Facebook Brand Timelines Tell Better Stories, But Who's Listening?

Facebook’s newly redesigned Timelines represent a richer creative canvas for brands. Which is great, assuming anyone is visiting. Guest columnists Joshua Teixeira and Victor Piñeiro from Big Spaceship remind marketers to extend their social strategy beyond the Page.

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.

Joshua Teixeira is Director of Strategy and Victor Piñeiro is Senior Strategist at digital agency, Big Spaceship.

[Image: 2Happy/Shutterstock]

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7 Comments

  • Tim Letscher

    "…core behavior is going to stay rooted on their wall for the foreseeable future…" So true, but having an empty Timeline can be damning if an interested person feels like exploring and there's nothing to explore. As more people log on to the web and NEVER leave the confines of Facebook, at the very least Brands have to ensure they're presenting some rich content to consume. Brand Timelines will become a Brand's de facto website in the eyes of millions of Facebook users. 
    Equally important is the notion of making your brand an API (hats off to Farrah Bostic for introducing me to the term), much like Nike has done with Nike+. I recently worked on a collaboration with MapMyFitness, launching a dog walking version of their fitness tracking iPhone app with sole sponsorship from Subaru. Every Facebook post of anyone's route contains a mention of Subaru, effectively weaving the brand into a person's everyday life.

  • Tim Letscher

     I think the small guys gotta do what they always gotta do: hustle. Ultimately, it's still about the newsfeed so pushing worthwhile updates and content will keep Facebook's EdgeRank at bay. 

    My point above is that as more people log into Facebook and not much else, it makes sense for a brand to build out their Timeline so there's something to see.

  • Jeff Reckseidler

    Seriously....nobody is going to a brand's page these days to click and view the "rich tapestry" of the brand's history.  Or more simply - they won't be offended if there isn't a back story to their content.

    Just because Facebook calls it timeline hasn't changed the user's behavior or expectations on depth of content from a brand. If it is there, cool, let's hope it adds to the story. If not, I don't think too many people are gonna really care.

  • contextpartners

    Brand association as a status symbol isn't enough. Brands really do need to consider what authentic interaction and relationship they are looking to have with those who "like" them and then be wildly transparent with their gives and gets.

  • Buildchatter

    I find this a little misleading. Without fail it is the marketers that are failing their clients.

    Tell your client if their product is not a good fit for timeline.

    Tell your client that you need to run ads to generate traffic.

    Tell your clients to offer something of value if they plan on doing
    giveaways. And most of all, tell your clients they need apps. They are
    not global brands? Then they definitely need apps.

    I dont care which company they use but they need to do it. Be it ours or one of the others.

    Tabsites are dead. Apps are the future.