How Facebook timeline could transform your brand page

If you have a Facebook page for your business, chances are that you have already felt the buzz surrounding the latest Facebook display program – Timeline. On February 29, Facebook made the much awaited announcement that the Timeline feature was ready to go live for brand pages. It also announced that brands would have till March 30 to prepare themselves for the transition and make the switch voluntarily, after which all brand pages would automatically be converted to the Timeline program. This means that you have a little over a week from now to acquaint yourself with this new feature and apply it to your business page.

However, there is no reason to panic or brood, even if you have woken up late. Facebook Timeline is an easy-to-follow and well integrated display program based on a simple concept. Here is the low-down to help you prepare for this change.

The Concept

Essentially, Timeline is a neat and concise presentation for any business enterprise. The entire history, identity, features, offers, Facebook communication and all other relevant information pertaining to your brand is available on a single page. Using scroll down options and single-click navigation, any user can explore what your brand is all about, how it has developed over time, what it offers, and how it relates to his/her community of friends.

The name ‘Timeline’ is inspired from the main feature of this display: the timeline bar on the right hand side of the page. Using this, users can click on landmark dates and even months and years from the past and get a perspective on how your brand has come along over the years.

Your Present and Past: Together on One Page

As far as you the brand-owner are concerned, Facebook Timeline gives you an opportunity to showcase your brand history like you may never have done before. Think of a traditional timeline for your business enterprise, and now imagine the opportunity to elaborate your landmark dates with hand-picked pictures, videos, news articles, web links and comments, and you get a Facebook Timeline. You could also add how your Facebook interaction with customers and overall social network presence has developed over the years by highlighting interesting comments, wall posts and discussion threads from the past. All in all, this is your opportunity to show, in any way you wish, the entire story of your brand.

Further to this, Timeline offers a bit more as well: it is an adaptation of the earlier Facebook wall. Visitors can still add comments and posts, and you can make your current month or week as interactive or engaging as you wish.

Basically, you could think of it this way: the top of your timeline page is the present, or everything that your brand consists of and stands for today. This may include your offers, current trends, ideas, interaction with customers and friends, pressing issues and challenges, and present business decisions. As one scrolls down, one goes further and further back into the past, learning all about the highlights from the story of your progress.

So, whether it is a potential customer, investor, partner or business associate who has reached your page, in a few minutes they can get a wholesome snapshot of who you are, and how you have reached wherever you have managed to get. This could help people make crucial decisions, such as how you are different from your competition, what exactly your identity is and whether they should endorse or deal with your enterprise.

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The Response

As expected, the response to this Facebook feature has not been altogether favorable. Partly, this is because businesses have been robbed off choice – they have to adopt Timeline, whether they like it or not. Also, it is quite clear from the outset that while the Timeline feature is great for business who are happy to engage with clients and associates, it is not going to be very kind to those who have established a Facebook presence as mere formality, and are not willing to invest thought and effort into it.

Besides, several businesses found ways to use earlier Facebook features – which will no longer be available – to leverage their business. Now all that effort will be obsolete. Having said all this, several noteworthy brands, including giants such as Coca Cola, Toyota, Subway, Manchester United and ESPN, have made the switch readily and rapidly.

The Indian Response

Disappointing, in one word. It is clear that most Indian businesses were not prepared for the Facebook announcement. Even though it is now almost a month since, even big business houses have not yet woken up to the change. The TATA brand, Café Coffee Day, Maruti Suzuki, and Nokia India are some major brands that are clutching on to their old page formats till the last moment. A few noteworthy converts include Fastrack, Pepsi India, Reliance, Kingfisher, Bacardi, and Axe Angels Club.

The good news for you is that even though we are less than a week from D-day, you can still get a head-start on most Indian businesses. Here is a look into some of the highlights of the Timeline program, as well as some features that will no longer be available, as you transition from a regular Facebook page. It is clear that you will need to sit back and re-think your Facebook strategy, at least to some extent.

The Features

Cover Picture – This is the most visually striking feature of the Timeline program, and a clear favorite amongst business owners. With the top cover picture spanning more than half the width of a computer screen, this is an opportunity to make a dramatic impact with your brand identity. Several companies have already made a statement. Harley Davidson uses a classic countryside photo to showcase its rugged cruisers, ESPN gives a behind the scenes look at its SportsCenterstudio, and on the Indian scene, both Fastrack and Shoppers Stop have banked on their distinct ad photography campaigns to start the show.

No Landing Page – Earlier, you could set as many tabs as you wanted for your Facebook brand page and use any of these as the landing page for visitors. For instance, at the moment a click on Nirula’s Facebook page (a famous Delhi fast food chain) brings you straight to a dine-in discount offer available at its Defence Colony outlet. This is a convenient marketing opportunity, but it will not be available on the Facebook Timeline display. Every user, logging in from anywhere in the world, would reach the same central brand page.

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This means that brands would now need to use other strategies to display promotional offers, discounts and announcements. One option is to have a Facebook ad campaign on their brand page to lead people to the offer. Alternatively, they could make a particular tab stand out, or even ‘pin’ a post at the top of their Timeline. Pinned posts remain at the top for seven days.

Only 4 Tabs – Facebook Timeline only allows the display of 4 tabs, arranged in a row just below the cover photo. This arrangement is more prominent than the one before, and each tab now gets an icon. However, the limit of 4 means that you need to think carefully about which tabs to display – photos, videos, a discount coupon, map, information page, events, blog etc. Making the right decision will probably require you to subscribe to a page analytics program. Keep in mind that you can still have more than 4 tabs, but the user will have to click on the ‘show more’ arrow to view the additional ones. Also, you can rotate your display tabs as often as you wish.

One interesting new feature here is the ‘map’ tab. It is available to all local businesses, and is proving to be a very useful addition for potential clients.

Friend Activity – One big advantage of having Facebook Timeline for your users is that it makes your brand page a lot more interactive. As soon as someone reaches your brand, they can immediately see how many of their friends like your page, and if anyone in their network has said something recently about your brand. These displays are available right below the ‘tabs’ row, and they allow someone to check out exactly how your business relates to their own community.

More Effective Admin Control – With the improved functionality and potential of Facebook Timeline also come much more streamlined options for admin control. Rather than allowing customer queries, feedback and random comments to clutter your timeline, you can manage your page content and privacy to make sure that the posts which show have genuine value for all your customers.

Direct Interaction with Customers – For queries, complaints and comments, Facebook Timeline has a unique answer: it allows customers to get in touch directly with the administrators managing the brand page and get a personal response. If you can manage this feature effectively, it will really leverage your reputation. After all, personalized customer care and support is something everyone appreciates. Also, by encouraging customers to get in touch with you directly for queries and complaints, you will be able to keep your timeline free of clutter.

All in all, a double thumbs-up to Facebook Timeline from this quarter! It gives you an excellent opportunity to engage your customers and associates with useful and interesting content. By sharing your challenges, behind-the-scenes story, unique offers, breaking news, landmark events and accomplishments on your Timeline page, you could really make your viewers feel like they are an important part of your story. Ultimately, if you can achieve that kind of a sentiment, your Timeline transition would truly be a grand success.