ADOTAS – As promised (or threatened) for some weeks now, Facebook Timeline for brand pages goes live today. For some, it’s an anticlimax — many brands were eager to jump into the new layout right away, and even before Timeline was offered for brands pages there was some chatter about how prime that design was for sharing pertinent information and offers and for its capacity to (c’mon, everyone say it together) tell the story of your brand.
The general line of thought it that Timeline is a positive thing for brands, or at least that it should be if brands choose to play to its strengths. Some stats were announced earlier this week around how some early-adapter brands have already performed with Timeline. Social marketing platform Vitrue noted that, among its clients, some had seen an increase of as much as 190 percent in engagements per “fan” — but at the same time, 52 percent of brands saw a reduction in fan engagement immediately after the switch to Timeline. But, for brands that took heed to Vitrue’s “best practices” for Timeline (more sharable content, more visuals, more pins and so on), 27 percent saw an increase in engagement of 20 percent or more. Among roughly a dozen of the biggest brands Vitrue works with that went live on the first day Timeline was offered for brand pages, likes rose by 38 percent and comments increased by 3.5 percent after the switch. Meanwhile, social media marketing software provider Wildfire noted (in a report issued earlier this week) that among brands with fewer than 1 million fans — that’s 85 percent of the business pages on Facebook, says Wildfire — likes per brand post rate increased 60 percent post-Timeline, comments per brand post increased 40 percent and “people talking about this” increased 67 percent.
Of course, this is all still fresh: Something changes significantly on a page that thousands of users have on their radar to some degree, and they’ll respond by looking deeper. The catch is to keep those brand fans engaged after the novelty wears off. Via email, Vitrue vice president of marketing Erika Brookes remarked, “The new look… can essentially be a virtual museum for a brand’s rich history, but also a place to continue to tell your brand’s story through milestones, events and compelling photos and videos. Brands should really be focusing on pushing content that is engaging — strong visuals via multimedia content are naturally engaging — and they look great on the Timeline, too.” And that’s how brands should behave into the future, she explained, continually posting the kind of content fans can engage with. The Wildfire report suggested something similar about the appeal of visuals, too: Photos generate 8 percent more comments than the second-most popular type of post, and videos generate 90 percent shares than the second-most-shared format.
“I think that Timeline is a vast improvement” from the old profile, Brookes opined, “and the results will show in the long run –especially as more brands invest time in modifying and building their Timeline properly.” She said adhering to best practices drives engagement, and the aforementioned best practices are borne out by Wildfire’s stats: featured or “pinned” posts generate 39 percent more likes, 6 percent more comments and 32 percent more shares than regular posts. “Multimedia is key for Timeline to make it a more appealing format – the type of content that lends itself to increased engagement,” Brookes said. “I believe consumers will spend more time exploring brands’ Timelines. And while the majority of time will still [be] spent in the Newsfeed, the best practices for embracing the new Timeline format are the same for increasing the likelihood of surfacing in a user’s Newsfeed.”
Brookes offered some examples of brands that have wisely implemented Timeline to drive engagement: “Think MTV. Their fans are passionately engaged with their shows and personalities, and MTV provides the content that garners engagement like sneak-peek videos, exclusive photos, interviews, etc. Looking at a brand like Johnson’s Baby, they engage by not only providing strong visuals –who doesn’t love an adorable photo or video of a baby? — but also play into the emotional appeal of childrearing via engaging questions… Sharing content with fans is just as important as listening to what they share and prove that the ‘big brand’ is actually listening and responding to them.” She also cited Harley-Davidson, Intel, Coca-Cola, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks and Microsoft Windows as major brands pushing out content that relates to their audiences, and that their fans will engage with.
Of course, there’s the issue that engagement doesn’t necessarily translate to sales. Social interactions aren’t innately retail interactions, and people may respond differently to brands’ messages than they will to brand-related messages from their friends. Brookes acknowledged there’s no standard ROI metric for social media. “We will get there,” she remarked. “It’s important to recognize that every brand has different goals with their social marketing program. And if done correctly, social can go a long way towards driving return for brands. … There is real value in generating brand awareness loyalty and trust with consumers, and these are all things that can eventually lead to sales.
“Increasingly, Facebook is becoming the funnel to which all marketing efforts flow,” Brookes observed. “Why? Because it’s where consumers are spending their time. It’s becoming their primary portal for digital communication.”