Features

What Facebook Timeline for Brands Means for Marketers

Written on
Mar 1, 2012 
Author
Beth McCabe  |

DIGITAS - On Wednesday, Feb. 29, Facebook made several announcements at its fMC (Facebook Marketing Conference) conference for marketers in New York. Several of the tools brands have available to them are undergoing big changes. These changes touched both paid tools and organic ones, and emphasized the growing link between the two.

Yesterday, Facebook announced it was making the Timeline feature available (and, by the end of March, mandatory) for brands, and that new Premium ad features would be made available, including the opportunity to place posts from brand pages in fans’ Newsfeeds (either desktop or mobile), on the right-hand side of a fan’s home page or on the page the user sees immediately after logging out. What follows is an excerpt from a report issued today by Beth McCabe, vice president of social marketing and technology for DigitasClick here to read the whole report.

So what does this mean to us?

Content Is King

With Facebook’s impending IPO, they’re placing a lot of emphasis on their ad products. But before you can sponsor a story, you need to have a story to sponsor.

With the new Timeline view of brand pages, the content a brand posts is front and center. Posts are bigger. Images are bigger. Videos are bigger. Content can be pinned. It can be starred and stories made even larger.

Facebook’s best performing ads will now all be linked to the power of good content – stuff that’s engaging, compelling and, to use their nomenclature, helps to tell a brand’s story. That means consistently sourcing great content, such as videos and images, and having community managers who know how to wrap it in compelling calls to action.

Paid Media Is More Important Than Ever

It’s not enough to just direct prospective fans to the brand page anymore. Before Timeline, default tabs could be set up to draw non-fans into Like-gated engagements, forcing them to Like the brand to continue. While Like-gating is still an option, brands can no longer direct non-fans to specific tabs. Everyone lands on the Timeline.

Consequently, brands will have a greater reliance on paid and earned media to achieve the greatest reach for their campaigns, promotions and engagements. The more brands are willing to spend on elevating their best content in front of the most users, the more interactions their content will garner, which in turn will cause Facebook’s algorithm to reward that page as a highly engaging one. That means users who have Liked the page will be more likely to see all the content, whether or not it’s been “boosted” by a paid placement. Brands with good content but no ad budget will begin to struggle for views in user’s newsfeeds.

Mobile Ads and Targeting

In the post-PC era, Facebook users are accessing the site from their mobile phones more than ever. Mobile ad products could not come at a better time. Facebook is still not being specific, but in theory mobile-only could become an option for ad targeting, as could much finer geotargeting than currently exists.

It’s All History

Brands now have a place to tell their stories, backdating all the way to when the company was founded. With Milestones and backdated photos and videos, brands can not only engage their communities in the now, but can take them back through memory lane. This is particularly relevant to brands that have been around for a while.

Curate, Curate, Curate

With brand-generated stories now aggregated, remember that this means the most “popular” content will rise to the top.

More than ever, social customer service is imperative to deal with potential PR-related issues and disgruntled fans as soon as they arise. Issues that go unchecked often snowball and users become more and more vocal about their displeasure. Encourage your brand to be proactive about responding to these types of events.

Brands will need to go through their past posts and hide anything that they’re concerned will reflect badly on them. They will not have the option to hide individual negative comments on posts, only the posts themselves, so use discretion when making the decision of what to hide.

Communicate Directly with Your Fans

Customer service on Facebook just got easier. With the new direct messaging functionality, fans are able to interact directly with brands by sending them messages. Brands may then respond as the brand, something that was not possible before. It’s likely that this will largely be used to address customer service requests.

More Competition for API Partners

Many brands have been funneling more of their budgets to Facebook’s API partners, who have been able to drive actions like Likes and app installs much more efficiently than Facebook’s in-house Premium ad units through optimization. Until Newsfeed ads become open to API partners (the trend has been for ad units like Sponsored Stories to launch as Premium and then become available for partners to sell) it may be necessary to recalibrate the media mix, if indeed click-through rates are dramatically higher within the Newsfeed.

The Logout Experience

Logout throws a bone to the traditional marketer with what amounts to a huge banner ad. It’s doubtful that click-through rates will remain high across the board for this, though early results can expect to perform decently on novelty factor alone. Given that this too will be a Sponsored Story, the big question is: What’s the use case? Who logs out, sees an ad on the logout page, then logs back in to Like or Comment on it?

However, let’s say Facebook is pixeling the logout page, and let’s say they launch an ad network. Now they have a way to target Facebook users outside of Facebook on behalf of advertisers and a test bed for an ad unit that does make sense adjacent to relevant content elsewhere. This is only a possibility, but it’s an intriguing one.





As Digitas' vice president of social marketing and technology, Beth McCabe is responsible for leading social execution across Digitas. She has been with Digitas for five years, during which time she has lead technology for the Global Samsung business, as well as supporting clients like American Express, IBM and Diageo. Currently, she is focused on developing Digitas' social execution center of excellence.

Beth is a recognized thought leader in social technology, having co-written the first whitepaper on social commerce, as well as a regular on the speaking circuit and a contributor to publications such as Digiday Daily and MediaPost. Committed to corporate and industry citizenship, she leads Digitas New York's Women's Network and is a member of Digitas’ CSR Leadership Team. Recently, she was honored by the Girl Scouts of Greater New York as one of 2011's Women of Distinction. Beth is also a member of Advertising Women of New York and Women in Technology International.

Prior to joining Digitas in 2006, Beth began her career as a software engineer, building web applications for a small database company in the U.K. She then set off on her own and built a consulting business, serving the largest retailer in the U.K. as one of her clients.

Beth holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Purdue University, where she was a leader in the Women in Science program.

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