TECHNOLOGY SPECTATOR: Facebook's timeline brand bump

Facebook is undergoing its most ambitious change yet and businesses that don't properly plan their jump into the new timeline layout could end up paying a heavy price.

Technology Spectator

Facebook has never been known as one to stand still and now the social network is at the cusp of its most ambitious transformation yet.

The website is going to drag all of its users – possibly kicking and screaming – into its new 'timeline' layout and it’s also taking corporates along for the ride.

All company Facebook pages will transition to the timeline format by March 30 and despite being given the option to take the plunge ahead of the deadline, most of Australia’s major companies are yet to make the change. Even the likes of Woolworths, Telstra and JB Hi Fi, all of whom have a substantial presence on the social network, are still stuck with the old style of Facebook page.

With time running out to make the change smoothly, companies risk losing their audience and their online brand perception by not acting fast enough.

Lucio Ribeiro, founder of the Victorian-based social media agency The Online Circle, has been briefing his clients on how to handle Facebook’s latest game changer and says that companies need to carefully plan their transition or risk jeopardising the effort they have put so far into building a strong Facebook following.

Understand what Facebook is doing

Ribeiro says that Facebook now sees itself as a tool for "storytelling” and not just a platform for random information.

"Everything for them is going to be about telling stories…they want to be the centre of the internet… they eventually want to replace corporate websites,” he says.

"By moving to the timelines, Facebook wants to create a massive emotional connection between companies and their followers.”

He adds that companies that can aid Facebook in this goal will be first in line to be rewarded with increased engagement and brand affinity from their followers.

Paint a compelling picture

Companies need to pay particular attention to the image they want to use as their cover picture, an 815x315 pixel banner, that serves as a header for the page. The image allows companies to give their pages a unique look and Ribeiro says that filling the header with a corporate logo or plain text is not the best move.

Dig into corporate beginnings

Facebook wants to know about a company's past and a strategy of showcasing prominent milestones can be an effective booster for the new corporate page. Ribeiro says that the new feature, milestones, is crucial to the storytelling element of Facebook’s plan and if done correctly could dramatically increase the amount of time and attention given to a page.

Revise the posting strategy

Corporates also need to adjust their Facebook strategy to account for the new posting features ‘highlight’ and ‘pinned’.

'Highlight' expands a post to take up more room on the page and allows the integration of photos or videos into the timeline. The 'pinned' feature allows users to temporarily place older posts at the top of the timeline for up to seven days. This serves to draw attention to a certain past post or could be used to advertise an event without needing to repeat a post.

To be fully prepared for the changes, Ribeiro says that companies will need to go through their marketing calendars and plan their posts in advance, making careful note of which posts they intent to ‘pin’ or ‘highlight’.

Don’t reveal every little change to the world

Ribeiro says it is critically important not to alert, and consequently spam, followers with the changes made during the transition.

He says that companies should either change their pages gradually or take them offline for a couple of days and re-launch them with the Timeline changes.

Spamming followers could lead to them abandoning the page and ruin the existing relationship.

Facebook app commitments will be rewarded

Facebook has moved their applications section so it is now broadly featured on the top of the page. This means that if a company has invested in creating Facebook apps, its hard work is about to be rewarded.

According to Ribeiro, the change to Timeline may be a good time for companies to consider deploying Facebook applications to further engage their customers with their services.

Is it worth all of this effort?

Australians spend more time on Facebook, per person, per week than any other nation, and that translates into opportunity for companies to engage with potential customers. If used properly, the new Timeline page has the potential to give corporates the ability to create a deeper affinity with their followers and give marketing teams more room to play around with how they present their brand.

Companies like Coca Cola, Supre, EB Games and the Herald Sun have already made the transition successfully and other will have to make the change, whether they like it or not.

Ultimately, the Timeline hurdle will test how committed companies are to Facebook but given the social network's ever increasing reach in today's society it's a channel that's just too good to ignore.