The social media world has been abuzz since last week’s official launch of Facebook Timeline for all brand pages. Timeline has been available for personal users for a few months, and while it’s been optional, it’ll ultimately be the only choice for people and brands alike. I’m now accustomed to seeing the new look on my friends’ pages: huge cover photos of sunsets, babies or pets (I’m guilty of at least two. See for yourself.), but how will Timeline actually transform a brand’s presence on Facebook? After speaking with reps from the site, taking an online webinar and reading up on all of the official Facebook documents, I’ve come to the conclusion that Timeline can enrich a consumer’s view of a brand. How can it do this? By creating a page where consumers might spend more time and by allowing brands to seem more human.
Here are some details about how Timeline works:
Cover Photo vs. Profile Picture
The new cover photo seems like a simple concept. It’s like a profile picture, but bigger. But Facebook claims that it’s more than that – and they may be right. The suggested use of this space is for an image that captures the essence of your brand. Not a logo, not a promotional photo, not just text. The cover photo is the soul of the brand page, and should convey the soul of the brand. On the other hand, the profile picture should convey the facts: the logo, the label, etc. Facebook chose a few brands as guinea pigs for Timeline. Among them were Coca-Cola and Manchester United and not surprisingly, their pages look great (I’m guessing their sizable Facebook advertising budgets didn’t hurt). The Manchester United page is the perfect example of the Cover Photo vs. Profile pic discrepancy. Their profile pic is just the Manchester United logo. And yet their cover photo is of an emotional, uplifting photo of the victorious team, evoking immediate emotion from any user. Even from me!
What it means for brands: Emotion sells.
Pinning Your Posts
Another new feature for Timeline is the ability for brands to “pin” a post to the top of the page for up to 7 days. This is all about the first impression – any user landing on a brand page will see exactly what the brand wants them to see. The days are over when negative customer feedback live at the top of the Facebook Brand Page wall. This gives more power to the brand over all headlining content on their page. And while users are still encouraged to post on brand pages, Facebook has introduced a new option for consumers to privately message brands. This should cut down on some of the customer service type questions that are often prominently displayed on Facebook walls. Barack Obama’s profile is a great example of keeping the positive message up top, including user photos of reasons why they support Obama, positive videos and quotes from the President himself.
What it means for brands: Choose your pins wisely. They’re the introduction line in your consumer conversation, and you now have the power to control it.
Views and Apps
Here’s a big change: Brands can no longer select a landing page for their users to view first. Everyone will land to the brand’s Timeline. The only way for users to go straight to an application is through a paid media buy. Facebook has also changed up the way applications are displayed – they’ve said goodbye to the text links on the left side of the page and opted for pretty thumbnails at the top of the page, right next to the Photo and Like images. Brands will be able to move the thumbnails around, displaying which applications get top priority, although the Photo and Like thumbnails are stationary. This results in a nicer presentation, but a more top-heavy page, where users will need to scroll down below the fold to get to the real meat of the page.
What it means for brands: Brands can no longer dictate for users to arrive on welcome pages, “like to enter” tabs or apps. So, create thumbnails to make your apps pop.
On to the main course: And here’s where brands can really show their personalities. The milestone function allows brands to chronologically add in the opening day of their business, the day they made your first dollar, when they expanded globally, etc… The actual timeline on the Timeline allows brands to expose their history to their users. Do consumers care? Brands are tasked with injecting their milestones with fun, interesting facts – otherwise the Timeline will fall flat. Starbucks started their Timeline with opening their first store in 1971, and for a company that has grown so quickly – it’s a fun read. Obama also gets this right. His milestone posts bring us back to the 1970s with fun facts such as: “Obama gets his first job working the counter at Baskin-Robbins” or “Obama moves in with his grandparents in Hawaii”. But then there’s Coca-Cola. Their first milestone on their Timeline is the company’s start in 1886. A brand with such a long, rich history should be fascinating to read about. But do consumers have time to scroll though their entire history? I’m not so sure. Especially since the Timeline functionality is still very sluggish. Once we see improvements with the speed, it might become a more attractive read.
What it means for brands: Keep this section short and sweet, with punchy and interesting facts. Brands want users to find your brand charming and inspiring, not just read a history text book.
There’s no question – Timeline is pretty. And it will allow brands to speak to users in a whole new way. I just hope that Facebook doesn’t lose sight of the importance of the consumer to brand and consumer/consumer conversations, both of which seem to take a back seat with this new look. If the goal is to make brands seem more human, then human consumer engagement should still be a top priority. But as we’ve seen with Facebook in the past, there’s certainly more change to come.