Facebook Timeline a Game Changer for Brands

posted by Public Relations

Facebook has again rocked our marketing brains. Today, Facebook didn’t just simply announce a new Timeline company page profile; a deeper look unveils a lot of implications this will have on your Facebook marketing strategy. Below are some items you need to consider for your company page before Facebook automatically pushes the new Timeline live for everyone on March 30, 2012. It’s A LOT of information, so bear with us, scroll the subheads. (We now know why Facebook’s presentation was five hours long.)

NO ADVERTISING ALLOWED IN YOUR TIMELINE COVER PHOTO
Facebook has already posted guidelines for designing a cover photo for your brand page. The cover photo is a large image that will span across the top of your brand page. As a marketer, your first thought is probably, “What a great space to promote specials, discounts, new products and offers!” Not so fast my friend…Facebook will not allow this. The below is an excerpt straight from Facebook:


Click here for more details on choosing a Facebook cover photo.

WHAT SHOULD I PUT ON MY COVER PHOTO?
During their FMC conference, Facebook provided great examples of brands using one large image (no copy) that mimicked an ongoing marketing campaign. Using an image that coincides with other marketing efforts makes it easier for customers to identify and relate the image to the product or service you are selling. Essentially, it tells part of the story. To make fans want to scroll down to see your content, select an impactful, high-resolution image.

AND DON’T FORGET ABOUT YOUR PROFILE PICTURE

Facebook says it best… so here goes:

“Your profle picture represents your page on other parts of Facebook, in ads, sponsored stories and the news feed. Choose a picture that represents your business, such as a logo. Use a high quality image that scales well from 180 x 180 pixels to 32 x 32 pixels.”

WAIT, WHERE DID MY CUSTOMIZED TABS GO?
Don’t worry, your investment in a customized Facebook tab or application did not go to waste. Users can still access your tabs on your company page, but they’ll just have to get used to finding them in another location (which makes the messaging on your page regarding tabs extremely important).

Only four “tabs” will be shown under your cover photo (see below).


Notice the small “4” with the down arrow to the right of the tabs? THIS is where users will find the rest of your tabs (see below). You can have up to 12 tabs active on your company page at any given time. The below image is from the page administrator’s perspective, and the empty boxes are placeholders for adding a tab, which users will not see.


The “Photos” tab never moves, but you can select which tabs are shown in the other three slots by “swapping positions.”


TIMELINE HAS KILLED THE DESIGNATED LANDING PAGE
One thing that did disappear is the ability to create a designated landing page for your Facebook profile. All users (fans and non-fans alike) will always land on the Timeline, period. You can no longer directly link to contest entries or deals.

You probably won't see a big impact from this because default landing pages only drove 10 percent of page tab traffic anyway.

GET YOUR TABS/APPS MOBILE READY
Facebook has FINALLY created a way for our tabs and apps to be viewed on a mobile device. This is great news because people are relying more and more on their phones and tablets to access the Internet. The bad news? A lot of tabs have not been developed with mobile in mind. Prior to now, Facebook didn’t allow these tabs to be seen on a mobile device.

“PIN” YOUR TOP POST FOR UP TO SEVEN DAYS
Have an important message you don’t want to get buried under new posts? Now you can “pin” a post to the top of your Facebook page which can remain there for up to seven days. The Today Show Timeline example below shows a small bookmark in the upper right-hand corner, which means this story is “pinned” (sound familiar… ahem… Pinterest).


Also notice that the column on the right shows my other friends who also like the Today Show and a recent post by a friend that is supposedly mentions the Today Show. Unfortunately it looks like Facebook may have a little tweaking to do to this feature because obviously this friend was not referencing the Today Show. It appears it just picked up the mention of “today,” which is, coincidentally, the URL for their Facebook page (facebook.com/today). Looks like we better pay close attention to what our brand page URL is.

YOUR FANS CAN PRIVATELY MESSAGE YOUR COMPANY

A few months ago, Facebook took away our ability to message fans via Facebook. What have they done instead? Now our fans can privately message us, but a brand cannot initiate a conversation. Companies can only RESPOND to a private message sent by a fan.

This functionality is optional. There is a place in your admin control panel where you can turn this off and not allow fans to message you. There are pros and cons to having the message feature. If you have the resources to respond to every fan, then you should definitely keep it. If your fan messages will go unanswered, please disable this feature right away because it will do more harm than good.

ADMINS CAN NOW REVIEW FAN POSTS BEFORE THEY’RE PUBLISHED
Your permissions have changed in your admin settings, which now includes an option to review fan posts before they’re published to your Timeline. Please remember this is not an invitation to censor all your fans’ complaints and negative comments. It is important that you remain transparent and let your fans see the good, the bad and the ugly. You should; however, review posts for profanity, slander and other offensive comments.

This can become quite a chore for brands that receive a lot of comments. Make sure you have the staff to review each post in real time if you choose to go this route. Otherwise, you can continue to let all posts automatically publish to your page and delete selected comments.

NEW CHECK-IN DEALS RIVAL FOURSQUARE
When Facebook announced Places was going away, some of us assumed that the check-in feature was on its last leg. On the contrary, Facebook has made it extremely easy for brands to offer deals for customers checking in to their location. To see the step-by-step process, go to the Deals option located in the menu bar on the left-hand side of your admin access and click on “Create a Check-In Deal for this Page.”


FANS CAN ADD YOUR PAGE TO AN INTEREST LIST, SIMILAR TO TWITTER

Facebook quietly added a way for users to add pages to an interest list. I have to assume this functionality will be similar to how Twitter lets users follow people who talk about certain topics. I have to guess because when I tried to create a new list, it wouldn’t load -- another glitch Facebook will have to work out as Timeline rolls out. UPDATE: Shortly after Facebook released Timeline for brands, the “interest list” feature was removed. This is not surprising because it wasn’t functioning when we first tested it. But will it return? We’ll keep our eye on it.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: As of March 12, 2012, the interest list for company Timelines returned. These lists are meant to help users “sort through the clutter” and subscribe to a broad topic. Once a company is added to a user’s interest list, company posts will be more prominent in their news feed. This addition to brand pages will encourage marketers to strategize ways to get users to add a company to these lists. Again, we tried to test this functionality, but it looks like Facebook is still trying to work through some kinks.


FACEBOOK ADS ARE NOW STORIES
Along with the new Timeline, Facebook recently announced a totally new approach to how you can advertise on the platform. That’s a whole other blog post, but you can catch some of the highlights in this Marketing Land article.

DON’T FORGET TO MEASURE YOUR SUCCESS
One of the things I’m personally most excited about is the introduction of Facebook’s new real-time insights. No more waiting two or more days after a campaign to be able to download and analyze how it is performing on Facebook. Now we can start seeing insights in five to 10 minutes after a post!! Read more in this Tech Crunch article that made my day.

WHAT DO I DO NOW? (A CHECKLIST)


o Visit the Timeline for Pages preview manager.

  • Take some time to acquaint yourself with the changes and play around before publishing your new Timeline.
o This is a great time to revisit your company’s social media marketing goals.
  • Ask yourself, why are we on Facebook? What are we looking to get out of a Facebook presence? Make sure you’re engaging fans with your story, not talking at them.
o Take a look at your design elements.
  • The new cover photo is an 851-by-315 pixel banner across the top of your page, take some time to decide what you want to put here.
  • Customized images for your tabs are now rectangular instead of square; these may need to be resized.
  • Select a 180-by-180 pixel profile picture (most likely your logo).
o Ask your developer if your tab or application is mobile ready.
  • If not, take steps to make your tabs mobile ready before March 30.
o Educate your team.
  • The message feature is an entirely new tool for fans to reach out to you. Right now, 90 percent of companies don’t respond to Facebook posts. It is not an option to ignore private messages, so if you use this feature, a process needs to be in place to address fan messages.
  • Make sure whoever will be posting to your page understands all of these changes.
o Create your editorial calendar and push it live.
  • Keep in mind, there is an option to “pin” a post to the top of your page.
  • Show your value and make fans part of your story, don’t post sales pitches.
  • Don’t forget to integrate with your entire marketing campaign!
o Ready or not, your Timeline is going live on March 30.

Timeline is meant for you to tell your company’s story and make your customers want to interact with you. If they feel more emotionally connected, you’ve created a loyal brand advocate that goes beyond that one-time sale. The new “social customer” will not only click to buy, they’ll encourage their friends to purchase your products and will view your company as their go-to resource. The end result can still be to increase sales, but your approach to what you share with your followers can’t portray that thinking. We need to build meaningful relationships with our fans, which should be the first goal and main consideration before hitting that “post” button.

One thing we’ve definitely learned is to never get too comfortable with social media platforms because they can change in an instant. Learn and adapt, that’s all we can do.

Did we miss anything? Comment below and let us know your thoughts. Little overwhelmed? You’re not alone. Contact us, we can help.

About the author::
Melanie Eyerman is manager of social media services at thunder::tech. When not obsessively checking mentions, posting comments or analyzing stats, our Georgia Bulldog loves playing rec. sports, cheering on her favorite football teams and enjoying a good bottle of wine with close friends.

POSTED IN: Public Relations


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