What the New Facebook Timeline Means for Marketers

Posted by | October 13th, 2011

There's been a lot of coverage regarding Facebook's recent changes, but what do these updates mean for marketers?  Overall, the key features that Facebook announced place a huge emphasis on engagement. The key takeaway is that it will be increasingly important for marketers to create and share compelling content and experiences on a consistent basis in order to stay relevant. 

Below is an overview of the main changes and their relevance for marketers.
   
Timeline: Timeline will replace users’ old profile pages, and allows users to aggregate and organize all actions taken on Facebook that matter most to them. Users can highlight important life milestones and group content and actions (videos/photos/posts) with that milestone. It also allows users to edit their timeline, even back to the time they were born. Facebook applications can also display actions taken with that app in the timeline (if user permission is granted). 

What it means for marketers: Actions that are most important to users will appear on the Timeline – think status updates and photos rather than day-to-day actions like ‘Liking’ a brand. These day-to-day actions will be shown in the Ticker (see description below). That means that brands will need to find ways to appear in the timeline, and one way to do that is by creating social applications that engage their audience. 

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Timeline cover: (increased image space to customize)
Source:  Facebook.com/about/timeline

Social Apps: Social applications allow users to add storytelling into their timeline. Think verbs instead of nouns. Instead of ‘liking’ a band, users can express they are ‘Listening’ to that band; ‘reading’ a book, ‘running’ 3 miles, etc. Additionally, now brands can create custom social actions like ‘flying’ ‘cooking’ ‘drinking’ or any other verb. These apps all utilize Facebook’s Open Graph, and users can give permission for these apps to post their activity on the Ticker and Timeline. 

What it means for marketers: Brands have the opportunity to create social actions through branded applications. The action won’t only say “Ashley ran,” but “Ashley ran 3 miles with Nike+.” All of these actions will appear in the Ticker (see below), but brands can request that the actions appear in the Timeline (increasing exposure). The goal for brands will be to generate frequent actions within users’ timelines.

In addition to creating branded applications, advertisers will be able to deliver sponsored stories against social actions, and even segment for more accuracy. For example, it will be possible to promote to all "listens" from the band Coldplay. The new sponsored stories will only be generated from applications, but advertisers don't need to own the app where the action takes place to target against the behavior. 
 

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Example of social apps within a user’s Timeline: 
Source: Facebook.com/about/timeline

News Feed update & Ticker: Facebook updated the news feed, changing how stories are presented to users. The Facebook homepage is now organized by Top Stories and Recent Stories, with Top Stories being displayed much more prominently than recent stories. The first updates that a user will see when logging in are the most relevant posts since their last visit – whether that was 3 days or 3 months ago.
   
Facebook’s algorithm will play a role in determining what are “Top Stories,” but users are able to edit their feeds, either by unmarking a Top Story, or marking a Recent Story as a Top Story. (Screenshot below). Facebook will then learn from this behavior and serve the most relevant content as Top Stories. 
 
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Ticker – Facebook has also added the “Ticker” to the top right corner of the newsfeed. The Ticker streams live updates – think day-to-day activities like tagging a photo, liking a brand, commenting, and other Open Graph actions. The thought here is that less important updates are displayed in real time, and don’t distract users from the more relevant stories. Users can join the conversation by clicking on one of the stories in the Ticker.

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What it means for marketers: Users now have more control over their news feed, so it becomes more important for brands to share compelling content (rich media, like photos and videos, help to naturally boost EdgeRank – Facebooks algorithm). Brands with irrelevant updates will have lower visibly (but will still appear in the Ticker). Facebook's EdgeRank algorithm will play a major role in determining whether brand updates are seen, but branded social applications and sponsored stories can increase the likelihood of a brand message reaching a mass audience. 

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Here are some resources for more information:

http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/2011/09/22/Facebook-f8-Timeline-Announcement.aspx

http://mashable.com/2011/09/22/facebooks-changes-marketers/

http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/Facebook-Timeline-Social-Apps-Branding.aspx

http://www.allfacebook.com/facebook-feedback-loop-2011-09

What do you think about Facebook's changes?  Let us know in the comments below, or reach out to us on Twitter at @ashleyhreed or @accarrino.

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