Facebook’s revamping of profile pages—dubbed Timeline—has finally launched for brands. For a brief period it’s going to be an opt-in feature, which means that in the next few weeks, brands that haven’t started preparing for it have a lot of catching up to do. Many choices need to be made about how to present a brand’s story in the very visual Timeline format—and quickly.
Michael Jaindl, â€¨chief client officer for Buddy Media, could hardly overstress the need for brands to prepare for the switchover now. Jaindl will be sharing early adopter experiences with Timeline at the March 20 PR News webinar, “What You Need to Know Now About Facebook Timeline for Brands.” In the following Q&A he offers a preview of the webinar, as well as some insights into trends in Facebook metrics.
PR News: Beginning on Feb. 29, brands were given the option to use Facebook’s Timeline, but on March 30 all Facebook brand profiles will automatically shift to the new feature. What should communicators do to prepare for it?
Michael Jaindl: The first thing to do is to start using Timeline. At PR News’ Facebook Conference this past December in D.C., I asked the attendees how many of them have used Timeline, and about five or 10 people raised their hands. At the time Facebook hadn’t launched it yet for individuals, but there were ways to activate it. PR pros should start using it now and get a feel for what it is. The second thing is for communicators to start talking to their brand teams about how to use Timeline. It’s important for brands to get ahead of that and figure out a strategy. What events do they want to highlight? Timeline can start at the very beginning of a brand’s story. They should be working on the curation process right now to figure out what events or milestones they want to highlight.
PR News: What other new features should brands be paying attention to?
Jaindl: On Feb. 29 Facebook announced Timeline and also relaunched their Ad Platform—the lines between what we refer to as paid, owned and earned media are now officially gone. All ads in Facebook will begin as content posted to a Page. There is no more creating separate Facebook ad copy. The content you publish to Facebook and the data associated with it is the front end of the ad system. You publish content, and whatever gets the most engagement, you are able to pay to distribute that further. It’s only a matter of weeks, not years, before those on the “earned” media side of marketing—community managers and PR firms—control their own paid ad budgets that will be used to spark and amplify conversations.
PR News: What are the latest trends in boosting engagement on Facebook?
Jaindl: At fMC on on Feb. 29 Facebook launched a new paid ad product called Reach Generator. Facebook reported that brands typically only reach 16% of their entire audience. With Reach Generator brands can boost the reach of a page post to 75% of their audience. Compared to e-mail marketing this is like being able to guarantee a 75% open rate. The first step to using Reach Generator is understanding your most engaging content so you can get it out to a broader audience. While PR professionals mostly consider themselves on the earned media side of the house, now is the time to think bigger.
It's more critical than ever to reorganize your brand around people. At fMC Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said, "If a brand wants to talk to me they need to also listen." Brands need to be a good hosts. A lot of people are still looking at Facebook as a one-way platform. The brands that are using it well are good hosts and are using it for two-way engagement. If people see the brand responding, they’re going to be more likely to engage. The most effective brands today are listening efficiently, on Facebook and on all social platforms. The practice of checking your wall every few hours won’t work anymore. Brands need to listen and engage with their audience in real time. Then, amplify the most engaging page post using Reach Generator and paid media.
PR News: Which Facebook metrics do you predict will grow in importance?
Jaindl: Engagement is going to continue to be the most important metric. Engagement is measured by the number of interactions fans have with your content. Facebook recently introduced a new metric call "People Talking About This," which is the unique number of people who have created a story about your brand in the last seven days. Fans create stories by liking a page, posts to your wall, comments or shares, answering questions that the brand posted, RSVPing to an event, tagging your page in a photo, checking in to a place on your place pages.
It's also important to pay attention to reach. How many fans are you actually reaching? Brands need to understand that every time they post they are only reaching small percentage of their overall audience. Brands can increase their reach by consistently posting engaging content.
PR News: What is the most common mistake you see brands make on Facebook?
Jaindl: I still see a lot of brands jumping into Facebook without a good understanding of how their social activity will drive business objectives. It's important for brands to understand the tie between the social media metrics they're tracking and the business objectives they drive. I also see a lot of brands missing the forest for the trees. They focus narrowly on launching marketing promotions and don't give much thought to the stories they need to tell and conversations they need to start to make the campaign successful.
Join Buddy Media's Michael Jaindl and social media leader Shauna Causey (formerly of Nordstrom and Comcast) for the March 20 PR News webinar "What You Need to Know Now About Facebook Timeline for Brands."
Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI