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By now most people will have adopted Facebook’s new profile format. Unfortunately one of these recent changes showcases a pretty big flaw in Facebook’s connectivity, and unhappily for the social networking giant, it’s one that impacts businesses directly.
By now most users will be aware of which changes they will need to make (if any) to optimise the new profile, but there are now a few sections which are unfortunately beyond your control, chiefly the way your ‘Employer Information’ is displayed.
If you have updated to a new profile layout, then every profile you view will be displayed in this way.
Here’s my profile:
Yes, I’m vain enough to have set up one of those huge pictures on my profile. Ignore my swarthy good looks and the ridiculous content for a moment though and instead direct your eyes towards the Information bar.
Seems fine, that’s the right University, I live in London, and I’m older than I like to admit.
There’s also a prominent link to my employer: Econsultancy
But a click on the link to my employer reveals… well, the wrong page entirely:
The Econsultancy that Facebook links to is a randomly generated filler page, based only on the information I have entered (In other words, If I decide to change my employer to ‘Darth Vader’ then a randomly generated ‘Darth Vader’ page will appear here).
On the individual level this isn’t a huge problem, but it’s worth considering the impact this can have on larger businesses and brands in general.
If you are a multinational with 100,000 employees listing you on Facebook, then there will be 100,000 alternatives to your official Company page, pages which the creators could also possibly claim as their own, which leaves scope for brand hijacking.
In addition, people have the ability to ‘Like’ this randomly generated page.
I occasionally get friend requests from people who’ve tracked me down via Google or through Twitter and LinkedIn, and although my Facebook is largely personal information rather than anything work related I’m happy to add them in the interest of general networking.
Unfortunately a few have ‘Liked’ this random page by mistake.
These are likely to be people who have viewed my profile because they are interested in Econsultancy.
Now they are friends with an empty page that doesn’t provide them with any information, rather than our actual page which provides regular updates (and yes, I am going to ask you to follow us on Facebook). Worse, it’s also impossible for me to see who the new page’s ‘Fans’ are and inform them of the mistake.
Facebook has obviously instituted this method of listing companies to avoid confusion. If you work for a ‘Middle School’ or ‘National Bank’ then there is obviously room for serious mistakes to occur were Facebook simply to guess which ‘Middle School’ you actually worked for: One in Delaware, or one in Krakow?
A hijacked brand or a massive boost to a competitor’s page is a worst case scenario of course, but as marketers work hard to gain new fans and make connections, it’s still an annoyance that potential customers are being redirected to the incorrect destination.
Currently this can be fixed: Simply delete your employer and re-add them to select the correct company here (although that said, Facebook still doesn’t seem to want to locate the real Econsultancy page for me).
But you can’t expect every employee to have the time or inclination to do this even if you have pointed it out and requested that your staff update.
Facebook shouldn't expect you to, especially as the problem isn't made clear, but instead requiring users to implement some unreliable editing that most people won’t uncover until they move to a new company.
Facebook’s business is largely built on its ability to provide businesses with deep, granular information about users and the functionality to target adds with pinpoint accuracy.
Much of this it does very well, but this simple oversight represents a major flaw in Facebook’s accuracy and the credibility of the social graph that could seriously affect businesses.