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Facebook Puts Marketers On Notice: Ready Or Not, Timeline Is Here

Marketers have 30 days to embrace Facebook’s new Timeline Brand Pages–an exciting and scary development for companies of all sizes. Here are 3 easy steps to make sure your new Facebook brand page hits all the right notes.

Facebook Puts Marketers On Notice: Ready Or Not, Timeline Is Here

The announcement is both
exciting and scary for marketers of all sizes. It is expected to continue to
drive Facebook’s position as the dominant platform for social and digital marketing
alike. 

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The Timeline feature mirrors much of what has been launched
to consumers around the world over the last six months, and allows a brand to
create a social presence rooted in content, and a history that grows to tell a
brand’s story. The layout of the brand profile has been completely transformed to
create an improved visual experience with new features like private messaging that allow a one-on-one dialogue for improved marketing and customer care.

Why Is Facebook Doing
This?

The brand experience on Facebook has needed a face-lift for some
time, so this change comes as no surprise given the launch of Timeline for
consumers. From my perspective, this is
a smart move by Facebook that empowers brands to communicate in the same manner
as other members of the Facebook community. This will allow brands to tell their
stories in a more visual and interactive manner, to help generate better engagement, and drive positive marketing results. This strategy of driving better content and more focused feed engagement
for brands is also widely expected to tie into upcoming advertising products
that are more social, which will likely launch at a rapid pace leading into a Facebook
IPO. 

What This Means for
Marketers

Timeline for brand pages is the largest, most significant
design change to Pages since their introduction in 2007, when they replaced
the now-retro “sponsored group.” In the
original format of Pages, the wall was cluttered with random posts that lacked
a cohesive narrative. Thus content quickly decayed and disappeared. Timeline
for brand Pages allows marketers (Sycapse’s page is pictured here–click to enlarge) to tell their brand stories–beginning,
milestones, notable campaigns, product launches, etc.–and allows users to
scroll “through the years” to reminisce with the brand. Additionally, this new
Timeline format allows marketers to build a deeper connection with users and
encourages users to share content from the pages on their own timelines.

Now that Timeline is here, marketers must get ready to
leverage the new tools that Facebook has provided. I’ve broken down all the requirements into
three easy steps. Do these well and you’ll be fine.

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Get Your Content
Story Together:  
The first part will be setting up your Timeline with all
the stories, information, and content that your brand stands for. This will
include a lot of work digging back into the archives and rebuilding the entire
story within Facebook Timeline. Be sure to watch for rights around video and
photo usage for advertisements that date back. Odds are that you may need to
pay up depending on how you negotiated your original agreements.  Once you’ve gone back and populated Timeline
with your past, focus on the future. Timeline is a powerful tool for your brand
to tell its ongoing story, drive dialogue, and increase brand advocacy. 

Private Messages: Get Your House in Order:  Another useful feature of Timeline is the private
message feature that allows users to engage with the brand on a one-to-one
level, good news for your customer service teams. Rather than dealing with a specific
user’s questions and issues through the public wall, customer service agents
can reply through a private, email-like interface.

Downplay Reliance on
Facebook Page Tabs:
  While custom Page tabs survived another round in the
design strategy, the ability to set a default tab did not. Tabs will remain
relatively unchanged and should continue to function with little modification.
But, more importantly, in the Timeline format only four tabs can be seen above
the fold. The Photos tab must occupy the first slot, leaving only three slots
for custom tabs. There is room for an additional eight tabs below the fold,
though it is unlikely that users will discover them. It’s important to review
your current tabs and determine what is necessary to keep and what can be cut.
Tabs are becoming less and less effective so brands should focus on the feed, only using a tab if the campaign requires it. Apps, on the other hand, will continue
to be important.

Over the next 30 sleepless nights, during which you and your
marketing team will consume copious amounts of energy drinks, keep in mind that
nothing is final until March 30th. Use the preview mode to
backfill key milestones and remove unwanted content before permanently
upgrading to the Timeline format. Make sure you tell everyone on your team not
to push the “update” button until you’re ready to go.

Timeline is going to be a very powerful tool for
marketers. But, like most new
opportunities, what you get out of it will depend heavily on what you put
in. Good luck.

[Image: Flickr users KimCarpenter NJ and Luca Rossato]

About the author

Michael Scissons is the President and CEO of Syncapse, a corporation he founded in 2007. Syncapse is the leading full-service social technology company that helps the world’s largest advertisers build, manage, and measure their connections with consumers in the digital landscape.

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