What to Tell Your Clients About Facebook Timeline

Recently, Facebook rolled out Timeline for all brand pages. Outside of a new aesthetic, what does this mean for brands that want to leverage the platform to better engage with fans, and boost the bottom line?

We spoke with Geoff McDonald (@geoffmcdonald3) of SplashLab Social, a custom social design and development company that works closely with agencies to maximize their clients’ Facebook presences, about what they think lies behind the change. Following are the key points from our conversation.

Facebook Timeline for Brands: The Basics

At its core, Timeline provides three major upgrades: a new layout, private messaging and an enhanced administration panel. While design is front and center, there are management features you need to be aware of—both for your own page, and for those of your clients—including visual storytelling, improved community controls and featured content.

For a detailed overview of the updates, see What Story Does Your Facebook Timeline Tell? by Jessica Donlon (@jessicadonlon).

Digging Deeper: Why the Change?

SplashLab Social believes that at the core, Facebook’s play is to bring brands closer to consumers, with opportunities to tap into consumer psychology and behavior.

While brands and consumers have always had some level of social interaction, there traditionally has been a distance between them. With Timeline, Facebook has created a platform that gives consumers a comfort level to address brands more directly, and have conversations in a familiar atmosphere.

To truly tap into this potential, however, brands must showcase their personalities, and tell their stories in a way that makes them relatable and valuable to consumers. This includes empowering employees and fans to help tell the brand story on the company’s behalf, and is key to consider when advising clients on their Facebook strategies.

As connections and communications grow, brands will be able to collect more data from the profiles of, and interactions with, their fans and consumers. To this end, SplashLab Social helps agencies leverage Facebook user data to create stronger engagement for their clients—think “social CRM lite.” It’s also possible that Facebook will make a more formal play in the social CRM space in the future.

The Big Switch

Since the beginning of marketing, we’ve been telling consumers what to think, feel and do. (Insert obligatory Mad Men reference here.) Now, rather than assuming we know what a consumer wants based on demographic data—and betting our client success and relationships on these assumptions—we can ask them, or learn by listening.

Just as publishing platforms of the web gave every citizen a voice in journalism, Facebook is giving every customer a voice in the marketing department. Consumers now have, as McDonald says, a “privilege to be a part of marketing they’ve been excluded from their entire lives.”

Marketing Transition

For example, using custom Facebook tabs built for brand or product awareness, client service, market segmentation, lead generation and more, companies can ask fans questions to gather valuable information that you can’t get from email, banner ads and other platforms. Why? Simply because it’s on Facebook— a platform that’s trained its users to engage, post, interact and share.

Money Question: What’s the ROI?

Clients will almost always ask about the ROI of Facebook engagement, but it’s important to remember that a quick ROI isn’t necessarily the goal here. (Although utilizing ads’ third-party tools like custom tabs and apps can generate leads and tie Facebook activity into the closed-loop sales cycle.) At least in the early days, Facebook should be viewed largely as a brand building platform, not a business driver.

The stronger return on Facebook is found when you focus on what you can achieve—insight into consumer data and information at a level you’ve never had access to before. Such information can help brands better engage these “social” customers.

McDonald likened brand engagement on Facebook to personal engagement on a dating site. If you connect with someone you’re interested in, you don’t ask them to marry you right away. First you have to go on a few dates and get to know each other. You have to gain trust before asking for their hand (or in the brand’s case, the sale).

How are you advising clients on Facebook? What are the most common questions you hear?

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