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What Does Facebook Timeline Mean for Brand Marketers?

Facebook Timeline

by Sasha Muradali on January 5, 2012 · 1 comment

In the eight years since its inception, Facebook, the brainchild of Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin, has had its fair share of rollercoaster ups and downs through planning, legal battles, and the evolution of the social network.

However, both everyday and professional users of the tool have also had come along on for the bumpy ride, as they strive to keep up with Facebook’s ever-changing list of features.

The most prevalent change in recent months comes in the form of the new Timeline, which is something akin to Don Draper’s Kodak carousel for the 21st-century.

Timeline is the history of a user’s life, from birth (should they choose to enter their birth date into their personal details), to other “events” that occurred during their lifetime, such as vacations, births, weddings, and changes in employment.


(Introducing Timeline. Facebook says no Timeline for Brand Pages…yet.)

Also for the first time—little known fact—Facebook, in a very MySpace move, now tells its users the date on which they joined.

For example, I joined Facebook on November 4, 2004 and I remember that time impeccably well. “The Facebook,” as it was known then, was all the rage in my sorority. So much so, that after endlessly hearing how cool it was for weeks, I gave in and joined.

Apparently, I didn’t use it very much in 2004, as I only had two wall posts. My participation could be much more easily be seen by 2005.

Facebook 2004 Sasha

My first wall posts from my Phi Mu “Bid Day Buddy,” Bryce, and soon-to-be-roommate and bestie, Keira.

As you can tell from Keira’s post, Facebook was so new at the time, her wall wasn’t even functioning—in fact, she couldn’t figure out where it went.

Oh, how times have changed.

So what does this mean for marketers?

If you asked Facebook, it probably means they want to push advertisers into coming up with compelling content to further integrate themselves into the life of the typical user—and her friends’ timelines, too.

One of the biggest changes to the layout is a control feature at the top right-hand corner of each “story.” This feature allows a user to “unmark” that story as their “top story,” regardless of the date. Facebook then takes this information, and over a period of time, programs things in such a way that it automatically (and smartly) edits a person’s feed to reflect this pattern.

Since users are then empowered with more control over how their news feeds look and feel, brands with less engaging—if not boring—content will have lower visibility in users’ interaction on their brand pages—if any. [It should be noted that this is different than an “action” that appears in the live “Ticker”’]

For a very long time, professionals in the digital communications industry have been told they need to be continuously creative and engaging to keep a hold on the attention for which they vie from their target markets.

The Timeline redesign makes that crystal clear: brand communicators need to step up their game in order to aggressively engage wired-in users with a tremendous thirst for consumption.

For example, with the “Like” button, Facebook was getting people to state their loyalty to a brand by showing their enthusiasm for it with the simple act of “liking” it. Public relations practitioners spun this to their clients to mean that with X number of “likes,” there could be Y number of purchases in either a long- or short-term point-of-purchase. This could then lead to a sense of customer loyalty. This of display advertising and the psychological effect that has on…

Bored yet? I am…

Now with Timeline, Facebook is looking to get its users to take social actions that are enabled by the brand, thus forcing brands and marketers out of a now commonplace and lazier state of work.

Facebook has an enormous digital footprint and due to its autobiographical publishing capabilities, is not only a “lifestream,” but a prime piece of digital real estate. This digital real estate will be a challenge for brands because it will ultimately force them to come up with a steady stream of continuous and creative content promotion that can be easily cross promoted on a Facebook user’s individual page as a form of self-identification, flattery, and autobiography.

Brands will need to mold themselves to the user.

Streaming music service, Spotify, is a fine example of a brand taking up prime real estate on personal Facebook pages.

Spotify streams what a user listens to and how many times they’ve listened to it. Its integration with Facebook allows friends to interact with one another’s music on Facebook or directly through Spotify, making it a music sharer’s paradise (sounds familiar, Sean Parker.)

Spotify Facebook Feed

Spotify connects Facebook users to their friends' music

Amplification of a particular artist or song comes from consistent listening, friends “liking” the song, and whether or not the track is “shared” from Spotify to Facebook.

If people “like” something enough, they will share it.

In terms of brands, however, amplification can only come from genuine interest, and that means that brand apps must become bigger brand vehicles by being more visible and interesting and integrating a participatory option (as with Spotify) for the user and their friends to play with (either alone or together.)

Marketing and advertising has always been about storytelling, a root commonly forgotten in today’s industry. In order to survive the Timeline, content will have to be amazing—if not incredible and captivating.

Heaven forbid marketers are forced to deliver value and extra added value to their customers in the social space. In many ways, Facebook Timeline signifies the near-end of pointless advertising.

Consistency and functionality have always been important to Facebook in terms of design and progress. Therefore, it’s imperative that marketers remember that when creating and cultivating their new captivating content for a hungry crowd of consumers, they need to think like Facebook.

How else do you think they secured enough registered users to create one of the largest countries in the world?

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What do you think about Facebook Timeline—either as a user or as a brand marketer? Share your thoughts in the comments and connectwith us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. And stay up-to-date on the latest from the blog with our free newsletter.

Sasha MuradaliSasha H. Muradali runs the Little Pink Blog (formerly Little Pink Book PR). She holds a B.S. Public Relations from the University of Florida with a minor in Dance (’07) and an M.A. International Administration with a concentration in Communication from the University of Miami (’08). She loves Twitter (@SashaHalima), Harry Potter, and the color pink.

 

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