Facebook rolled out a fairly extensive makeover of the Facebook profile pages over the weekend -- timed to coincide with the 60 Minutes interview of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The changes put more focus on relationships within the social network, but also feature the ads much more prominently than the previous version.
A post by Josh Wiseman on the Facebook Blog explains, "The profile begins with a quick overview of basic information such as where you're from, where you went to school, and where you work-?the kinds of conversation starters you share with people you've just met or exchange with old friends as you get reacquainted," adding "And since there's often no better way to learn about a person than through photos, the profile now includes a row of recently tagged photos of you."
One thing that isn't really pointed out or discussed much by Facebook, though, is the fact that the bar on the right side where the ads are displayed has about doubled from its previous width. Sponsored ads are now much more visible, and take up more Facebook real estate.
I am not suggesting that is all bad per se, or that Facebook is trying to pull the wool over users' eyes by sneaking in large ads. Obviously, Facebook's primary goal is to create an environment that works for users. Unless the users appreciate the changes in the Facebook profiles and frequent the page often, the ads have no value to anyone.
There is a lot to get used to with the new Facebook profiles layout, but there is also a lot to like about it once you do. One interesting addition is the expanded ability to highlight accomplishments and interest. Wiseman elaborates, "You can list the projects you worked on at your job, classes you took in school, your favorite musicians and sports teams, and more. You can also share your life philosophy by connecting to the religions, political affiliations, and people you follow and admire. All your interests and experiences are now represented with images, making your entire profile a more compelling visual experience."
Predictably, there is a backlash from some of the Facebook community. It doesn't really matter what changes Facebook makes -- some will hate them and complain vocally that they wish the site would just remain stagnant and never change.
For businesses, the changes represent an improvement in the marketing potential of the Facebook platform. Anything that improves the user experience and gets Facebook users to spend more time interacting with the social network increases the opportunity to interact with them as customers. The larger ad space will hopefully draw more attention, and give businesses a better chance of inducing a response from users.
Not everyone has the new profile update yet. It hasn't been pushed out to users, but you can get it if you want it by visiting the Facebook site detailing the updates with the new profile and clicking the button. Be warned, though, once you switch to the new profile you can't switch back.