people protested the change to Facebook Messages. There hasn’t been a wholesale defection and many people like the new features — although it’s not all great.

    I find that I get far more messages now, courtesy of undelivered chat sessions. But it’s also much easier to get through them now, as they are not cluttered with non-friend communications.

  16. Facebook can easily irritate its users by simply making some changes. I’m one of those irritated users myself. Now that the profile has been like this for a while, I’ve come to like it – but it did take some getting used to. I like that it can be easy to read and find out important things about someone especially for an employer. Hopefully everyone can get on board with the change.

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