Timeline may have a similar effect on brands as well. In fact, the brand benefits of Timeline could be huge, and will let companies tell a more engaging and authentic story. This is one reason (beyond the 800 million active users) that brands should be celebrating the new changes to Facebook even if the network hasn’t yet confirmed that brand pages will employ Timeline. Here are a few more reasons we hope they do.
More Pictures, More Branding Opportunities
According to Jignesh Parmar of satva design studio, vision is our most powerful sense, and “we learn and remember best through pictures, not through written or spoken words.” This helps explain the popularity ofinfographics, photo apps like Instagram and visual blog platforms like Tumblr. We increasingly consume information through photos, from browsing friends’ Facebook albums to mobile Twitpics. Accordingly, Facebook has made photos a main focus of the new Timeline profile.
Compared to the current Facebook brand page (which only allows the profile picture and five thumbnails to be customized, hiding photo albums and tagged photos beneath the Wall), Timeline unlocks new possibilities for branding, raising awareness and creativity. The “Cover,” an 849 by 312 pixel image spanning the top of your profile, can be changed at any time and is major real estate for a brand — perfect for a product shot or promotion push. In addition, brands could call out important photos on the Timeline by clicking a star on the post that expands the photo to widescreen.
Brands Can Be More Interesting
Currently, the hidden “Info” tab on the Facebook brand page serves as a dumping ground for every bit of information about a brand in a boring text format. When deciding whether to drive paid media to Facebook or a brand site, brands face the challenge of choosing between growing their Facebook community or providing a more informative and better user experience elsewhere. Now, the decision tips a bit more in Facebook’s favor as Timeline makes it easier for people to find information by pushing the Info section, photos, apps and map to the top of the page in a clear navigation bar.
While conversations on Facebook still matter, information and content have become more prominent in the Timeline design. The infinite scroll prolongs the lifespan of brand content, giving people more to engage and consume, which will lead to more chatter, and focuses more on quality of posts over quantity, since posts don’t disappear “below the fold” of the Facebook wall.
With the focus shifting from building conversation to sharing content, the purpose of a Facebook brand page will be less about selling and more about telling an authentic story. Brands can express what makes them unique and build an emotional connection with fans through behind-the-scenes photos, blooper videos, real-time mobile pictures, sound clips and exclusive news. In addition to expressing the brand in the present, a brand can utilize the Timeline to speak to its past to reignite nostalgia and sentiment that may be associated with it.
It Simplifies What It Means to Be on Facebook
The focus on telling a brand story lowers the barriers to entry for brands on Facebook, especially small businesses like a car repair shop, florist or restaurant that don’t have the budget or content to sustain a community. Prior to Timeline, brands often felt confused as to how Facebook fit into their brand strategy and felt the need to have a gimmicky app or sampling incentive for people to “Like” or engage with their page. According to ExactTarget, of the people who “Like” Facebook brand pages, 40% are doing that to receive discounts and promotions. Now with the larger post size and photos, Timeline can easily serve as a brand blog, providing fans with frequent and engaging updates in a neatly packaged profile.
The same challenges of building a brand hub and bringing the brand to life on Facebook still exist, but the design of Timeline will make content creation easier by providing a skeleton for brands to fill in.
It’s a Great Move for Facebook
Two months ago, I suggested that Google+ brand pages could be better than Facebook’s. At the time, I could only focus on what Facebook had done wrong for brand pages — poor user experience, few branding opportunities and limited analytics. With the launch of the Timeline, I am happy to say that Facebook has done something right.
Brands, especially small businesses, may forgo creating a blog or unique domain page, opting to use Facebook Timeline instead due to the massive number of active Facebook users and the simplicity of setting up a page. All I ask of Facebook now is for more robust analytics, especially adding a “time spent” metric that can be drilled down by demographic and location so brands can better measure and analyze engagement. After all, it is called Timeline.