For everyday consumers on Facebook, timeline is ultimately an expression of their complete social life on Facebook. The same now applies to fan pages as well—Red Bull is an example of a brand that had done this very well.
While some brands may have a history they would rather forget, for most companies the Timeline offers an opportunity to tell the larger story. The tabs for your apps have been re-configured, allowing a few to be highly visible as "chicklets" along the top, but others are hidden almost completely.
What Do These Changes Mean to Marketers?
The new design re-enforces the centrality and importance of the newsfeed. The page tabs have been demoted and users who visit your page will always see the Timeline first.
It gives back some flexibility of content design—but in a strict framework. You can pin some content to the top (for 7 days), you can highlight content so that it displays in a bigger box (across the page) and you can even go back and edit your Timeline to fill-in gaps (like things that happened before Facebook existed!) or change history (to help you forget about those awkward days when you posted those embarrassing photos from the company picnic).
You have a stronger branding opportunity across the top. This is a nice feature that cracks open the Facebook look-and-feel slightly and is in favor of brand marketers who will relish in the wide banner that can be placed across the entire page. The catch is that you are forbidden (by Facebook policy) from putting any promotional stuff in the banner. That's another place and time.
You have lost a method for converting visitors to likes. With all that has been given, something significant has also been taken away. Over the past few years, marketers have enjoyed the fact that page visitors who have not yet liked their page can be taken to a special tab where they are asked (or cajoled) into becoming a fan. While this tab can still exist, users will no longer go there by default. They will now see your Timeline, no matter who they are. A small industry of applications had arisen from this little feature, and it was a great way to convert casual lurkers into active fans, but Facebook has put a stop to that. So now you need to find other ways to attract more "likes" to your page.
Content is King—As it Always Was
Despite these changes, one thing that remains the same is that in the world of social marketing, content is king. Given that, here are some thoughts on how content within this new Timeline view can make you successful:
- Push content to your fans regularly. If you are too silent, you are not keeping your brand on their mind. Facebook is a world where everything changes, including the constant flow of messages on your Newsfeed. Being there at the right place and time, means posting content regularly. And posting regularly will prevent unsightly gaps in your Timeline.
- Make sure it is relevant and topical. Remember that through Facebook you are now building a story about your business and your brand. Don't distract people with a tangent that confuses the story or even worse, makes it boring to read!
- Make sure you are adding value and curating the content. Your fans trust that you are a knowledgeable source about the things they know you for. They are looking for the things you recommend for them to read, and the subjects and ideas they trust you to know about.
- Prioritize and highlight the most important content. The nice thing about the new Timeline is that you get to decide what story you would like to tell. So you can decide what is the most important things you want to say.
- Use referrals to achieve more fans. Now that you have lost one of the mechanisms for gaining more page likes, it is even more important to focus your content strategy on obtaining more fans. You can do this by tapping your existing customers (using the ancient technique of email marketing) and designing social referral programs. To this I like to add time and quantity limited group deals that help further drive the value of being an active Facebook fan.
For example, while you cannot easily use tab promotions to garner likes, that doesn't mean that it has gotten any harder. You just need to continue to leverage other venues, such as email. By emailing out the same social content you put on Facebook, you will be able to bring more people into the conversation and have them engage with your Facebook page and your business.
Jeff Mesnik is founder and president of Socialize Your Stuff.