Dear Facebook, get your stuff together.

June 10, 2011

This post has been a long time coming, is multi-faceted and angry. If anyone who works at Facebook reading this, I would like you to read my whole post, but if you don’t want to do that, read this: I would pay $50/month to have phone/live-chat access to someone who could help me deal with problems similar to the ones I describe below. I’d even pay if you provided timely email support. Submitting a “help” form and waiting 3 weeks for a response is not a viable business proposition.

I work for a company called boom. reactive. Among other things, we help companies out with their Facebook pages. Here are some problems I’ve been having recently.

Section 1: Merging places

An important part of this job is claiming existing unofficial pages and merging them with official pages. This has always been a pain, but for reasons that I understand and to some degree appreciate. Unofficial pages get created (to the best of my knowledge) when someone “checks in” to a location using Facebook on their mobile device, and can’t find the location for some reason, so they create their own. From there, other people check in and all of a sudden, in the case of one of our clients, there were 1,226 check-ins and 277 likes at an unofficial page.

Fortunately, whoever created the page used the company’s phone number in the “information” section. Facebook allows you to verify page ownership by answering the phone and entering a PIN number. “Great,” you might think. “All you have to do is tell your client to answer their phone and send you the PIN number.” Exactly.

So we did. We claimed the place. Then Facebook did what I wanted it to do. It said “Do you want to merge this page with an existing page?”

Yes Facebook! It is like you are reading my mind. That is exactly what I want to do. So I select the page I want to merge it with and get an error that reads approximately this: (in retrospect, I should have taken a screen shot).

“We’re sorry. The locations are too far apart to be eligible to merge. They will remain separate places.” Wonderful. I initially assume that this is my fault and that I had the location of the official page listed incorrectly. I checked:

The two pages that I wanted to merge not only had IDENTICAL street addresses, and their Bing Maps displayed on the Info page are nearly identical as well. I made an overlay here so that we can see how far away these places allegedly are (despite having the same address):

Essentially, well within the margin of GPS error.

So, now I’ve got two separate places. Back in the old days, there used to be a merge places option for admins on the right sidebar, like this:

That’s not there any more. They got rid of it without any warning and merging places is no longer possible. So now I’m stuck with two different places. I could delete one, but then I’d lose over 1,000 check-ins and 270 likes. That’s not good for any business and shouldn’t be necessary.

Section 2: Creating Places

I’m not done with you, Places. There are other headaches that you cause me daily. Another one of our clients who’s page we setup is a food truck. Unlike most food trucks however, they are in the same location every day. This is great for Facebook because it allows them to be a “place” and allows people to check-in there. That means they should be able to offer check-in based deals. All of these things are great!

There’s the nice telling me that if I enter a valid address, users will be able to check-in using Places. The only issue is, that is a valid address, and people can’t check-in there using places. It isn’t possible. Instead of seeing a map when they go to the info page, they just see the street address. Oddly enough, when you click on that street address, it takes you to a map, which certifies that it is a valid address.

This is a problem across the board. We can’t register our own office as a Facebook place for the same reason. It is ridiculous.

There should be a work-around. I should be able to check-in to a place, make an unofficial page and then merge it with the existing page. However as we saw in Section 1, that isn’t possible.

Section 3: Tagging Businesses

Another thing… About a month ago, I read a post regarding the ability for people to tag business pages in Photos. I read it, I got excited about it and I tried it and it worked. Then I encouraged fans of one of our clients to tag the business in pictures so that they’d show up on our wall.

Sure enough, they couldn’t. I had my partner do it. He couldn’t. Some people could tag some businesses, some people could tag no businesses. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to who could tag what. Why?? And a month later, why is the feature still not rolled out properly? This shouldn’t be a big deal.

Section 4: Where do we go from here?

Despite problems listed above, I believe Facebook is a great way for friends to connect with each other and for businesses to connect with customers in ways that were never possible before. The product has already changed the way people communicate and allows for more people to stay in touch than was ever possible before.

The problems I’ve listed above are clearly more complicated than I understand and I’m sure they’ve been removed or changed or not yet implemented for a reason. What I guess I would like is more communication. A blog post that says “We’ve removed the ‘merge pages’ feature because x y and z. It will be back once we figure out how to work through these problems” or “We’re having Bing integration problems and your new pages might not be showing up as places. Bare with us as we figure this out.”

Instead, if we have questions we get directed to a Help section who’s responses provide mainly vague and common-sense responses. Alternatively, we can browse through the nightmare that is “help discussions” or send off a response that is unlikely to get answered in anything that resembles a timely fashion.

This is a pain in the butt for me, and it is my primary job to work on company’s Facebook pages. I can’t imagine how frustrating it is for shop owners who are managing pages themselves. What I’d imagine happens is that they get frustrated and they quit. They stop using their pages or they never offer deals because things change without warning, the system doesn’t work like it should, and there is no efficient way to get real answers about what’s going on.

Which leads me to my point in the first paragraph. Facebook has real customers and they need real customer service. They want businesses to have pages, but when businesses run into troubles beyond the rudimentary FAQ page, they are left with nowhere to go.

I don’t think it would be unreasonable for Facebook to offer a service where you can speak to a person or chat with them on within a browser. I don’t think it would be unreasonable to charge for it either. I’d pay a lot for it. A small business owner may pay a lot less for it, but it is still something I think a lot of people would be use.

Alternatively, they could offer better explanations about when they add, remove or alter features. Either way, something’s gotta change.

p.s. I really like their facial recognition feature and don’t know why people are so mad about it.

further reading: Ars Technica has had problems with Facebook as well, but on a much larger scale. You can read about it here.


4 Responses to “Dear Facebook, get your stuff together.”

  1. Jeana Says:

    I echo your post, and have been dealing with inconsistencies in places and pages for awhile now as well. It would be nice to hear from Facebook on this issue.

  2. Jeff Eller Says:

    major echo here, especially to section one. i screen shotted the too far apart message. did you ever get a solution or any ideas? would love to know

  3. Samantha Says:

    This couldn’t be more true of a post…major frustrations here on the same front. Another issue is we currently went through some legal episodes and need to change our page name…well we have well over 100 likes and that’s not possible??? Great, I can’t wait to see what legal ramifications we go through because of this “rule”…wonder if Facebook will help pay our costs should any arise….If you ever found a solution to the merging places too far apart or know how I can resolve my name change problem, please let me know!

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