In a word, the Facebook Timeline for Brands product launch has been “disastrous” for engagement.
While Facebook has said Timeline for Brands will boost engagement, early numbers are proving otherwise.
Of the 20 biggest brand pages on Facebook, less than 25% of the companies have converted to Timeline yet – they have a hard dealine of March 31st before forced conversion. Of the early adopters that have converted, engagement metrics have gone down for almost all of them.
Thanks to one of the worst new features, a public-facing engagement dashboard that you can’t delete, everyone – including your competitors – now has easy access to your metrics without the extra effort of logging into Radian6.
The Bad and the Ugly
I’m baffled that most of these brands are leaving that info front and center. Since the dashboard can’t be deleted, it should at least be moved to the second row of navigation options. Sure it requires a couple of clicks to get to the info, but with the poor Timeline UI and engagement, it seems unlikely most people would find it. Some experts have said leaving that info front and center, especially if your follower count is huge is good because in marketing, people love being part of something big. The old marketing adage that “people love numbers” is true but the follower count is already on the Timeline.
In the case of Coke, their 40+ million “Likes” are already on the cover page next to their profile so they gain nothing by showing that their engagement is down month over month or that just as they were beginning an engagement upswing, the Timeline launched and killed the momentum.
The other biggest brand page change that is responsible for destroying engagement is the removal of the ability to set a landing tab or fan-gate – the pages most brands use with the big arrow pointing to the like button. The brand cover page is the permanently-default landing page and you can’t change it. Facebook guidelines prohibit you from adding an arrow or too much text to that big, beautiful cover photo thus decreasing new likes.
Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is
To further test the engagement, I used one of my favorite Facebook features, Facebook Ads. I did a small ad buy for a niche site after converting the Facebook page to Timeline for Brands and the results confirmed what I already knew. The ad itself had great click-through (CTR) at 10% for a CPC campaign. The conversion rate was less than 20%. I ran the same add a couple of months ago with similar CTR but an 80% conversion. It could be an indictment on the capacity of Facebook users, but people really need that big arrow and a call to action to make them click the “Like” button.
What Can You Do?
So what can you do about it? Here are a few tips to consider when converting your brand page or if you’re an early adopter, some tweaks to make:
1. Make your cover photo beautiful but make it count
The big arrows prompting users to click on the “Like” button are forbidden but if you follow basic design principles, you can mitigate some of the nightmare. On a positive Facebook design note, they placed the “Like” button in the bottom right beneath the cover photo which is the where the eye will naturally end up and. With the arrow ban, you should put the action of the photo near that bottom right or use a graphic device to draw attention. Coke uses a logo in that space (ineffective) but Livestrong uses branding elements to act as an arrow literally dragging the eye to the button. Livestrong’s likes are up post-Timeline conversion. Coincidence?
2. The buried, former landing tab is still a big asset
While you can’t make the ubiquitous landing tab your default Facebook experience, you can still use it externally to drive engagement. First, convert it to the HTML to the new spec width of 810px - preferably using a CSS command like “width =100%” in case Facebook gets frisky and changes the width again. Most of the big brands haven’t done this and when you go to these pages, it looks wrong.
Plus the “Like “button on these tabs/pages has moved to the right so the arrow on these pages is pointing to the wrong location. Since fan-gating – pushing new content once someone likes the page – doesn’t appear to be working yet, you should add some navigation, a link and a call to action to the page for the user to check out the wall and leave comments after they have clicked the “Like” button.
Most importantly, use your QR codes or external links to drive users to this page. Using Red Bull as an example, instead of using a QR code or external link to drive users to to facebook.com/redbull, they should send users to http://www.facebook.com/redbull/app_147501331977683. A hyperlink, QR code or an URL-shortening tracking service like bit.ly will solve for the ugliness of the URL.
This way, you control the initial Facebook user experience for your brand instead of the default cover photo page.
3. Strategize the thumbnails on the cover page
The thumbnails on the main page are in effect, the navigation from the old pages. If you have apps and landing tabs, those will show up as a thumbnail. You can’t change the first thumbnail, it will always link to your photos and show the most recent upload. Focus on the other three thumbnails. You’ll notice in preview if you use the Static HTML app, you’ll have a very unattractive thumbnail for that page. Click on the expanding arrow to the right of the thumbnails and now you can edit the image. Click on the edit button and follow the steps to change the image.
You’ll need at least three tabs to push the aforementioned engagement dashboard to the second row of thumbnails to effectively remove it from the cover page. This is where you can strategize and make a real impact. The easiest solution if you don’t already have three tabs or apps is to install new HTML tabs and add content. If you dont’ have a lot of time, you can add a large Twitter widget to one HTML page, Youtube videos to another and Pinterest to another for a quick fix. I recommend digging deeper and providing more value. If you’re a restaurant, add an HTML version of your menu to a tab and daily promotions to another.
It’s critical that you design the 111px x 74px thumbnails accordingly and order them to be most effective. You’ll also want to coordinate the name of the tab to maximize click-through since it will appear below the thumbnail. Coke still uses “Home” which links to their outdated landing tab.
5. Timeline and other maintenance
Since you probably founded your company before you added it to Facebook. You’ll want to add milestone posts to fill in the gaps. Start with the founding and any significant news, launches, metrics and coverage to start. Try adding something big for every year to start if you’ve been around less than 10 years. It adds some history, validity and more opportunities for users to engage. You can always go back later and add more milestones.
One good feature about Timeline for Brands is the ability to “pin” stories to the top of your wall area. This is critical for engagement when you first convert. Otherwsie, there is a lot of dead whitespace and useless default content up top – also disastrous for engagement.
Pin something fairly recent that already has some engagement – likes and comments – to show new users that people are here conversating and encourage them to do so as well. If your most recent post has only been up for a couple of hours with little engagement, the new design makes it seem ghost-townish. Post-conversion, the value of pinning is huge. You can keep hot stories and big news up at the top longer instead of it drowning in the kinetic quagmire of the newsfeed. Highlighting a post will increase its size to full wall width so save this for interesting, Pinterest-worthy pictures.
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