The crown jewel of Facebook’s first fMC conference, Brand Timelines, is being touted as “the richest, most customizable marketing canvas ever created.” Judging by the hype that’s flooded the Internet since their unveiling, marketers agree: This is apparently Facebook’s most important development since Open Graph. Brands now have the opportunity to craft a richer story on the platform and build a more inviting destination site that lives inside the smaller Internet we call Facebook. And yet, among the avalanche of articles full of tips and best practices, most marketers have been silent about an elephant in the room.
Nobody actually visits your brand’s Facebook page.
According to comScore, Starbucks generated 156 impressions across Facebook (via content and media) for every 1 person that actually visited their page. Vitrue has found that the news feed is 110 times more engaging than a brand’s page, tabs, or apps. Yet even those numbers sound significantly higher than the traffic many of us see in the brands we manage socially–not to mention the more precipitous drop in traffic when one considers tabs and apps besides the brand’s wall (now Timeline).
Of course, the argument could be made that Timelines’ design and feature set might change all of this, and finally succeed in sending your audience to your brand’s page. But what do Brand Timelines actually bring to the table? On the one hand, a cover photo gives brands a bit more to play with visually–though it also pushes actual content down on the page so that most of it is below the fold. Tabs and apps are now highlighted on a strip below the photo, though some argue that this makes them harder to find and less inviting than the sidebar menu. And the ability to pin a post to the top of your Timeline lets you highlight your most important content, though the new design means that all of your other content will move down the page faster–too fast if you’re letting fans post on your wall.
And then there’s the Timeline feature itself, which does open up interesting storytelling opportunities, allowing you to chronicle your brand’s history by highlighting specific milestones. But are these features enough to finally rip fans away from their walls and send them venturing to your page?
Not without a strong value-add and pull strategy from your brand. Facebook users’ core behavior is going to stay rooted on their wall for the foreseeable future, so continue prioritizing your editorial strategy, unless Facebook Insights tell a different story. In fact, the real star of the fMC is Facebook’s Reach Generator, which guarantees that 75% of your fans actually see your content (versus the approximately 15-20% that currently see it). Alongside new Premium Ads, which repurpose editorial content as paid media, they make a strong case for keeping your focus where it should be: on adding authentic value to your fan base through social posts.
There are some brands that inherently make sense with Timelines, and will be able to offer rich experiences that could bring fans flocking to their pages. The New York Times has given us a dazzling retrospective of our last 150 years told through the history of their newsroom. Other brands will have to come up with clever campaigns around the Timeline. Fanta is the first out the gate with a strong concept, inviting its audience to chase its characters through their Timeline, dropping clever hints and letting their fans do the hunting.
However, few Timeline-centric campaigns will deliver results unless Facebook’s entire new suite of tools is used to create an internal ecosystem with social, spreadable content at the center. Resist Shiny Object Syndrome. It’s tempting to fixate on perfecting your brand’s story on your new destination page, but nobody will be listening to your story without a well-thought-out invitation–hopefully one to participate.