Timeline May Eat Up Companies’ Time

Facebook introduced a long-expected development on Wednesday: Timeline for Pages — that is, Timeline for brands. It is similar in look and feel and function to the feature that was pushed out to user profiles last fall.

However, the implications of Timeline for Pages are much greater for brands, both in outreach to customers and in terms of the additional resources that must be now devoted to Facebook.

The changes will automatically roll out on March 30, but brands can upgrade now. Many, such as Lexus, already have.

Look and Feel

Timeline for Pages is, as Facebook might say, a visually oriented layout characterized by a company’s milestones and other significant dates and content.

Another key feature is the ability to “pin posts” — that is, keep a particularly important post at the top of a page’s Timeline for up to seven days, instead of having it get lost amid more recently added content.

The new feature also comes with new administrative functions to let users better track the page’s performance. Finally, there is a private message feature that lets brands respond one-on-one to its customers.

Telling a Story

The benefits of the redesign are fairly straightforward. The Timeline was built for increased engagement and interactivity — the coin of the social media realm.

Timeline for Pages will give brands the structure to present their history to customers, which is not necessarily a strong suit for the current tab-based structure, according to Toby Srebnik, director of social media for O’Connell & Goldberg.

For instance, the pin post feature is a great option for companies that want to cut through the clutter of multiple posts, he told the E-Commerce Times.

“Facebook is making the management of the brand presence much easier by putting all the conversations and activities around the brand in simple drop-down sections,” Jesse Noyes, corporate reporter for Eloqua, told the E-Commerce Times. “But even more importantly, it gives brands the chance to tell their story, on their terms. As a result, the brand will feel more human by describing their humble origins and key milestones.”

The Cons

The cons are also significant, Noyes continued.

“You need to spend substantial time up front to adapt your page to the Timeline,” Noyes told the E-Commerce Times. “And no doubt, everyone in the organization will have an opinion on what belongs there and will probably think making those updates will require no time at all.”

Also, monitoring the conversations — especially the negative ones — will require a lot of time, he said. Each brand will need to determine how to respond to criticism — i.e., hide it? Delete it? Respond publicly to it?

Brands lose the ability to set an app as a default landing page with Timeline for Pages, which could stunt engagement for contests, Srebnik also noted.

For these reasons, the change is drawing little enthusiasm, said Adena DeMonte, director of marketing for Badgeville. She is not enthusiastic about the change, which will be forced on companies.

Above all, though, Timeline for Pages is to benefit Facebook — not the brands themselves, which should focus on creating their interactive experiences on their own Web pages.

“This is taking away the flexibility and freedom of brands to design their own experiences for customers. It effectively removes the ability of brands to engage with their audience in their own personal way,” DeMonte said.

A New Mode of Advertising

It is true that Timeline is the core feature for Facebook to monetize its social network, N. Venkat Venkatraman, management professor at Boston University, told the E-Commerce Times — but that is not necessarily a net negative.

Timeline for Pages has the potential to be very powerful for brands, he said.

“Marketers can track the pattern of interactions of different consumers over time. More important, I suspect is that a consumer may have a deeper and richer basis of engaging with a brand or a business. Marketers can richly demonstrate their value offering over time, and consumers may be able to see the value more readily,” Venkatraman explained.

Finally, he concluded, “we may even see newer formats of advertising whereby a brand shows comparative shifts with other brands over time and uses that powerful data as the basis for consumers to shift. “

Facebook did not respond to our request to comment for this story..

1 Comment

  • Yes, I think it does take more time to manage a Timeline page than any other style of page, but the Timeline is also a significant tool for brands to achieve their goals of trying to use Facebook to make actual sales. The bigger profile pictures are a great way for brands to tell their story creatively, so I think they’ll invest the effort if they’ve already gone this far with promoting their Facebook page. The Timeline is a success as a concept but the implementation is flawed. First of all, from a design perspective, putting a linear concept (time) into two columns is completely flawed. Make the Timeline one axis and stick to it. But from the perspective of having profiles with much bigger pictures, I think that’s a resounding success. People are able to spice up their profiles without going to MySpace level extremes of crazy HTML and flash and sparkly stuff everywhere. Businesses like it because they can throw up some cool bigger picture that allow them to tell their story much better. Between Facebook ads directly or the types of services listed at http://www.buyfacebookfansreviews.com there’s plenty of ways for businesses to get traffic on Facebook. But the missing part of the equation, and one that Facebook isn’t really designed for, is to find ways for users to convert into sales. A huge Timeline picture that allows creative brands a way to tell their story is something that should have a positive impact. I think the concept of the Timeline is killer for users and brands alike, just think that the major problem is to try and organize what should be in one axis in two columns which is disorienting.

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