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For Brands, Time To Get Ready For Facebook Timeline

Re-posted from Forbes.com – Matthew Siegel

On March 30, all Facebook Pages will be automatically switched over to the new timeline format. If you’re a brand and you value your Facebook presence, you need to understand what this means.

Timeline is an elegant and exciting new way to display content and information – for a full description you can go straight to the horse’s mouth. For brand marketers, the bottom line is that the days of the “profile” are gone. From now on, your presence on Facebook will be visualized as a timeline of what you’re doing and what you’ve done, starting with the present and scrolling all the way down to your earliest days.

The implications for brands using Facebook to promote themselves are simple. When your Facebook Page was a profile, you could control what people saw when they reached it. Now, people are first going to see what you and your followers are actually doing – not necessarily the functionality or campaign you are trying to promote. Red Bull provides us with a great example. Before the change, the whole page was “Like-gated” – that is, Red Bull drove visitors to their default app which forced visitors to Like Red Bull before doing anything else. This is no longer an option with Timeline. On the right, you can see that now, if Red Bull wants to direct you to an app, they need to post about it or add it to one of the small shortcut images at the top right of their Page.

Before Timeline

With Timeline

In Red Bull’s case, this means that the Like-gating app is now of limited value. Why? Because it can’t show up as a default app, and there’s no real reason for anyone to share it or talk about it, since it provides no interesting content or value. If Red Bull wants to drive traffic to specific Facebook apps on its Page, those apps need to be compelling enough to make people Like and share them so links to those apps start showing up in people’s feeds.

Content is still king in the context of Facebook. It’s been said that content is no longer king, a point I am fond of refuting. For the purposes of this analysis, let’s take content to mean anything within a Facebook app that a brand wants consumers to see and share. Timeline is a wonderful change to the context of Facebook – that is, the way Facebook displays information to the end-user. Instead of the familiar Profile context and its categorical display of data, we are now being presented with Timeline, a linear, time-driven display for events. Although this change is contextual, it highlights why content is so much more critical than it was in a pre-Timeline world, because without good content, links to your brand’s apps won’t be shared and no one will know about them. You can no longer force visitors to your page into a specific funnel or app as proactively as you could before.

This means that apps like Indaba Music’s Opportunity App are going to flourish with Timeline. The Opportunity App is all about content – the hottest music being created from current music-based contests, so there’s reason for consumers to share the app and share the content within the app – all driving people back to a branded experience. Here’s one we currently have running for Rufus Wainwright (who ironically hasn’t yet switched to Timeline). The trick is to create a steady flow of content over time that keeps followers engaged for the long haul. The app on Rufus’s page will dynamically pull the most interesting tracks and display them for his fans for as long as the contest is running; without any additional effort or curation.

To sum up, successful Page marketing within Facebook Timeline can be boiled down to 3 concepts:

1. Provide Quality Content: The content within your brand’s Page or  app needs to be interesting enough for consumers to share it, because you can no longer force feed to to them simply by driving traffic to your Page. Apps need to show up in user’s news feeds to get attention.

2. Provide Dynamic Content: Simply announcing a new piece of content and hoping for a story to form will no longer be effective in the Timeline format. Finding unique ways to secure a flow of original content is the key to consistent relevance with followers and potential followers.

3. Understand the Unique Context of Timeline. Just like our common everyday conception of time, Timeline is linear – it puts events on a line and it flows one way. When things happen is now just as important as where they happen. You may have a dedicated space on your Page for posting new content (the where). But with Timeline, the only way to sustain interest is to offer content that lends itself to continuous updating and sharing (the when). Running a contest? Think about having multiple rounds that evolve over time. Curating a selection of music? Tell the story of that playlist by detailing the track selection process. The river of Timeline will rapidly carry whatever content you create downstream unless you create reasons for it to constantly re-emerge.