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Marketer's guide to Facebook timeline: Tips for brands and marketers for the 2012 changes to pages

On 29 Feb 2012, Facebook launched its Timeline layout for brand Pages and several new advertising products. The new layout will have an impact on what brands have built on Facebook in the past and how brands can best use Facebook in the future.

What's your timeline for making the most of the new layout? How about starting now?

Jack’s guide to Facebook Timeline suggests new best practices and addresses how the changes put brands over communities, could distract marketers from the News Feed, necessitate visualization and encourage storytelling through brand heritage.

Marketer's guide to Facebook timeline: Tips for brands and marketers for the 2012 changes to pages

  3. HIGHLIGHTS FROMFACEBOOK’S 2012 CHANGESEvery once in a while, Facebook makes its users and marketing partnersfeel like it’s ruining everything. Does Facebook’s new Timeline layoutreally ruin Facebook for brands? Probably not. But there are somesubstantial changes marketers should be aware of just one year after thelast round of sweeping changes (remember photo strips?). One thing toknow: your custom applications won’t look as good as they used to.On the heels of the rollout of its new Timeline format for user Profiles,Facebook is launching the new Timeline format for its brand partners,too. The new layout will have an impact on what brands have built onFacebook in the past (i.e. applications, posts, photos and more) and howbrands can best use Facebook in the future.Brands have until March 30th to activate the new layout for their Pages,but in the meantime, Jack Morton has assembled this guide to keychanges in the platform and the best ways to leverage tomorrow’sFacebook starting today.
  4. FACEBOOK TIMELINE FOR BRANDS:OUR POINT OF VIEWFacebook has undeniably changed the way we communicate with and relate to other humans. As FacebookCOO Sheryl Sandberg said in her keynote during the Facebook Marketing Conference, “For the first time,technology is powering us… and who we are.”On its path to reshape our lives as individuals (and yes, make a profit), Facebook (and social media in general)has also begun to change the way brands communicate with consumers.The focus is no longer on how brands communicate, but rather on how they relate. Webelieve brands relate best to consumers through brand experiences. We also believe thatbrand experiences are most meaningful when consumers are surrounded by their socialconnections.Facebook has given brands a platform to listen, comment, ask, answer, converse, innovate and, yes, even sellwhile users are surrounded by their social context. Facebook’s Timeline puts social brand experience at theplatform’s center. No longer will users experience brands in isolation or with a few other (often random) userson message board-style Pages, but rather, users will be prompted to experience brands and their heritagethrough their closest -- and most trusted -- social connections.In light of Facebook’s announcement of the rollout of Timeline-based layouts for brand Pages, we’rehaving conversations with our clients about what the social brand experiences of the present andfuture will look like. To catch a glimpse into our thinking, we offer up this guide to the shifts on theplatform, including what we believe will be the best practices for brands as they journey forward torelate to their consumers.Is your brand ready to make the most of Facebook’s Timeline for brand Pages? Ben Grossman Digital Strategist
  6. PAGES CHANGE #1:VISUALIZATION: PROFILE PICTURE Though many brands usedTIMELINE LAYOUT extended, promotional profile pictures in the past, Facebook’s new Timeline layout means that a brand’s profile picture can now stay a relatively consistent reflection of the logo, using the Cover Image for major promotions instead. It should be uploaded at 180 x 180 pixels. It will automatically be scaled down to 32 x 32 pixels for News Feed viewing. TIMELINE LAYOUT COVER PHOTO The new Page layout allows for the biggest, The new home for on-Page promotion, the Cover Photo should be most customizable visual branding ever. uploaded at 851 x 315 pixels. The perfect place to feature a fan or Combined with a new, moments-in-time photo of the month, a new promotion or even a call-out for a (now focused layout, Pages now act as more of a more hidden) custom Facebook Application. Careful! Cover Photos brand narrative than a community message may not include price or purchase information, contact information board. or calls to action. Consult Facebook’s rules before development.
  7. PAGES CHANGE #1:VISUALIZATION:TIMELINE LAYOUT VISUALLY COMPELLING POSTS WIN Facebook was popularized based on a sleek and simple, mostly text-based interface that made it easier to understand what friends were thinking, doing and saying. With bad memories of flashing and disorganized MySpace profiles far behind users (or even before some users’ time), Facebook is beginning to put more of an emphasis on helping users visualize their friends’ and brands’ posts and activity. Brands that create posts that are accompanied by visual media (i.e. a photo or video) enjoy greater inclusion and engagement through users’ News Feeds and also are now core to a quality user experience in the Timeline layout. Posts that include fill-in-the blanks, caption contests and video clips will drive engagement as Facebook continues to evolve. Additionally, visually compelling posts make for an easily scannable, engaging Timeline history, which users can now scroll through at any time.
  8. PAGES CHANGE #2:TIMELINE OPTIMIZATION WHAT GIVES TIMELINE ITS NAME? WELL, A TIMELINE. The entire structure of the new Facebook Pages layout is inspired by a history-based timeline that documents a brand’s existence (fictional or actual), from its founding or opening to the present. Brands with a rich and interesting history now have the opportunity to use a new type of posts, “Milestones,” which allow them to add historical landmarks for their businesses or the backstory for an upcoming movie. A simple tool at the right of Pages allows for navigation through time. FRIEND-PRIORITIZED VIEWING A new section of Pages acts as a personalized social lens through which users can view a given brand. A call-out with the number of a user’s friends who like the Page as well as some of their recent activity pertaining to the brand is featured at the top of the Timeline. Friends care about friends, making the prominence of this section a compelling reason for brands to respond to each and every post on their Pages.
  9. PAGES CHANGE #2:TIMELINE OPTIMIZATION STARRING STORIES Page Administrators now have a way to prioritize their own content within the Timeline by starring the best (most engaging) ones and allowing it to expand with double width on the timeline. Just as easily, Administrators can hide less engaging or less important stories. The net effect of this functionality is that once a post is no longer current, Administrators can choose not to feature it as a main part of the company’s past in the Timeline. As such, product recall announcements or public apologies can still be distributed and shown while relevant, but can later be hidden in favor of more positive milestones in the brand’s past.PINNING POSTS FOR 7 DAYSWhile Facebook recommends Pages post once per day, it hascreated a capability that allows Administrators to “Pin” a post tothe top of the Page, so that it is the first thing users see uponarrival for a 7-day period.The terminology of “Pinning” may seem suspiciously close to thatof recent social media darling Pinterest. Widely, the media agreesand attributes the use of the terminology to Zuckerberg’s ongoingobsession with staying up to speed with start-up competition.
  10. PAGES CHANGE #3:FACEBOOK APPLICATIONS NO WELCOME TAB. APP SIZE UPDATE. The new Timeline layout dispenses with a tab-based brand favorite: the welcome tab. Administrators will no longer be able to set a default landing tab as the first thing users see upon arriving to the Page. Instead, the Cover Photo will need to do any “Welcome” talking desired by the brand (though current fans will see it too). The new application display will continue to allow older apps (520 pixels in width) to display, but they’ll look narrow in the new layout that allows for 810 pixel-wide layouts. Applications new and old require a new icon to appear on the Page that is 111 × 74 pixels.
  11. PAGES CHANGE #3:FACEBOOK APPLICATIONS APPLICATIONS GET A DOWNGRADE Much to many brands’ chagrin, custom Facebook Applications, which represent a significant investment to many marketers, were given a low priority in the new Timeline layout. Pages can choose to feature up to three custom applications by default (the Photos Application is fixed), but the rest fall below in an area that must be expanded by the user prior to viewing additional applications. Because Facebook’s interface has long been based on a tabbed navigational structure, where brands would often create “Welcome Tabs” to orient users to the Page, this will trigger a major change in many Page’s user experience. Users will now have to be drawn in by a brand’s content, rather than a messaging tab.
  12. PAGES CHANGE #4:1-ON-1 MESSAGES & USER CONTROL COMMUNITY MANAGERS: REJOICE! Uncharacteristically, Facebook is allowing brands complete control over how conversations appear on their Pages. Buried in Facebook’s Timeline updates are new capabilities that allow Administrators to prevent fans’ posts to the Timeline from showing up publicly until they have been approved by an administrator. 1-ON-1 MESSAGES ARE HERE Previously, the only way brands could communicate with Administrators can also hide a box that allows consumers through their Pages was publicly through the users to see recent post by people other than Page’s wall. With Timeline, Facebook is introducing a new their immediate friends, pretty much killing “Message” button that appears next to the “Like” Button any sense of community that Pages once had. at the top of the Page (at a brand’s discretion -- it can be hidden). Though brand’s still cannot reach out to users directly to initiate a 1-to-1 conversation, they can now receive messages from users and respond through the platform. Not all customer service can or should be public.
  14. BRAND PROMOTION #1:OFFERS POSTSREADY TO BATTLE DAILYDEALS? NOT YET.Facebook has made several attempts overthe past few years to develop an offeringthat could rival daily deals sites likeGroupon and Living Social.With the release of Timeline, Facebookhas added another new post type called“Offers.” Using the post, brands canfeature a promotion on their page, allowusers to claim it and have the coupon sentdirectly to the user’s email or mobiledevice. The seamless experience ispowered by Facebook’s ability to leverageusers’ profile data to offer analytics andtracking that brands will be intrigued by.For additional exposure, Facebook alsorecommends combining Offers with its adunits to reach a broader audience andtrigger viral spread.
  15. BRAND PROMOTION #2:POSTING STANDARDS FACEBOOK GOES ON RECORD WITH RECOMMENDATIONS For the first time publicly, Facebook went on the record with recommendations about the frequency of posts Pages should use. The answer was what most strategists had concluded: one, engaging post per day is golden. Facebook also released some staggering statistics about what types of posts work best. • Visually engaging posts generate 2X the engagement of basic text posts. • On average, people visit and engage with Pages most often between 9pm and 10pm. • Posts between 100 and 250 characters (less than 3 lines of text) see about 60% more likes, than longer posts. Facebook estimates that the average Page reaches 16% of its fans in the average week. It also recommends using Page Insights to find out when people engage most with content and post during those hours.
  16. BRAND PROMOTION #3:REACH GENERATOR FACEBOOK’S NEW TAKE ON SPONSORED STORIES Over a year ago, Facebook launched new ad units referred to as “Sponsored Stories.” These units essentially help to amplify Page Posts so that they reach more users (both fans and non-fans) to trigger further viral spread and awareness of the brand and/or offering. These ad units have now been re-launched and now fall under an umbrella grouping called “Reach Generator.” In addition to re-naming the offering, Facebook is also breaking its Sponsored Story ad units out of the right side of the interface. Units will now also be eligible to appear in users’ News Feeds on their desktops and, once Timeline comes to mobile devices in April, through mobile devices. This will be the first time mobile advertisements are available through Facebook’s platform. When using Sponsored Stories, it it is imperative that brands express the core of the message in the first 90 characters of the post, as that is the size of the ad unit.
  17. BRAND PROMOTION #4:PREMIUM ON FACEBOOK BIG SPENDS GET BIG BENEFITS Facebook’s top advertising spenders will now be using an offering re-named “Premium on Facebook.” In order to augment its pre- existing premium advertising offering, Facebook is adding the in-News Feed ads, mobile News Feed ads and a new Log-out experience as parts of its paid media offerings. And these higher end products have paid off in the past. Facebook reports that ad units featured on its homepage (reserved for premium advertisers) have generated 5x-10x more engagement than all other places on the site. Further, Facebook reports that Premium Ads and Sponsored Stories on the right-hand side are typically 40% more engaging and 80% more likely to be remembered than all previous offerings. Among other new claims Facebook is making about the benefits of its paid advertising products is that “well-run campaigns that leverage social drive ROIs of 3x or greater.”
  19. BEST PRACTICE #1:BRAND OVERCOMMUNITY FORCED COMMUNITY IS DEAD... CONTROL IS BACK One of the biggest challenges for brands joining Facebook (especially those in highly regulated industries) has always been the fact that users could post whatever they wanted to brand’s walls whenever they wanted to... for the world to see. Timeline does away with that. In fact, the entire interface has made a shift from being a dolled up message board with some cool interactive features to becoming a narrative story about a brand... completely controlled by the brand. Administrators can prevent users from posting to the timeline, moderate all posts and even re-publish the user-generated posts they like. The Timeline is engineered to tell the brand’s story as it wants to be seen. Blemishes can be hidden and Community Managers have complete control over what happens on the Page. One-to-one, consumer-to-brand messaging also keeps consumers’ and brands’ dirty laundry (i.e. customer service issues) out of sight and, perhaps, out of mind.
  20. BEST PRACTICE #2:DON’T FORGET THENEWS FEED VISUALS SHOULDN’T DISTRACT FROM WHAT’S REALLY MISSION CONTROL. If nothing else, users will have to admit: Timeline is pretty. Marketers are sure to love playing with the Cover Photos and finding new ways to feature neat history as part of the Timeline. Facebook is even pushing the idea of the Page itself as “Mission Control” every chance it gets. None of that changes the fact, however, that perhaps the most important part of Facebook for brands has not significantly changed at all: the News Feed. Indeed, the majority of engagement and awareness is generated by brands’ posts being seen among their friends’ posts in the News Feed. While Facebook’s new paid advertising units will be able to land brands in the News Feed, a strong content strategy with engaging posts at the right time will still be at the core of the most successful brands on Facebook. So go ahead, make your brand’s Page beautiful... but don’t forget to think long and hard about that News Feed.
  21. BEST PRACTICE #3:EMPHASIS ONVISUALIZATION RICH VISUALS MAKE THE BEST CONTENT AND THE BEST TIMELINES No one wants to read a book when they hop on Facebook to stalk a few friends. A quick scroll through a brand’s timeline will give you an idea of whether it is posting enough rich visual content. The more photos, videos and links relevant to individual posts, the more a brand stands out in the timeline and builds affinity through its timeline. As the entire Internet drives towards a future of representing a new world of data with easy-to- understand visuals, it will be no surprise if Facebook continues to focus on making improvements to the platform that make it more visually gripping.
  22. BEST PRACTICE #4:STORYTELLING THROUGHMILESTONES HISTORIC NARRATIVES CONTRIBUTE TO BRAND STORIES THROUGH TIMELINE Brands, public figures and institutions that have a rich history have a perfect opportunity to display it through Timeline in an engaging way. Administrators can literally go back in time and use the new “Milestone” post type to add landmarks in an organization’s past all the way back to the year it was founded. Brands that have longstanding relationships with customers can even encourage users to contribute photos that can then be re-posted as part of the Page’s history. For those brands that don’t have a history, like movies, Timeline allows Administrators to tell a fanciful backstory that can build anticipation for premieres. For television shows or entertainers, Timeline offers a wonderful way to catalogue episodes or performances and the journey to accomplishment.
  23. WILL YOU USE TIMELINE TO CREATE COMPELLINGSOCIAL BRAND EXPERIENCES FOR CONSUMERS?JACK MORTON WORLDWIDE is a global brand experience agency with offices on four continents. Our agency culturepromotes breakthrough ideas about how experiences connect brands and people – in person, online, at retail and through thepower of digital and word of mouth influence. We work with both BtoC and BtoB clients to create powerful and effectiveexperiences that engage customers and consumers, launch products, align employees and build strong experience brands.Ranked at the top of our field, we’ve earned over 50 awards for creativity, execution and effectiveness last year, including bestnew product introduction, best media event and employee campaign of the year. Jack Morton is part of the Interpublic Group ofCompanies, Inc. (NYSE: IPG).More information is available online:Web site: MORE INSIGHT INTO FACEBOOK’S TIMELINE FOR BRANDS,CONTACT BEN_GROSSMAN@JACKMORTON.COM

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On 29 Feb 2012, Facebook launched its Timeline layout for brand Pages and several new advertising products. The new layout will have an impact on what brands have built on Facebook in the past and how brands can best use Facebook in the future. What's your timeline for making the most of the new layout? How about starting now? Jack’s guide to Facebook Timeline suggests new best practices and addresses how the changes put brands over communities, could distract marketers from the News Feed, necessitate visualization and encourage storytelling through brand heritage.


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