Next week, Facebook will launch its new Timeline for Brands. Soon, all brand pages will benefit from the functionality of the new Timeline layout that was rolled out to personal profiles earlier this year. We will also see additional features to make pages more engaging, social and better able to convey brand identity.
Predictably, these developments have thrown the social media world into frenzy with myriad blog posts on page layouts, tabs, apps and aesthetics. While looks are important, for me the real message for marketers is that for Facebook, brand storytelling is now more important than ever. By reorganising all the content on a Facebook page into a scrolling chronology of conversations, events and milestones, brands have an unprecedented opportunity to use the site to convey their heritage.
When Facebook announced these changes at the end of February, it showcased a few chosen brands revealing their new Facebook Timeline pages. Dove mapped its brand history on to its timeline stretching back to 1957, incorporating content from its breakthrough ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’. Coca-Cola went all the way back to 1886, using Timeline to bring to life the story of its ‘secret recipe’ and its iconic advertising over two centuries.
Back in the present, given the ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ nature of posting content on Facebook’s old Wall, Timeline is an evolution. Conversations will now have more longevity and brands the power to highlight important pieces of content, through new Milestone posts.
The new layout will also allow admins to ‘pin’ a particular post to the top of their page for up to seven days - again, giving brands greater control over what visitors first see and the ability to focus a page around a specific promotion, campaign or debate.
Another significant development is that consumers will be able to send direct and private messages to a Brand Page. This opens up a new customer service channel where brands can respond to complaints or queries without always having to respond publicly. This should be positive for reputation management, but customer service on Facebook is an issue companies can no longer ignore.
So what do these changes ultimately mean? Yes, a chance to get even closer to customers, but at the price of devoting more time and strategic thinking to the platform. With Timeline, scattergun updates will now look even more amateur, lazy and out of place. Consistency, characters, a discernible plot and the occasional twist, is what you will now need to engage Facebook fans in writing your brand story.