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March 6, 2012

Will your customers ‘like’ the new Facebook Timeline?

Posted by Dan Sobovitz

In short, no. Surveys, published earlier this month by SodaHead and CNet, show that the vast majority of users do not appreciate the new Facebook interface and that they miss their good old Walls.  But this doesn’t mean that brands should refrain from switching to the Facebook Timeline. For a start, they don’t have much choice. As of the end of March, Timeline will become mandatory for all Facebook Pages; so instead of complaining about it, marketers should better yet learn how to make the most out of it. This article will help you prepare to the Timeline tsunami right before it hits your brand!

 

 

 

Let’s start with the good news. With its new ’cover-picture’, Timeline is much more design-oriented, allowing companies to visually express their brand identity, using a logo, a product, or a personality. Moreover, the chronological nature of the Timeline facilitates a very rich presentation of brands’ histories, especially for those that have been out there for quite a while. The ability to dig out some old information made many individual users uncomfortable, yet, on the corporate Page level it has great potential. The New York Times and Manchester United, for example, use Timeline to tell their stories, dating back to the 19th century, in a very compelling way. Even younger brands can still use the Timeline to illustrate their major milestones like launching a new product, issuing stocks, or winning a prize.

In comparison to the old Facebook Wall, Timeline is also much easier to administer, featuring new options to enhance communication with clients. It is now made possible to respond directly to private messages without having to alternate among various pages. In order to distinguish between the various posts, new Timelines features allow ‘pinning’ a post so it remains on top or ’starring’ it for a double-wide appearance. At least as important is the improved Activity Log, featuring analytic tools which allow much more strategic use of social media.

But your marketing strategists are not all going to fall in love with Timeline. They might very well complain and rightfully so. Their biggest concern will be the fact that, unlike Wall Pages, Timeline Pages do not allow setting a customised application as the default landing tab for non-fans. This was an extremely popular feature for promoting special content like coupons or contests. Without this feature it won’t be as easy to reach the same numbers of Likes or email subscriptions. On the other hand, to make things somewhat less gloomy, only 10% of Page traffic is generated by the default landing tabs. The remaining is owed to published links and ads which, of course, still play a central role on Timelines.

Despite what Facebook officials may claim, Timeline was designed for individuals to share their stories; it was not intended to serve as a marketing tool. Certain marketers may see this is a challenge, conflicting with their brand philosophy. Yet, brands too have their life stories to tell. The new Timeline interface will make their stories come through as more personal interactions than the traditional brand-consumer relationships.

The new infrastructure should thus change the way you think of your Facebook Page. Instead of message-board-like Walls, use Timeline as a means of viral communication.  If the Wall’s purpose was to serve as a destination point of as many users as possible, Timeline sees itself as a communication station, from which users can spread ideas by sharing them with their friends.

Think of Facebook as your brand’s online reality. When you decide to have a baby, you know you won’t bring her or him into a perfect world. Yet, you do your best to give your child the best tools to succeed in life. Timeline is no perfect either; in fact, it’s quite far from it. But if you do a good job in preparing your brand to its digital life, chances are it would mature into a popular and successful Page. Facebook is big enough to redefine social networking every time Mark Zuckerberg has a bad hair day. It is up to your strategic planners to adapt and learn how to leverage the new Facebook whim.

 

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