Because I'm an old-fashioned girl who can't "get with the times", I still subscribe to Wired magazine (that's right, the paper version - delivered to my doorstep). As soon as I flipped open the latest issue this weekend I landed on an article that I knew would inspire a worthy blog post for today: "the good enuf rvlutn"* (that should read "the good enough revolution" for all the anti-texting, English language purists out there). In it, Wired writer Robert Capps discusses an interesting phenomenon in which so-called "lo-fi", or low fidelity, technology is beating out high quality, high performance product/service models, from standard consumer products to military hardware and even health care! The fact of the matter is that we're living in an era in which convenience and accessibility are valued over all. The Flip Ultra portable video camcorder still doesn't have the full range of features and video quality that a standard video camera does, but it's hundreds of dollars cheaper and its built-in USB drive gives customers what they really want: a quick and easy way to shoot and share videos with their friends on sites like Facebook and YouTube. This same concept can be applied to Facebook and Twitter pages as well. In the last year that I've been working with a focus almost entirely on my clients' social media presence, I've come across so many people (clients and non-clients alike) who are concerned with the "look" of their page more than anything else. They point to pages with slick graphics and flashy built-in applications and ask how much they would need to invest to have their page look like that before giving any thought to their actual fan communications. But when a fan is browsing their home page feed for news about their friends or checking their Facebook mobile updates, they're not seeing your $10,000+ custom application - they're only seeing what you're putting out in status updates, and it's exactly the same for Twitter. And if you aren't communicating with your fans regularly... well then, they might as well not even know you're on Facebook!
Now don't get me wrong, you don't want to completely throw your image and branding out the window just because fans will generally pay more attention to your feed than they will to your visuals. It's still important to maintain your image. All that I'm saying is exactly what that Wired article was talking about: it really only has to be "good enough". All your page needs as far as design is concerned is the bare minimum: info about your company, important highlights for Facebook fans, and a clean layout, with concise copy that's easy to skim. Similarly, for Twitter backgrounds, I'd suggest maybe a sentence or two max that couldn't fit in your bio, and leave the links to the appropriate "Website" section on your profile. Your real investment should be in your page's voice, informational updates, and communications to really connect with your fan base. In the end, your status updates and shared items are the best way to keep fans interested and build that relationship.
*Robert Capps' "the good enuf rvlutn" can be found in Wired Issue 17.09, pp 110-119.