Archive: Jul 2010

Facebook needs Public Pages

Along with the benefits of sharing and bonding with people, Facebook brings with it the question of how to manage your Facebook existence.

Do you accept everyone who asks and let everyone see everything?

Do you accept everyone who asks but have detailed lists which are restricted in access?

Do you only accept people you’ve met?

Do you only accept close friends and be really open?

The possibilities are endless and people think a lot about this. In March of last year, Fred Wilson blogged about how he’s going to approach Facebook – he nuked a ton of people and set up a Fan Page.

I think Fan Pages sound, and are, quite arrogant for all the obvious reasons. But in execution, they are pretty good. So what’s the issue? The issue is the name. Here was my comment to Fred –

They should rename the fan page to the public page. It makes it a lower bar for “normal” people to get one.

And it raises the bar for someone to friend your “private” profile – they will ask themselves how well they really know you and a good number will automatically pick your public page.

Every single profile should come with a Public page that the user can turn on. This way, anyone can get one without having to deal with the “Do I deserve a fan page? I mean, who am I to think I need one??”

It’s a public page where you know everything you share is public and anyone can join (like) the page. And as I said in my comment, people who don’t know you at all would happily join this page instead if they found the content useful.

Here’s another tweak – allow the user to accept friends but assign them to the public or the private page. So, let’s say I get a friend invite from someone I don’t know at all, I just accept them into my Public page. They don’t even have to know which page it is. It’s like assigning them to a list, but much easier to manage since Facebook lists are notorious for breaking and vanishing when Facebook does an update.

I understand that Facebook wants everything about everybody to be public to everybody else, but that’s just not the reality of how people want to live online. And good product design is allowing the user to do what is best for them.

Why am I talking about all this? Because after months of angst, I have a Public page (I refuse to call it anything else). If you don’t know me very well, but want to follow all my blog posts and my professional life (film) with the comfort of the Facebook environment, this is the place to friend me. If I don’t know you and you friend me on my Private page, I will gently direct you to the Public one.

Do I need a Fan page? Heck no! It’s gross. But I do need a Public page. Everyone does.

Make me care

Twitter improved their New Follower email last year by adding Followers, Tweets and Following. But they left out one very important piece of information – the Bio. To me, if they had added in that one variable, the email would be perfect. Because then you not only know their twitter usage, but who they are.

By leaving it out, Twitter has made everyone soulless. Follower counts are numbers. Cold statistics that tell me frequency and popularity. A bio gives me flavor. A bio also gives me reason to act.

If someone with 2 followers and 0 tweets is a bio-less person whose name doesn’t ring a bell, I am unlikely to follow them based on the email. But if they are affiliated with a school I attended, a company I worked at, a city I lived in, or if their bio grabs me in any way, I will likely follow them regardless of the statistics.

But I don’t even get that far. Because what happens with me, and likely most people, is that most of the time they don’t even bother clicking through to the web to decide whether to follow or not. Who has the time?

If the bio doesn’t entice me, it is not going to entice me just because I was forced to click through to the web to read it. By leaving out the bio, Twitter is reducing the velocity of interactions, reducing the connections. That’s not a good thing for the service.

People are busy. Good product design should make it easy for people to care and easy for them to act in the moment of caring.