The joint introduction of Facebook Timeline for Pages and changes to its premium ad format at the Facebook Marketing Conference (fMC) on Feb. 29 represented yet another milestone in the history of Facebook. The implications of both feature updates are significant and reinforce the need for a unified, holistic approach to Facebook marketing that integrates community, content and media strategies.
For example, both fans and non-fans alike visiting a brand’s Page will now land directly on the Timeline as a default. As a result, paid media with deep-linking is all but required to promote a tab, application, contest, sweepstakes or interactive experience within a Page. And with ads appearing directly in users’ NewsFeeds, the competition for real estate and attention has increased, meaning brands are more likely to grow if they focus on developing strong content and creating a promotional media strategy to support it.
The following is a summary of the changes and accompanying recommendations on how to most successfully navigate them. First, we explore the Timeline feature and what the marketer implications are in terms of content strategy and community management. Second, we take a closer look at updates to Facebook’s paid media offering.
Facebook Timeline for Brands
While individual users have been slow to embrace Timeline for Profiles, the introduction of Timeline for Pages brings with it new opportunities and features that will inspire brands to re-imagine their approach to building community within the world’s largest social network.
In its ongoing effort to optimize how Pages look and function, Facebook has introduced a beta version of Timeline for a limited number of partners and brands, including Captain Morgan, Coca-Cola, The Today Show, Manchester United FC, Heineken, SportsCenter and Ben & Jerry’s. All other Page admins currently have the ability to convert to the new format immediately, though all Pages will automatically switch over to the new design on March 30, 2012.
The aesthetics of the Timeline features are similar across both Pages and individual profiles; however, there are some important changes that will require page owners to revisit their overall strategy.
New navigation. With the update, it’s no longer possible for brand Pages to send visitors to a splash page or application by default. This means that Page owners will need to think creatively about how to encourage “liking” or direct attention to a specific inside page directly from the Timeline. Additionally, links to inside pages will move up from beneath the profile picture to more prominent real estate directly below the cover photo.
Greater content control. New enhancements empower Page owners to “lock” featured content prominently at the top of the Page for up to a week, or increase the size of content shared (such as text links, videos and photos). Given these updates, brands will have more control over the promotion of specific content, which may include featured, user-generated content (i.e. Fan of the Week).
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Timeline for Brands: Summary of Changes
The rollout brings with it significant changes to the look and feel of brand Pages on Facebook and grants marketers with more opportunities to emphasize specific content within their Pages. Below are the new features are available at the time of the initial rollout:
Cover Photo: With this new feature, brands will be granted a large, page-wide canvas across the top of the Page. This 851 by 315 pixel space gives marketers the opportunity to share a compelling visual image that can and should represent the brand’s identity.
Profile Picture: Smaller image embedded at the lower left corner of your Cover Photo that will also serve as the image associated with posts in fans’ NewsFeeds, search and organic promotion. This is an ideal space to use a brand logo.
Page Navigation: While text links to tabs, applications and inside pages are currently located in the left column of the Wall, a new navigation bar will feature up to four links directly beneath the Cover Photo. The thumbnail images and order can be customized and additional applications can be added in a dropdown menu underneath the featured four images.
Landing Tabs and Like Gates: At the time of this initial rollout, all links leading to a Page will direct to the Timeline. This means that splash pages and “like gates” can no longer be the default landing tab. Deep-linking to tabs, applications and inside pages is still possible via media or status updates, but will require a specific URL.
Fan Activity: Whereas many Pages previously allowed fans to post directly to their Page wall, all fan activity has now been aggregated into a box near the top of the Timeline. If a user’s friends or connections recently engaged with the Page, that content will be featured on the Timeline as well.
Timeline Stories: As is the case for Timeline for individual users, Pages can now feature larger photos, video and link stories. Featured posts can span the entire width of the page, while default posts are contained within one of the two columns. How content appears in individual NewsFeeds should not change, which is important as anywhere from 80 to 95 percent of fan interactions with a Page actually happen in a user’s NewsFeed and not on the Page itself.
Pinned Posts: Page owners have the option to “lock” a post at the top of a Timeline for up to seven days. This ensures that fans and non-fans coming to the Page see this story, link, photo, video or campaign. Additional “pinnable” content includes Questions, Related Page, fan photo (or Fan of the Week), tab promotion or contests.
Admin Panel: Administrators who are logged in will see a dashboard of recent activity on the Page, a summary of Page data and links to edit settings, purchase ads and curate fan content. Admins can also now directly respond to private messages.
Timeline for Brands: Marketer Implications
The Timeline feature will not be mandated for all Pages until March 30; however, the initial beta launch for a select few brands serves as advanced notice for everyone else to prepare creative and develop a strategy.
Creative Development: Marketers should consider how to visually represent their brand via the Cover Photo and Profile Picture. The large canvas at the top of the page should feature a visually stimulating image. The Cover Photos should not include text or arrows as navigation cues to the Like button or other inside pages, as clicking the image itself will link only to that image and nowhere else. Get creative as there is definitely the potential for integration between the larger Cover Photo and the Profile Picture.
Timeline Backfill: If your brand has a rich history or a great story to tell over time, backfilling the Timeline might be a great strategy for driving engagement. Begin aggregating assets to upload and post-date once Timeline is ready. Just be aware that uploading a lot of content at once may deluge your fans’ NewsFeeds.
Tab Strategy: While the new tab navigation will make it easier for fans to find links to featured applications or content, the removal of the option to create a default landing tab for non-fans means that the Cover Image and global pinned post must serve that purpose now, as well. In short, all visitors to your page will see the Timeline first unless you deep-link them elsewhere within your Page. Facebook tabs are not going away, but they may now decrease in significance.
Editorial Strategy: Thinking about content will now require asking yourself more than just “what” and “when.” With different options around new features like pinned posts, featured (full-width) content and the existing geo-targeting features, brands should exercise flexibility and adopt a “test-and-learn” philosophy.
Fan Content: Soliciting and highlighting user-generated content will continue to be an important tactic for brands within the Timeline, but may require additional moderation. Depending on the size of the active fan base, brands should certainly curate fan content within the Timeline, but may need to be more selective.
Open Graph and the Social Web: For marketers not already thinking about developing applications that integrate the off-Facebook experience in a practical, creative way, now is the time. We are seeing more and more companies (Pinterest, Spotify and Nike to name a few) leverage verb/action items (i.e. “pinned,” “listened to” and “ran”) to bolster the brand experience on Facebook.
Facebook Premium Ad Format Changes
In tandem with the Timeline release, Facebook has unveiled a new suite of Premium Advertising products designed to better connect a brand’s paid media efforts to its owned and earned efforts on the platform.
Content-driven advertising products. New formats mirror page posts and include automatic social functionality. Along with social features, the new ads are designed to drive higher engagement compared with Facebook’s current ad offerings. With higher engagement, brands could see increased organic reach and fan growth.
Guaranteed reach for brand content. Paid media offers brands an opportunity to surface their best content to a larger audience — with the guarantee that it will be seen on desktop and mobile. Targeting tools allow for more precise targeting than currently available through page posts. Deep linking lets brands use paid media to drive deeper into their page or directly to applications.
Premium Ad Products: Summary of Changes
Facebook’s new premium advertising formats and ad distribution system are called Reach Generator. This is in line with the direction the company has been heading since the release of its Sponsored Story product in early 2011. The most recent changes provide brands with better tools to surface social context and content through paid media placements. Below are the changes to Facebook’s advertising products and distribution opportunities.
New Ad Formats: Facebook is offering six new Premium Ad Formats.
Photo Page Post: 90 characters of text and a photo
Video Page Post: 90 characters of text and a video thumbnail
Question Page Post: Question with four answers or three with a ”see more” link
Status Page Post: Up to 150 characters of text
Event Page Post:
Event details with up to 90 characters of text and an image or video
Ability to drive RSVPs
Link Page Post: Up to 90 characters of text and an image
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Offers: Facebook has not explicitly introduced the Offers ad format, but the Offers story product for Pages will allow brands to post offers to their fans. Fans can claim an offer from the Page and have it sent to their email or mobile phone. They can also share these offers easily with their Facebook friends.
Automatic social context: When friends of a brand’s fans see a Premium Ad, the ad will automatically expand with enhanced social context about those fans. This is automatic and brands will not be charged for the expanded content.
Automatic engagement options: When fans of a brand see a Premium Ad, they will have the ability to like or comment on the post directly from the ad.
Featuring content that has not run on the Page: Brands will have the ability to feature content in Premium Ads that has not or will not run on the brand Page. These advertising-only posts and activity from them will not appear on a brand’s wall or run in their NewsFeed.
Discontinued Ad Formats: Brands will no longer be able to run Premium Like Ads (Photo + Video), Premium Event Ads (Photo + Video), Video Commenting Ads or Poll Ads (Photo + Video).
Unaffected Ad Formats: Brands can still run Classic Premium Ads (Photo + Video) that drive off of Facebook. As of this release, Premium Ads for Apps and Marketplace ads are not affected.
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In addition to the new Premium Ad formats, Facebook announced more ways to distribute ads. Packaged as “Premium on Facebook,” Premium Ads are now being offered within the NewsFeed on desktop and mobile. In the past, Facebook has used the NewsFeed and ticker to distribute the featured story ads that run through the Marketplace. By opening this up to Premium Ads, Facebook has blurred the lines between paid and earned content. With the new ad formats built to mirror Page content, it will be difficult for Facebook users to differentiate between what is being shared by their friends versus what has been placed by an advertiser.
This announcement also marks Facebook’s first foray into mobile advertising. Integrating the premium ads into the mobile NewsFeed makes sense as space is limited on the smaller screen. It is not yet clear if marketers will be able to opt in for mobile only or target mobile separately. If the latter is true, marketers should think about what type of content may resonate better with a mobile audience.
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Facebook also announced its first step into the traditional display world. Facebook is offering an advertising opportunity on their Logout page, which will launch in April. Facebook reports that 35 million US users see the Logout page each day with 110 million US users viewing it each month. This is on par with the reach offered from premium portals like Yahoo! and AOL, who sell similar placements.
The new Logout placement closely mirrors what many other large media properties are selling and may be Facebook’s way of attracting marketers who are interested in large, concentrated reach. It is unclear whether marketers will have to feature and link back to Facebook content or if they will be able to use the space to drive off of Facebook. Regardless, this is a big bet for Facebook and good for marketers who want to take advantage of Facebook’s reach and audience with larger, more visual creative.
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It is not yet clear whether marketers will be able to opt in for NewsFeed targeting or buy desktop separate from mobile. Marketers will most likely be able to buy the Logout placement separately.
Premium Ad Products: Marketer Implications
Facebook’s new ad formats present a substantial change for marketers and have implications for those investing heavily in their brand’s presence on Facebook.
Paid Media factored into Facebook strategy: Facebook estimates that Page posts reach 16 percent of a brand’s fans. As the NewsFeed gets more crowded and Facebook’s algorithm continues to optimize NewsFeed content based on likelihood to engage, this number will, most likely, decrease. Brands wanting to guarantee that content will reach their fans will need to start including Paid Media as a continuous piece of their overall Facebook activation strategy. The new formats allow brands to extend their owned media and content strategy more seamlessly into paid placements.
Insights inform Paid Media strategy: Facebook Insights measure which fans are engaging with Page content and what types of content drive higher engagement rates. Engagement is key to a brand’s success on the platform. The new ad formats allow for this content to be easily ported to paid placements. Marketers can make informed decisions on the content they should feature in their paid placements and target those placements to the audiences most likely to engage.
Targeting: Currently, the only targeting available for Page posts is geo-targeting. Targeting available through Facebook’s ad platform is more precise and allows marketers to target by interest and category, as well as a wide variety of demographic points. The new ad formats enable marketers to do a much better job at getting the most relevant content in front of the right people. If we believe that “birds of a feather flock together,“ automatic social context for friends of fans and engagement options for fans means that premium paid media placements could continue to spread within an audience who continues to find the content relevant.
Distribution/Placement of Ads: Marketers will also need to consider where their target audience will see their ads, as user behavior may differ within the NewsFeed or in their log out experience. Desktop and Mobile should also be approached separately. As Facebook continues to build out these placements, marketers will be granted greater control over where their ads will run and should tailor targeting and creative accordingly.
Deep linking: With the introduction of Timeline, brands will no longer be able to drive visitors to a splash page or application by default. Deep linking to these destinations is still available through Paid Media placements. Brands can use Facebook’s precise targeting capabilities to drive specific audiences to the right destination, via the new Premium ad formats or the traditional marketplace ads.
Content strategy: With the ability to amplify specific Page posts via paid or feature content that has never appeared on the Page, marketers will need to factor in paid media options when building out content strategy. Identifying which posts to feature in paid placements and which audience groups to target adds an additional layer of complexity to planning.
Facebook’s new ad formats and distribution signify a commitment to driving a connection between a brand’s paid, earned and owned strategies on Facebook. Each will be necessary to realize the full opportunity of the others and brands will need to take each into account when building out their Facebook strategies.
Please reach out to your 360i strategic advisor if you have additional questions.