Timeline puts community back at the heart of Facebook

Making the most of Facebook’s new Timeline requires a new strategy. Whilst there has been a lot of conversation about the new Facebook Timeline and how it affects the day to day running of a particular page, there hasn’t been much discussion about the long-term strategy changes that will have to be made to capitalise on this new functionality.

Big brands that are normally the first to change their social media profiles ahead of major change were waiting late to change their brands to the new format. They knew the new Facebook design would limit their ability to carry out some of their current campaigns.

Pepsi, a launch partner for enhanced Google+ pages, kept their Pepsi Max page in the old format until the last minute. The main Pepsi brand page had been switched to the new Timeline earlier but several visual elements were missing from the page design.

This has since been corrected but they are still to make best use of some of the new functionality like pinning, highlighting stories and creating company milestones on their Timeline. But why are big brands struggling with the new format and is this a step forward or back for Facebook?

When Facebook introduced Timeline for personal pages the design led to a negative reaction from many users of the platform with a significant number of individuals deleting their profiles. Not everyone was happy with the change but Facebook seems to have weathered the storm.

The new format is more beneficial for Facebook Brand Pages than for personal accounts and reverses a move by companies to steer fans away from the Page walls towards applications, games and competitions at the expense of conversation and community.

You can no longer coerce people into liking your page by having a landing page that suggests you need to ‘Like’ it to interact with the page. Without landing pages you also don’t have multiple tabs linking to a plethora of games and applications.

Apps are now centrally located and have a new larger space for logos but you can only choose three of the top four to focus on. This makes the Page wall more important whilst retaining the ability to create applications. By limiting the number of visible apps, administrators really need to think hard about the value they have to their fans. Photos is the first fixed application in the new design and features the last picture uploaded meaning companies will have to think harder about what they post.

Companies like Coca-Cola have made good use of their Timeline to incorporate their history from a fans perspective. Some like Old Spice have gone even further and created a faux history adding to the story being told by the brand.

The new Pages have a new ‘pin option’ allowing a post to be placed at the top of the page for a week. This enables administrators to create a menu of things for fans to look out for and means key elements don’t drop out of site after only a few additional posts. Other key posts can be highlighted if required.

Customer service will also become an increasingly important part of Facebook page management with fans comments more visible. On the flip side, private and group discussions are also now available with fans meaning prompt action can avert issues turning into a crisis.

Other changes include more space for Facebook ads, which will hopefully lower the price of Facebook advertising. But even with the additional advertising space, Facebook is focusing a lot of their energy on trying to make companies use this space to promote their stories and social content rather than posting generic marketing message.

In summary the new design means companies need to ensure they put enough time into administering their page to create regular and fresh engaging and relevant content rather than hiding behind a wall of apps and games. New campaign strategies based around conversations need to be developed. For those that get it, it means greater engagement with fans, stronger fan communities and better brand recognition.

Posted by Thomas Atcheson.