THUNDER BAY – A user backlash to changes on Facebook is playing out once again, following the company’s rollout of a redesigned news feed that combines “top stories” and “recent posts” into a single stream. Facebook also added a separate feed called Ticker to the home page, showing instant updates from friends — the social network’s answer to Twitter.
These moves come on the heels of Facebook introducing revamped Friend Lists for sorting friends into different groups and a Subscriber button to follow people on the site even if they’re not friends — another Twitter-like feature. Plus, the Inside Facebook blog reports today that the character limit on posts has been expanded from 500 to 5,000 characters.
This is all before Facebook is expected to unveil sweeping changes that will usher in a new range of content offerings on the site spanning music, video and written content. It may all be a bit overwhelming for Facebook users, who are already getting hit with an abundance of prompts explaining revisions or new features when they log in.
Inside Facebook, the news feed overhaul and addition of the Ticker may be generating the most complaints of any change since Facebook abruptly altered its user privacy controls in 2009. AllFacebook, another Facebook-tracking blog, also noted the outpouring of complaints on the site, suggesting that the upgraded technology behind the news feed may itself may be encouraging more negative postings.
Users have also taken to Twitter and other forums to express their displeasure with the new Facebook layout, with information overload appearing as a recurring theme. “This new facebook top story feature is pretty terrible. Of the 20 or so things it marked as top story, only one was something I cared about,” tweeted Kirpaul.
“The new #Facebook feed is so loud and off-kilter it practically makes me hate my friends for posting stuff. That can’t be right,” chimed in Steve Silberman in another post under the #NewFacebook topic on Twitter.
Facebook users, of course, have grumbled about just about every significant modification of site features or services going back to the launch of the news feed itself in 2006. By now, the company has come to expect some degree of resistance to new initiatives. It either perseveres or pulls back, if the outcry is loud enough — as with its ill-fated Beacon program.
But the recent pace of upgrades and additions to Facebook in what CEO Mark Zuckerberg has called the company’s “launching season” may be too much, too quickly for users to easily absorb. Facebook’s effort to adapt similar features on rival social properties like Google+ and Twitter to blunt new competition may also be turning off users.
“New facebook copied so much from @Twitter. wow,” read another recent tweet.
And the tweaks keep coming. Facebook separately today announced that the “Friend Activity” tab, until now found only in Facebook Places, would be added to all brand pages on the site. Through the tab, people will be able to see “Likes,” comments and any mentions of the page by friends.
Users also don’t need to have Liked a page to be able to post on its wall or comment on its updates. The idea is to open the door for more people to join the “conversation” around a brand.
“We think that surfacing these stories from your friends will make people’s experiences with Pages more relevant and personal,” stated Facebook. From an advertising perspective, marketing firm HubSpot pointed out that the latest changes all point to a greater emphasis on personalization.
“As a marketer, make sure your posts in social media are relevant and personal for your target audience,” wrote HubSpot’s Pamela Vaughan in a blog post Wednesday. “Second, because public search is becoming more and more possible in social networks, be sure that every post you publish is both optimized with your target keywords and is made publicly available.”
But with even more content flowing into users’ home pages and designed to surface updates from a user’s close friends more readily, breaking through the clutter for brands could become more difficult than ever.
(c) 2011 MediaPost Communications – Weak Ticker: Facebook Users Dislike Updated News Feed from 2001-2011 by Mark Walsh originally appeared in Online Media Daily on September 22, 2011.