Facebook Timeline launches for brands today. Unsurprisingly, social leaders Starbucks had already changed over to the Timeline format at 8am this morning. Considering Starbucks have a massive 1.3m people talking about them, they must be doing something right. I’ve used the Starbucks page as an example to demonstrate the new changes below. There’s some really interesting implications for advocacy & WoM which I’ll go through in more detail.
What you need to know
Brands now have the option to detail their entire history on their timelines. Incredibly, Starbucks have already updated the complete history of their brand, commencing with the opening of their first store in 1971. What this does, is allow consumers to connect with brands on another level. It builds trust and creates an emotional connection that will impact consumer decisions when it comes to brand loyalty. Think about it, if you feel like you know everything about a brand, including the initial brand vision, the ups & downs of the brand journey and other intimate details, you by default, have a genuine ‘relationship’ with the brand, which will impact how you make future decisions about the brand (including sales). From a sharing perspective, there’s also a great opportunity here to showcase your brands ‘story’. Research has shown that ‘stories’ are crucial for stimulating WoM. It’s much easier for your consumers to remember your story than your features or even benefits!
The cover photo functionality will provide an opportunity for brands to immediately connect visually with fans. It’s worth remembering that your brands profile picture is what will feature online with posts & content sharing (not the cover photo) so it’s important that it’s clearly branded. Facebook have posed a few restrictions with cover photos such as no mention of price or purchase info or any kind of call to action (‘like us’ or ‘share this’).
This is where positive WoM and advocacy plays an important part in the new set up. Facebook feature posts that your friends have made about the page or brand on the top of the timeline (see below image). For example, when I visited the Starbucks page today, I immediately saw a post from a friend detailing how she’d recently visited Starbucks in Madrid. This increased the credibility of Starbucks as a brand for me. If my friends are into it, then maybe I should check it out too?
The opportunity to showcase positive WoM with this new feature is huge. How do brands take advantage of this? There are multiple ways – encouraging your existing Facebook fans to post about you, engaging a team of brand advocates so you’re guaranteed to create thousands of posts, developing a digital WoM campaign that fosters online recommendations…the list goes on.
On the flip side, if you’re having issues with negative WoM, you may want to reconsider switching over to the new timeline format – as this could lose you customers. The last thing you want is a list of negative posts automatically featuring on your page.
Recent Posts By Others
Underneath ‘friends posts’, Facebook also pull in ‘recent posts by others’. This is another opportunity for positive WoM to build your brand for you. Research has shown that consumers value the opinions of other consumers (even ones they don’t know) more than the opinons of experts. So this is another example where WoM can fuel advocacy within your page.
Default Landing Tab
Facebook have removed this feature. So if you have a ‘Welcome page’ or a ‘Like Gate’ then you no longer have the option to set this as the default page when new users visit your site. Instead all users will be driven to the Timeline homepage initially. This isn’t great news for brands as there’s no longer the initial option to drive users to ‘like’ the page. You can however, set the page to redirect existing users to your welcome tab.
Other additions to timeline are the ability for fans to ‘private message’ you, ‘featured posts’ (great for highlighting important information at the top of your page), and the option to increase the width of your apps. At the time of writing this post, Facebook had not changed any of the Promotional Guidelines. However I’m sure there will be changes to come.
Overall, the new Timeline format is a positive thing for brands. It does require investment (both dollars and head hours) – but in my opinion it’s worth it. I’ll be especially interested to see how featuring consumer recommendations will have an impact – especially on sales. We know that 20 – 50% of purchases are based on consumer recommendations so I’m looking forward to seeing how we can start to measure this for brands.
If you’re reading this as an agency exec or a marketeer I’d love to hear if you plan on using the Timeline feature and what value you think this will have for you?