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NOTE: This post originally appeared on Weber Shandwick Digital’s Social Studies Blog, authored by @BenRissman. Facebook has also provided an excellent video course to guide you through the changes – www.learnfacebookpages.com.

I’m at Facebook’s fMC event in New York today, where the social network just announced the rollout of the Facebook Timeline for all pages – including brands. This means that brands (more than ever) now need to be storytellers – not marketers – on Facebook, as the Timeline format turns the brand Page into a true storytelling canvas.

Pages are the place for a brand to express themselves and tell stories, however most users engage with brands via their newsfeed. Now Facebook is enabling Pages to amplify their posts via Premium ad units that extend the post as a paid placement within the newsfeed on the desktop AND mobile versions of Facebook. These ads can also be placed on the logout screen too, but who actually logs out of Facebook?

The big relief for most marketers is that Facebook apps will still work as tabs within the Page. However, the number of tabs featured on the brand Page has decreased. This means that brands should continue to use tabs to extend engagement with fans, while bearing in mind that Timeline is now the default landing tab. So the newsfeed remains an important vehicle for driving fans to tabs.

As part of the rollout of Timeline to brand pages, Facebook is encouraging companies to use these images to convey a brand message. Getting creative with the representation of the brand identity within the Timeline cover image is important – the way Google switches up its homepage doodles is a great example of a non-FB application of rotating, imaginative imagery.

Added functionality includes the ability to pin a post to the top of a brand page, and the ability to hide posts. This is empowers the admin to play the role of the newspaper editor- bringing the most important content, the stories that resonates the best, to the top.

Making customer service a core function of the Facebook Page is the new ability for admins to accept direct messages and reply to fans privately. This takes the brand/customer communication to the back-channel, so it no longer needs to happen in front of everyone else on the brand page. We recommend that admins now ask fans to send a private message to get a personal response in return.

With friend activity being more heavily featured in this new rollout, getting fans to talk about the brand is more important than ever. But the task remains the same: post “bite-sized” content that is concise, conversational, and shareable. As real-time Insights rollout, optimizing posts on the fly will also drive better engagement.

Here’s the official guide to Facebook Pages, which it calls “mission control for your business on Facebook.” The last page offers a handy checklist and tips for transitioning to Timeline for brands. But the key takeway I got from the fMC event was as expected: Storytelling is now more important for brands than it has ever been. This means compelling content that engages instead of merely promoting the brand.

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