What does the new Facebook mean for brands and how can the Timeline be best utilised in the online conversation?
Facebook’s now obligatory changes to its layout have meant that brands have had to alter their marketing approach to the world’s biggest social media network to maintain and attract the attention of their existing and prospective audiences.
The introduction of the Timeline means that ‘brand stories’ are the main focus of the new-look Facebook – the whole layout means that profiles can now be much more engaging and, indeed, aesthetically pleasing, but that is only true for brands if the new features are used to their full potential.
Here’s a round-up of the changes and what they mean for brands:
The most visually noticeable change to Facebook is, of course, the cover photo. It acts as a banner for brand profiles and is impossible to miss. An impressive, impactful cover is vital here precisely because it is the first thing that visitors will see when they visit a brand page (Facebook has now done away with the ‘Like gate’ function, which allowed brands to set a default landing page on their profile). It goes without saying that an insipid brand cover photo (or, indeed, a complete lack of a cover photo) would turn you off in an instant, so taking the time to create some eye candy will ensure that your brand profile clears that ‘first impression’ hurdle.
How to make people want a Snickers:
The next challenge is the same as it has always been – getting that all important ‘like’ from your visitors – but those ‘likes’ don’t always necessarily mean engagement. This is where the Timeline can be such an important and useful feature for brands on Facebook.
It presents a chance to tell the story of your brand and make it look, well, interesting. The Timeline is a visual representation of a brand’s history, so make the most of it because the people of the internet love visual.
A great example of this is the Red Bull Facebook page. The page has instant visual impact, but the whole Timeline (which stretches back to the company’s inception in 1987) is full of high quality, unusual and altogether shareable pictures so visitors get something to go away and talk about after their visit.
This is easy for a brand like Red Bull that has the funds and sponsorship channels to create such fantastic imagery, but the same applies to every brand in every niche: give people something to talk and think about that is relevant to your industry. People will come back to you if you have interesting things to share with them.
Facebook’s Timeline delivers a neat and attractive way to showcase this content, but it is a good idea to mix it up and share the content that you find interesting as well – if you find it interesting, your fans will hopefully find it interesting, too.
The new Facebook now offers more integration than ever before with the ability to add apps to your profile. This feature has bags of potential for public interaction with brands, as, indeed, we’re already seeing with some of the world’s biggest names. Domino’s Pizza’s Facebook page, for example, has created a Play Today! app that encourages users to play by pledging a $1 donation to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital if they reach a certain level. So far, the pizza maestros have donated almost $2,800 (£1,738) because of the level of engagement from its fans.
Obviously, not every brand is in the same bracket as Domino’s, but the basic principal is the same: Facebook Timeline presents the opportunity to create apps that are fun, simple, engaging and relevant to your particular audience. Fun philanthropy isn’t the only way to engage your audience on Facebook.
Facebook has also introduced a more personal way for fans to interact with brands with private messaging. This functionality is not exactly a huge leap forward, but it sets Facebook apart from Twitter and Google+ in that Twitter requires reciprocal following, while Google+ has private messaging in its Stream.
On Facebook, brands obviously can’t follow fans back, but fans can send private messages directly to brands even if they haven’t ‘liked’ its page. This adds a whole extra dimension to social communication and engagement, which is only ever going to be a good thing for PR.
Pin to Top
Another small but significant feature is the ability to pin posts to the top of your Timeline. This has obvious benefits when you’re running competitions and promotions on your brand page, but it’s also a good feature when you want to highlight a particular piece of content for a certain amount of time. The only way you can do that on Twitter and Google+ is to repeatedly tweet out and comment on whichever content it is you want to promote.
Facebook lets you choose how much ‘airtime’ an item receives.
A core focus for brands on all social media platforms is to give users something useful and valuable to add to their lives – the aim is and should always be to make their visits worthwhile. If a user comes away from your page with a great piece of information (like a few top tips on how to use Pinterest), they are much more likely to ‘like’ you and return in search of more.
This essentially means that your Facebook Timeline should offer the story of your brand as well as some usable content, advice, answers, questions, pictures, apps, giveaways, competitions, links – anything that could be of some use to someone, somewhere. Help others before helping your ego.
The Timeline upgrade is akin to adding olives, parmesan cheese and HP Guinness sauce to a Bolognese recipe – Facebook can now be much, much tastier, but a brand must know exactly how to cook and serve it up to its hungry audience.
If you would like some advice on how to get the most out of Facebook’s Timeline (or on how to cook up a mean Bolognese), please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Social Media & Online PR Team.
Keep on cooking.