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How Timeline has Changed Facebook Brand Pages?

Facebook changed their page layouts to the new Timeline format earlier this year, and it has been a very controversial subject amongst users of the site, as well as with the internet marketing community online. While many of Facebook’s 845 million1 users were unhappy about the change, just as many were satisfied with the new format and the features that it made available, like pinned and highlighted posts and the opportunity to be creative with the new cover image.

Businesses that had invested time and money in creating a brand page were left wondering how much of that work would be lost, or have to be reworked entirely, and whether they would see a drop in traffic from Facebook due to the changes. The changes have seen users interacting differently with brand pages now, and marketers will have to evolve their strategy accordingly for using Facebook to get value for the time that they spend on the site. On March 31st Facebook changed the formatting on all of the brand pages to Timeline, and in the intervening weeks we have all had a chance to adjust, so now it is possible to have a good look at exactly what has changed.

Before Timeline, brand pages could direct visitors to a tabbed landing page, where they could be directly given your latest marketing message. Many internet marketers viewed the loss of this tabbed landing page as a huge detriment to using Facebook for advertising, and it was thought that it would be more of a challenge to direct traffic from Facebook to your corporate website. These tabs have been moved to the row of apps that have been given the prime real estate on the page, just under the cover image on the left hand side of the page, but to date user interaction with this feature has been slow and has failed to replace the tabbed pages effectively2.

Many brands have taken to the cover image concept with a lot of imagination, and there are some great examples of the way that this can be used as an effective promotional space on the page. Brands like Coca-Cola and Target are  blatantly using the image to connect their Facebook brand page to their corporate image very well, while the Sears brand page has taken a more subtle, creative tack that puts more of the focus on their content than their images. In the end it might not matter, as a recent study has indicated that most users scroll down the page to read the content without really looking at the cover image2, regarding it as just another billboard in cyberspace.

Users have enthusiastically taken to the long history that Timeline makes available, although problems with the time that it takes for the scrolled page to load have taken some of the gloss off of this feature. The underuse of pinned and highlighted posts by brand pages as they become acclimated to the new format is one area where internet marketers need to be more focused, and for the most part, Timeline is going to require more engaging content and less straight promotion to be useful as a marketing tool right now.

Social media is generally a first click, rather than a last click, source of customers, and the changes to brand pages will take Facebook further in that direction. Having a Facebook brand page is still going to be important to a strong online presence, but how it is used to market brands is going to have to become more subtle and social if it is going to direct new customers to your business.

References:
1.http://therealtimereport.com/2012/02/24/social-networking-stats-twitter-hits-500-million-pinterest-grows-in-europe-rltm-scoreboard/

2. New Facebook Brand Pages: A first look at usability, Simple Usability, April 2012

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