So, I did it. I said “to hell with ‘friends’, I only want ‘fans’, I’m only going to use Facebook to broadcast, not discover.” I began the process of converting my Facebook profile, formerly at the vanity URL, or “username” http://www.facebook.com/backpackingdad, into a Facebook Page. It was not painless.
There were some reports that Facebook had pulled the migration tool shortly after announcing it, but when I clicked through to it, while logged into the profile I wished to migrate, the tool seemed to pull up fine. I was given many options for the kind of page I wanted to create, and then my profile name was pre-selected in a drop-down menu when I chose the type of page I wanted.
Although it looked exactly like the regular “Create a Page” screen, the pre-selection of my profile name gave me a little hope that this was, in fact, the method for migrating a profile to a page, and not merely adding another page to my profile with myself as the admin. And the distinction mattered: I already had a Page for Backpacking Dad, and I deleted it in advance of this migration in order to avoid confusion. The whole point was to end the life of my Profile, preserving the friends it had as new “likes” or fans on the new Page, and hopefully preserving the vanity URL, the username, I had snagged for myself when they first became available (although this was never promised, and in the end, I abandoned that hope.)
Trouble began almost immediately. Although the expected warning about the migration popped up (“This is irreversible, you will lose all your photos, wall posts, etc….”), at least two things were supposed to be preserved across the migration: my profile picture, and my friends-as-fans. Neither of these were saved, cleanly.
First, and most obvious, none of the friends had been imported as fans. I was presented with, basically, a blank Facebook Page and given options to customize it. I had no trouble with the customization, but where were the connections? The entire point of the process was to be able to preserve them. At first I thought I had merely set up a Facebook Page without actually migrating anything, which would confirm that Facebook had removed that tool, and whatever indications I’d had that I was in the migration process were wrong, or leftovers from an incomplete retraction. But there was no longer a profile associated with the page as an admin: when I signed into Facebook I was taken immediately to the my Page dashboard, and not to the old profile. My old login had been reassigned as a business account login. This is what was supposed to happen during a proper migration. So, I was confident I had executed a migration, and not merely a Page creation.
But I had no contacts, no “fans”. I started complaining to Twitter almost immediately: after going back and forth over the decision to do this in the first place, suddenly I seemed to have been presented with instant social media karma. How dare I decide to use Facebook merely as a broadcast tool and not to keep tabs on everyone else? “Nuts to you!” said the social media gods, and left me in a weird limbo.
My profile picture also hadn’t migrated all the way over with me: the main picture did, but the thumbnail hadn’t. That it was my profile picture at all told me, again, that I had executed a migration and not just a blank Page creation. But the migration was incomplete.
The expunging of the old profile was also massively incomplete. It exists, somewhere, in the background, as a user profile in many applications, and a friend to many other users, but it cannot be accessed publicly. While I was still signed in on my Blackberry I continued to see status updates from the friends of that profile, even though as a business account I shouldn’t be seeing updates at all. For a short while I was able to access full profiles from my Page account, something that should not have been possible, and which spoke to lingering crossed wires in the migration process. I can also, even now, “unlike” Pages that I had “liked” with my profile, but I cannot then “like” them again. Only the option for adding the Page to my own Page’s favourites remains. So clearly my old profile is still at work, somehow, and it is associated very basically with my Page even though I cannot access it directly.
Because the migration was incomplete, and because the expunging of the old profile was also clearly incomplete, I tried searching for some answers using Facebook’s Help system: But many of the entries associated with the migration tool were gone, and those that weren’t merely indicated that the process was irreversible. There was no option to speak to, chat with, or e-mail anyone to say “Your system is halfway broken, please either revert or complete the migration.” In the end I just gave up. I had to choose whether I was going to pursue a working Facebook Page, even if it meant building it back up from the ground, or abandon Facebook altogether.
I decided to stick with it, and when an option came up allowing me to choose a new Vanity URL for my Page I went with http://facebook.com/backpackingdadblog. I had really hoped to be able to keep my old URL during the migration, but since it was never mentioned as a feature, I didn’t feel too cheated when I couldn’t. I also started trying to let people know about the new Page, in order to slowly rebuild it into something worth having after all of that effort.
It’s all dramatic, I know. And it’s too much drama over a social media application that I was actually trying to decrease my interaction with. I had ended up with a Facebook Page, and I could use it as a broadcast tool. So what if I no longer had the same number of fans as I had friends?
Then, of course, hours and hours later, Facebook decided to import all of my old connections to the new account, making all of my angst and reading of help FAQ’s and grumblings moot.
So, if you decide to do a migration yourself, be much, much more patient than I was. Who knows? Maybe if I hadn’t jumped the gun I could have saved my Vanity URL too. Or maybe it was all of my loud complaining that got somebody’s attention and they fixed things manually for me so I’d shut up. In that case, you will have to be loud too.
All in all though, I’d say this feature is not ready for prime time. Stay away. But first “like” me at http://facebook.com/backpackingdadblog.