Facebook is making every fan page switch to the timeline format on March 29. Until now the most obvious marketing techniques for a fan page have been to gate the likes page so you promise exclusive content for someone to like your brand, and the infamous iPad contests. They were both accessible, easy to understand and offered a high rate of conversion.
The switch has been a long time coming. Facebook is nearing their IPO date and they’re faced with two basic clients who use Facebook fan pages; corporations and mid-sized business which have staff dedicated specifically to marketing and social media in general, and small businesses or entrepreneurs that do not. There are plenty of differences between these two groups, but the defining difference is that one has an advertising budget that Facebook hopes to take a slice of, and the other was seen as hitching a free ride on a platform that is becoming a business.
[box type=”info”] Why is Facebook making the Timeline format mandatory for Branded Pages? Read “Facebook Timeline: Another Nail in the Coffin” to find out why they did it, how it will affect you, and what to do about it.[/box]
Targeting Big Business
The vast majority of Facebook fan pages are set up for small businesses or side projects that people are trying to build an online presence around. Only 65 percent of fan pages have more than 100 fans, and only 4 percent have more than 10,000. Since even a modest marketing campaign or promotion can convert thousands of users into fans, it’s safe to say that brands who already spend money on Facebook advertising make up a small majority.
When life gives you lemons, what do you do? If you said make lemonade, you are the consumer (yep, a branded message has been burnt into your brain so bad you’re finishing my sentences!). If you said tell a story about how you were poor as a child, and operated a lonely lemonade stand so you could afford to invite Tiny Tim over for Christmas dinner at your house (and we have pictures!), then you’ve got the right idea for Facebook timeline… well, as a marketer anyway.
Facebook has given you lemons. It may not be what you want, but you need to make the best of it. This is an opportunity that is uniquely suited to larger brands with deeper history and a diverse lineup of old media to integrate. You’ll see newspaper clippings about the beginning of a business at the bottom of their timeline, the day they were founded. As you move closer to current there will be old advertisements, pictures submitted by customers, pictures submitted by the brand itself, several renditions of old logos and all sorts of regalia from their past. Facebook timeline IS the place to show off your storied past. How was your brand involved in historical events? What events were considered historical for your brand?
When Facebook launched timeline for personal pages, they made a mock timeline with media from Andy Sparks, a Facebook employee. It is still the most effective timeline advertisement I’ve ever seen. It starts out with a picture of him as a baby, and we get to see Andy grow up and graduate. It shows him meet his future wife, then skips to their honeymoon. Next is a shot of her pregnant belly, and then a child. As the video progresses, we soon expect to see the kid creating a Facebook page of her own, and starting her own timeline to document her life.
Lots of video clips, and the example itself was a video. The video seamlessly moved through the timeline, hitting all the right spots as it played. It showed the full potential of the timeline app, but sadly the emotional genius of Facebook’s timeline advertisement hasn’t been duplicated by people who actually use the timeline.
Even though you won’t be able to match the effect of Andy’s timeline video, you can still produce the individual pieces of content that make it work. How can you turn your brand into a persona? What level of customer are you trying to connect with? The tone would be totally different for a timeline targeted toward consumers than a B2B business page. The mechanics and the message don’t have to be.
Storied History… or Not?
Brands that do not have a storied history, take Social Media Sun for example, are presented with a unique problem when it comes to Facebook timeline. Lacking the nostalgic media, and the linear history for that matter, our timeline would be practically empty. To combat the lack of “milestones”, I included several pieces of history that led up to the founding of our website. Not many people know that the USSR launching the Sputnik would lead to the development of ARPANET, the precursor of today’s Internet. Stories like this helped to make Social Media Sun’s past a little more illustrious. You can only add milestones back until your initial milestone which Facebook prompts you to add. It is specifically tagged with events like founded, born, started, etc.
There is one major benefit for new brands as it pertains to a multimedia timeline. We know ahead of time to accumulate as much multimedia as possible to integrate into this type of presentation. You can guarantee that we’ll have a photographer on hand at every public event and that no opportunity to capture a historic moment will be missed. Multimedia time lines have always been top heavy, having much more content attached to recent dates. The Social Media Sun timeline will have photos and video from every event we participate in.
Applications Rule the Roost
Whether you plan on getting some of your reach back with advertising credits or not, the best way to regain a level of control over followers you’ve worked to attract is by moving them off the fan page. With Facebook’s new page layout, application tabs are moved to the top of your page and can help direct fan page traffic to the other networks that aren’t making you pay to reach your followers. On the Social Media Sun website we’ve linked to our previous landing page to give followers the chance to sign up for our VIP newsletter, we’ve added the Networked Blogs app so users can read our blog posts right on Facebook, and we’ve also integrated our Twitter account.
Since Facebook has gotten into bed with the up and coming social network Pinterest, I strongly recommend adding the Pinterest application to the visible lineup of tabs on your Facebook page. Remember that currently, this is the primary way that social media marketers will be able to maintain constant uninterrupted contact with Facebook users without buying ad credits.
Here is an infographic my good friend Timothy Brand, owner of Brand Graphics, made with a few tips on designing your Facebook timeline. He has already come up with some cool ideas like using a QR code, and isn’t letting the changes get him down. (Tim was actually an instrumental consultant in the development of the Social Media Sun. He’s one of the best pure graphic designers I know)
Have you published your Facebook timeline yet? Can you look past the features that were taken away and exploit the opportunities that the new timeline affords us? It’s clear that Facebook is targeting ad dollars with this approach, but this is also the ultimate test of the social media community; can we figure out how to leverage these changes to our advantage?