My Thoughts on Facebook’s Timeline for Brands
As you know I am a hopeless social media addict… It’s because of social media that I’ve been able to have the success that I’ve had the past few years. True, my audience is not huge, but they’re loyal and very engaging… Especially those on Facebook and Twitter. In late 2011 I gave a presentation on CreativeLIVE called “Designing for the Social Web” which discussed ways to cultivate your brand through social media, and how to design your various profile pages. The good news is that about 90% of it is still completely relevant. However, as many of you know, Facebook made a HUGE change recently to their “fan pages” and it has a lot of folks running for the hills. In this article I will attempt to dispel the notion that the new Facebook Timeline is a bad thing and show you why (and how) you should embrace it.
First things first, let’s discuss what exactly has happened on Facebook. In the past, brand pages (or fan pages) have been much like the old profile setup on Facebook. You had a wall where people could post things or you could update your fans, and you could post videos and photos there as well. Now, they’ve rolled out the Facebook Timeline for pages… So, what does it mean for you? Well, basically you still have the same capabilities as you did before, but the design is a little different. Your wall has now become your timeline, which is a chronological display of all of your (or your brand’s) posts or interactions. Many users are resistant to this switch. Many of whom rejected it when it was rolled out to user profiles as well. Unfortunately, there is no way to get around it… it’s happening. Period.
What they got right…
The best part about the new timeline feature is the cover photo. This allows you or your brand to display a large (850px wide) image at the top of your page which allows for more elaborate branding and makes it easy for users to make their page unique. You’ll also notice that there are some improved analytics in the new admin panel (see below) as well as the ability to send/receive messages with your fans… I LOVE that new feature!
What they got wrong…
As I see it, there is only one real drawback to the new Facebook timeline feature for brand pages, and it’s a BIG one. In the previous incarnation of pages you were able to create a custom landing tab for your brand. This meant when people accessed your page they were brought to a special landing page that you designed and had full control over. This was a huge feature that allowed brands to publish more rich & interactive content for their users as well as drive “likes” by offering fan-only incentives via these custom landing tabs. Now (it seems) you are still able to create a custom tab/page for your brand, but you are unable to set that tab as the default landing location for users. They’ve also buried the custom tabs into the navigation at the top of the page making it confusing (and difficult) for users to find it.
Many people, including some high-powered brands, are upset about this feature being removed, so we might see it back in action later on down the road… but for now, we just have to take what they give us. In any case, it’s best to embrace the change and make the most of it. Start off by customizing your cover photo. This should be a big, bold image that represents you or your brand in a unique way. Try to incorporate your branding into it and make sure to keep it consistent with your message and overall online presence… Consistency creates awareness. Next you’ll want to encourage your fans to message you via your page. This is a great way to interact with your users without having to give out an email address or direct them away from Facebook to fill out a contact form. I’m using it like crazy to take tutorial requests, answer questions, and just to say thanks!
By using these tools to stay connected and engaged with your audience, you allow your community to grow organically. Always remember to worry about the relationships vs the numbers when dealing with social media. I don’t care how many likes, followers, or circlers you have… None of it means a damn thing if you’re not connecting with people and cultivating relationships. Relationships build trust, and trust creates loyalty. I’ll take 5 loyal and engaging users over 5 million empty faces any day of the week!