Thursday, March 29, 2012

5 Ways the New Facebook Builds Brands

On March 30 brand pages on Facebook that have not made the change to the new Timeline format will automatically be converted. This means that if you haven’t updated your company’s page by Friday, Facebook will do it for you. The impetus behind the new format is that Facebook wants businesses to act and interact like people. Steering away from a “buy now” approach, they’ve incorporated strong visuals, fan loyalty techniques, and storytelling to encourage brand interaction. They’re imposing some guidelines too.

Facebook’s design lead Sam Lessin explains: “The key with cover photos is storytelling and expression. We want to create a good experience for everyone, and we think these guidelines really help brands…They’re encouraging people to create engaging content that people want to come back to.”

When you start to examine the new format, you’ll quickly see that there are five major modifications in these Facebook brand pages. First, like a cover photo on a magazine, there’s a widescreen image at the top of the page. This is your brand’s first impression to attract your audience. And to ensure that you keep it inviting, Facebook has imposed image guidelines that exclude your using this space as a billboard for website addresses, contact information, or promotions.

Second, placed vertically on the right is the historical timeline. This is an opportunity to showcase your brand’s stories. Different from the old format, here companies are able to add past events that don’t necessarily tie into the date on which they joined Facebook, i.e. a company’s founding or other milestone. This is a great method for humanizing your brand and showcasing your credibility through strong engaging content.

Third, to help you drive traffic to key areas, Facebook has introduced the ability to make selected content "sticky" for seven days. The new Timeline format gives brands the option to "pin" key information to the top of the page so you can highlight important content like that hot promotional offer or the free white paper.

Fourth, there are also some handy new admin capabilities for page managers built into the Timeline so you’ll be able to view metrics about your page performance, edit content, and respond to messages from every day users. In addition, your consumers will be able to message your brand directly and you, in turn, will be able to provide tailored responses to specific questions or comments. Also, instead of deleting posts, you can curate your content, hiding comments that are out of date or inappropriate.
Finally, in addition to these aesthetic and functional changes, this new format will be an impetus for brands to develop their own custom apps that build on Facebook’s new social applications. It will promote the development of "Open Graph" apps, which have their data tapped for ad targeting, an area of business focus for Facebook. Timeline is a sophisticated evolution of the Facebook experience; it's one that’s grown to gain a more comprehensive and detailed picture of the user’s interactions. It will influence the way companies deliver their Facebook strategies. These new capabilities will require more time and attention but are something your business will want to maximize. What are your thoughts on this new format? I’d love to read your comments.