Ever since Facebook’s Timeline feature was announced at the F8 conference on September 22, everywhere we turn, we are bombarded by articles about the Timeline feature. This is a big change for Facebook and people are more than willing to give their opinions about this change — some people think its great while others are less than thrilled – we’ve heard it all. However, what does this new feature mean for brands and marketers?
Until now, companies and brands created fan pages and then tried to get as many people to “Like” their page as possible, often times by offering incentives to those who became fans of their page. While the number of “Likes” wasn’t truly indicative of how successful a company was at marketing their product or service, it was the measure of marketing success for many companies. However, with the new changes to Facebook, the “Like” button will play a smaller role and advertisers and marketers will be forced to come up with more compelling content to have consumers pay attention to their brand. One of the major disadvantages under this new system is that consumer’s are able to uncheck stories in their newsfeed that they don’t find interesting and over time, Facebook will only display stories that it thinks will be of interest to that person. This means that companies and brands must deliver new and interesting content to keep their brand in consumer’s news feeds. Based on the psychological principle of familiarity and the mere exposure effect, we know that people are more attracted to things that they are familiar with even if this exposure occurs in a subconscious manner. Thus, not having your company or brand appear in consumer’s newsfeeds could be very detrimental. As Eric Johnson, the President and Founder of Ignited, a marketing agency, said, “It’s clear that consumers are in control, and they will increasingly only invite marketing and brands that they choose to bring into their life.” (quote)
Facebook’s Timeline is focused on the idea of trying to gather a user’s whole life story and companies and brands will have to figure out a way to integrate themselves into the consumer’s life story. Marketers will be forced to come up with ways to have consumers engage in branded actions for their products through Facebook. It is now more about connecting with the consumer and becoming a part of their life. In a way, Timeline can humanize brands as the message becomes more authentic, and make the consumer feel more in touch with the brand or company. This idea is supported psychologically — people are more likely to listen to and process a message if they feel like the message is relevant to them. People are also more likely to pay attention to a message they see as authentic and genuine. Brand pages will now be less about selling and more about telling a story about the brands and products.
A major advantage of the Timeline feature for brands and companies is that the pages themselves will be more customizable and companies will be able to create a more “branded” page. A major feature of the Timeline is photos and all brand pages will have a customizable header at the top of the page rather than the generic page with just a profile picture that is offered now. Additionally, the new brand pages are easier to navigate, information will be easier to find and pages will contain more content. In this way, the brand pages should be more interesting and will lead to more engaging content for consumers – “Brands can express what makes them unique and build an emotional connection with fans.” (quote) Engaging consumers and building connections with them increases the consumer’s likelihood of using that product or service.
While marketers and companies may be forced to work harder to engage their consumers by creating high quality and compelling content, I think that Facebook’s Timeline will be more beneficial than the current fan pages for brands and companies who make an effort to integrate themselves into their consumer’s lives. What do you think?