PHD POV: Facebook Timeline for marketers

facebook-timeline-fan-page-icon-1024x687Brands get ready – on Facebook you will soon be forced to use Timeline as your new profile page design.

According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Timeline is a way to better present “the story of your life.” The same will hold true for brands. With the announcement this week, it’s time to start preparing your brand for this important change.

After the transition, when someone looks at your Timeline, he or she will be able to see summaries of the most important events/ stories/ promotions/ etc in your brands history. You’ll be able to feature (or hide) “Stories” (events, images, and other details) in order to create what you feel is the best representation of your brand. Since your brand’s history no longer starts with the day the company joined Facebook we encourage you to go back and add events which weren’t previously on Facebook. Timeline will help brands establish themselves and their heritage to better represent the business and purpose.

We believe the real reason Facebook is pressing so hard on Timeline now is to prove to app partners like Slacker, Payvment, TripAdvisor, TicketFly, Wall Street Journal, Airbnb, and others, that this is a real platform. They have to prove the ecosystem has just as much relevance as platforms such as Android, Windows or Apple’s iOS. As Facebook’s growth has slowed in the U.S., and with the pending IPO, the time to strike is now. Google is raising the stakes in the platform space, consolidating services and boxing out Facebook and Twitter. If Facebook does not pull its users in closer and make sure they spend as much time as possible on Facebook, sharing everything they do, those users could share everything elsewhere

What are the implications to Marketers?

  • News feed content, not to be confused with ticker updates, is displayed based on an Open Graph algorithm that factors in the popularity, recency of the post, and the user’s activity history. Post compelling and engaging content more often to increase visibility.
  • Historically, Open Graph only applied to websites and pages. With the new timelines, it now applies to applications/apps. Apps are now more interactive and integrated into the social
    networking experience. In a nutshell, user’s networks will see their app activity in their tickers and it may appear in newsfeeds and on timelines depending on usage and settings.
  • ‘Likes’ instantly appear in friend’s tickers. Make sure you are asking users to ‘Like’ your brand page. With the help of customized landing pages you can also generate and qualify leads.
  • Users ‘Check In’ when they visit a business’s physical location. ‘Check Ins’ are displayed in a user’s ticker for their entire network to see. List your address on your page, as this feature is only available to businesses that list physical addresses on Facebook.
  • Brands can feature stories or links on their timeline. This means the content will appear in a large rectangular box that occupies both sides of the timeline increasing the content’s visibility to the user’s network.
  • Applications allow users to feature their activities (ie. listening to music, reading a book, watching movies, etc.). Rethink your App strategy as Apps update when used and activities are displayed in the network’s ticker.
  • Frequent posts increase your content’s visibility. B2B marketers must also remember that Facebook is always accessible so the standard work week does not apply. Make sure you are engaging prospects and customers after work hours and on the weekends with useful content.
  • Users can choose to display a large cover photo at the top of their timelines above their profile pictures. Check out how Mountain Dew is taking advantage of timeline cover photos.
  • The ticker displays user activity to everyone in his or her network. This can work for or against you. Be engaging and monitor social activity.

Likes:

Timeline is a shift from a chronological posting of your activity on the platform to aggregated content displayed by relevancy via Graph Rank. Consequently, stories posted when users like your brand’s page may not be shown as the top story on their profile pages for long. Brand likes will be collected together and displayed as a group within the time period the actions were taken. This means that they may drift down the page and be shown with older content. In the same vein, because it is much easier to explore a user’s history on the timeline, older likes will be uncovered as a user drills into past months and years in a way that wasn’t possible before.

New action buttons – “Want”, “Own”, “Cooked”, etc.:

In just two years, Facebook’s “Like” button has become an Internet staple, deployed on more than 2.5 million websites, with more than 10,000 additional websites integrating with the social network each day. But just recently, Facebook members have a new stable of 60 social applications that allow them to tell their friends that they also “Want,” “Own,” or “Cook” something. Facebook and its partners hope the new social apps will trigger an explosion of new sharing by users, tightening their relationship to the social networking company, and ultimately bolstering Facebook’s revenues.

Sponsored stories:

Though the number and format of sponsored stories has not changed on the home page’s news feed and ticker, the number of these promotions appearing on the timeline page has dropped (at least for now). With the addition of the timeline, only two or three sponsored stories will appear on the right hand rail of the page. This seems like a paradox because the amount of time people may spend perusing timeline pages might increase compared to the old profiles, simply because there’s more to do. If anything, promotions on profile pages become more valuable as a result and garner more attention and exposure. This could also be a plan from Facebook to reduce the inventory on the page and increase CPM’s associated with the sponsored positons.

Graph rank:

For a long time, Edge Rank has been Facebook’s algorithm for determining relevancy and filtering the content shown on users’ news feeds. Graph Rank adds open graph to the equation, including factors like how often you or your fans interact with content posted by an app. This rewards apps that are popular by pulling them to the top of the feed and highlighting their use.

“How often will this app be used?” is a question we should strongly consider when designing apps. Apps that only publish stories once (for example, when you first use them) will be less valuable to brands because they are less likely to earn high Graph Rank and will tend to drift to the bottom of the pile. Apps like Spotify, which continually update based on social graph behavior will drive greater user interaction and relevancy in Graph Rank.

What do marketers need to consider when launching on Timeline

Page design/ Cover Photo:

The Cover photo is like your website header — but one that offers flexibility and that you can easily switch out whenever you like. You can use photos, promotional messaging, arty shots, product imagery, or whatever fits your messaging cadence and brand persona. Be creative, the brand can use any photo as the Timeline Cover. If brands want to design something unique, the dimensions are 851 pixels wide by 315 pixels high.

Subscribe button:

Fans have always been able to subscribe to your feed. Now your fans, and even non-fans, can hear from you too. By enabling the subscribe button on the brands profile, users will be able to get updates in their News Feed. Users can use the Subscribe button to choose what they see from friends and others in their News Feed. For each person, you could hide all game stories, see just photos, limit updates to life events and more. With the Subscribe button, you can choose which of their updates you get. Only people who allow subscribers will have a Subscribe button on their profile. If you don’t see the button, you can’t subscribe.

Structuring posts/ Adding to the timeline:

Go through your brands past posts and decide what is going to stay and what should be minimized. Make important posts longer and more prominent by clicking on the star icon in the upper right corner of the post that says Feature. That post will then span the whole page and not be collapsed by other posts nearby, thus becoming more prominent on the page and driving more awareness and engagement from your audience.

Additionally, you will want to add significant Life Events to your Timeline. This will help brands establish themselves and their heritage to better represent the business and purpose. Word of caution, don’t add them all at once because they will post updates to all your fans and will potentially look like spam. Add just one or two a week.

Apps:

The extended role that Apps can play on Facebook is a dramatic shift within the new Timeline-driven, Open Graph enabled Facebook. Apps now create an enhanced ability to drive participation with your brand that can spread to friends of your fans through their news feed, through their ticker and around verb-driven actions that can differentiate your brands. Washington Post and Spotify were among the first to implement around this opportunity and the impressions and engagement that has been created around “listening to” and “reading” their content is massive.

In the Facebook ecosystem, brand amplification can only come from genuine interest, and that means that brand apps must become bigger brand vehicles by being more visible and interesting and integrating a participatory option (as with Spotify) for the user and their friends to play with.

Feed:

One of the biggest changes to the layout is a control feature at the top right-hand corner of each “story.” This feature allows a user to “unmark” a story as their “top story,” regardless of the date. Facebook then takes this information, and over a period of time, programs things in such a way that it automatically (and smartly) edits a person’s feed to reflect this pattern. Since users are then empowered with more control over how their news feeds look and feel, brands with less engaging content will have lower visibility in users’ interaction on their brand pages—if any.

You need quality content, and you need time. If the new Facebook is calling for more updates a day, you need valuable content that is worth posting. Simply updating for the sake of infiltrating feeds won’t cut it- that’s when users will mark you as spam. But if you’re strategically posting remarkable content, then they’ll like, comment, share, and love you for it. Brands need to allocate more time to posting and monitoring the content than before to make this happen effectively.

When posting to the feed, test the waters by posting your content at a different time every day, for a week or two, to identify at what hour your posts perform best. Check Facebook Insights to analyze when you had the most success, and post at those times. According to AddThis, a bookmarking and sharing service, most users click on content two minutes after content is shared. If users are clicking that rapidly, you have to ensure you’re posting exactly when your audience is on Facebook. Otherwise, they’ll likely never see your content.

The old rule of thumb for Facebook was to post regularly, but not more than once a day so that each update received proper attention while simultaneously not being spammy. Posting once a day in conjunction with the Ticker and EdgeRank algorithm means that your post only has a short span of time during which people will likely see it. However, don’t let this lower the quality of updates. When a user sees your messaging in their News Feed or Ticker, and navigates to your page, they’re likely to see all of your other content. While we don’t necessarily recommend posting every hour unless you have a large fanbase on Facebook and are creating high volumes of content, the point is, once a day isn’t going to cut it anymore.

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Timeline for Facebook - the complete checklist for community managers |

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