Facebook Timeline For Brands: Marketing Game Changer Or Potential Spam Machine?

    February 20, 2012
    Chris Crum

It wasn’t that long ago that Facebook users were informed by Facebook that they would be getting the Timeline whether they like it or not. Indeed, some do not like it, particularly the way it highlights things from the past. Some love it and find it to be a vast improvement of the Facebook profile. Either way, it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future. Businesses are about to get them too.

Do you want a timeline experience for your brand? Is it a great way to showcase your business or an extra hassle? Tell us what you think.

This past week, reports emerged that Facebook would be rolling out the timeline for brands at the end of the month. We’re already pretty far into the month, so that means soon. In fact, Facebook is expected to make the announcement at its first fMC event for marketers on February 29.

The brand versions are expected to be very similar to user timelines, with some differences. From the sound of it, Facebook itself is still deciding how to do certain things, such as what happens with tabs and app pages associated with brand pages.

As Josh Wolford noted in a previous article, brands use these side buttons to house promotional games, contests, and other information. One thought, he noted, is that they will turn into boxes on the Brand’s Timelines, not unlike how Spotify is situated on user timelines.

As I noted myself in another article, brands have ups and downs throughout their lives just like people. Brands will want to review what is actually on these timelines very carefully. Some social media managers may have their work cut out for them.

Think about a company like Google and all the good and bad PR that it experiences. Think about a brand like the New York Times, which has been around since the mid 1800’s.

Obviously, the older brand, the more rich and extensive their timeline could be. These could turn into some really cool, visual pages for brands on the web, nice counterparts to brands’ Wikipedia pages for web users to learn about a brand’s history. For brands who choose to utilize them to their full potential, timelines could provide limitless information and knowledge about brands in a way that we just haven’t really seen in the past.

The timelines should be PR-friendly, for the most part. Brands will be in control. Users will not necessarily see all the really juicy stuff, though ballsy brands could choose to embrace the bad with the good and show some authenticity. Sometimes it pays to own your mistakes and failures.

We don’t yet know what all brand timelines will consist of, though we should soon. But think about user timelines for a moment and how their functionality could apply to brands. Actually, the Facebook Timeline movie maker illustrates to some extent how they can be used visually.

Timeline (or Open Graph) apps are huge for spreading what Facebook users are doing on Facebook. We may see a similar trend from brands. If a user likes a brand on Facebook, perhaps the brand can use Spotify or Pinterest and spread their listening/pinning habits. I can see these types fo things being used both for promotional purposes, and for brand humanization. People like brands they can identify with on a human level. This could lead to some interesting cross-brand promotions and partnerships.

We know timeline apps have already shown early success. Since the launch of the Pinterest app, for example, Facebook users visiting Pinterest every day has increased by over 60%, according to Facebook. Pose has seen a 5X increase in daily web sign-ups for their site and mobile app. Fab.com has seen a 50% increase in Facebook traffic. Foodily has quadrupled its user base.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Brand timelines could really change the landscape of what social media marketing looks like, simply because it comes from Facebook. If this were some standalone product out there from some unknown startup, I probably wouldn’t be so quick to make such a proclamation, but this is Facebook we’re talking about. In December, Facebook logged 845 million monthly active users. Users generated an average of 2.7 billion “likes” and comments per day during the three months ending December 31, according to Facebook.

Most brands already have Pages. Timelines are simply more interesting, and could lead to further engagement. They could change the game for brands.

Facebook may have to be careful, however, about how they allow these things to operate. There have already been plenty of complaints about the new Open Graph and timeline experience. Some feel like they are being spammed by apps like Pinterest and Spotify. Users share all of the stuff they’re listening to, or pinning, or reading from a new app. It’s not too hard to imagine brands sharing excessively, though all a user has to do is unlike them.

In fact, it will be interesting to see how this Open Graph affects Facebook use in the long run, brands aside.If user app use gets to annoying to their friends, they just might find the Facebook experience itself more annoying and spend a little more time elsewhere. That’s a risk factor.

Of course, at this point, we can only speculate about how brands will be allowed to use timelines. That is until they’re officially revealed by Facebook.

Do you think brand timelines are a good idea? Let us know in the comments.