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How will Facebook’s new Timeline tell your story?

Like many of you, I have been receiving banner alerts when logging into Facebook, prompting me to migrate to the new Timeline and banner design. I’ve noted numerous colleagues who have made the switch and I’ve also been touring pages looking for creative approaches. I’ve yet to make the change since I am currently analyzing what is driving it, and how to best use the new platform look to position not only my business page, but my own personal brand. I do think it demands some pre-thought, since the page will now look much more like a “personal or brand website” with the banner on the top, and most importantly, the timeline feature presenting the opportunity to “tell your story” for brands and individuals.

 

Since “resistance is futile” (for you Trek fans), with a default migration date of March 30 for all accounts, I think it’s prudent to consider the opportunities that the new design presents, rather than just allowing a blanket switch to be tripped on your behalf.

The first obvious change is the opportunity to tell your story chronologically with an emphasis on visuals. Storytelling is powerful. Attention needs to be paid to structure, highlights, headlines, and images. Done well Timeline could present a powerful social narrative that creates an emotional connection for brands or individuals. You can now create milestones to emphasize important events, or hide old content to control how it appears. You can also go back and insert content and change your history (if that feels like a time warp, it is!) But again, if you are narrating the evolution of a brand or showing an illustrious history, this is powerful stuff.  This is not something to leave to a default migrating tool to select highlights for your story.

Pinned posts are another opportunity. You can now “pin a post” and place it at the top of your feed for a week, as a highlight to your followers. This presents an incredible opportunity for businesses that feed their multimedia social media content such as videos and blog posts, regularly via Facebook. This feature definitely favours those who publish content regularly. I suspect that is at the heart of this, since Facebook benefits by encouraging active use of the platform, and by default they will further enrich their database on you as a user. That will translate to sellable user profiling for advertising.

The new Reach Generator tool is also at the heart of these changes, and is closely tied to the pinned post concept. Businesses will be able to use it to help promote posts to existing fans via newsfeeds and the mobile web. Of course the monetization of this tool presents increased revenue for Facebook. Link here for more background on the Reach Generator tool: http://techcrunch.com/2012/03/04/facebook-marketing-conference/

Starbucks has done a nice job migrating to the new look, while utilizing the Timeline tool to feature company milestones and product launches sine 1971. The retro look of old photos really adds to the style and presentation. http://www.facebook.com/#!/Starbucks The New York Times has also created an interesting historical perspective on not only their company, but on newsworthy historical events. http://www.facebook.com/nytimes?ref=ts

Sprott-Shaw College has also made the switch, although the content between 1903 and current day is sparse. Seems like a missed opportunity to position their private school brand uniquely amidst their competitors, since they actually have history that pre-dates UBC. http://www.facebook.com/#!/sprottshaw Those are a couple examples of what I found, but curiously, a lot of top brands haven’t switched over. I will be monitoring them closely for creative approaches in the coming months.

As with good writing and storytelling, you need to consider your audience when addressing these changes. How will you “frame” your story through photos, tags and highlight milestones? This is where I am still perplexed as to how best to utilize Timeline. While Facebook has enabled easier “groups” to share your posts with, they haven’t considered this wrinkle when designing Timeline. The story I would choose to tell friends and family might be quite different than the one I would highlight to clients and business colleagues. This is where having a personal Facebook identity as well as a business page, might finally make the most sense.

One last thought on all this. As a parent I would encourage you to help your kids understand how Timeline is now part of their personal branding and identity. The implications are profound, when you consider how colleges, universities and future employers may use the tool to screen candidates. Most are writing for their current “audience of buddies and friends,” and the content they highlight on their Timeline may not serve them well in the future. By engaging Facebook, we now have no choice but to also play the personal branding game.

So take a tour and become familiar with the new tools. Then consider how best to utilize them to your advantage. Map out a plan for your business or personal brand, then log in and tell your story. And finally, consider how in the future you will use the new tools to position yourself favourably.

If you are looking for a basic overview of these changes, here is a good video tutorial that might be useful: http://www.learnfacebookpages.com/ui.html

Mary Charleson

Comments

  1. Great article Mary. You have really drawn attention to how to think strategically about the changes happening at Facebook. Love your stuff!

    • Thanks for the encouragement. Are there any specific areas you would like to see investigated from a marketing perspective beyond what you may have already found on this blog? I want to ensure I provide insights and publish valuable content as a resource for readers.

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