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Timeline May Eat Up Companies' Time

By Erika Morphy E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
Mar 1, 2012 5:00 AM PT

Facebook introduced a long-expected development on Wednesday: Timeline for Pages -- that is, Timeline for brands. It is similar in look and feel and function to the feature that was pushed out to user profiles last fall.

Timeline May Eat Up Companies' Time

However, the implications of Timeline for Pages are much greater for brands, both in outreach to customers and in terms of the additional resources that must be now devoted to Facebook.

The changes will automatically roll out on March 30, but brands can upgrade now. Many, such as Lexus, already have.

Look and Feel

Timeline for Pages is, as Facebook might say, a visually oriented layout characterized by a company's milestones and other significant dates and content.

Another key feature is the ability to "pin posts" -- that is, keep a particularly important post at the top of a page's Timeline for up to seven days, instead of having it get lost amid more recently added content.

The new feature also comes with new administrative functions to let users better track the page's performance. Finally, there is a private message feature that lets brands respond one-on-one to its customers.

Telling a Story

The benefits of the redesign are fairly straightforward. The Timeline was built for increased engagement and interactivity -- the coin of the social media realm.

Timeline for Pages will give brands the structure to present their history to customers, which is not necessarily a strong suit for the current tab-based structure, according to Toby Srebnik, director of social media for O'Connell & Goldberg.

For instance, the pin post feature is a great option for companies that want to cut through the clutter of multiple posts, he told the E-Commerce Times.

"Facebook is making the management of the brand presence much easier by putting all the conversations and activities around the brand in simple drop-down sections," Jesse Noyes, corporate reporter for Eloqua, told the E-Commerce Times. "But even more importantly, it gives brands the chance to tell their story, on their terms. As a result, the brand will feel more human by describing their humble origins and key milestones."

The Cons

The cons are also significant, Noyes continued.

"You need to spend substantial time up front to adapt your page to the Timeline," Noyes told the E-Commerce Times. "And no doubt, everyone in the organization will have an opinion on what belongs there and will probably think making those updates will require no time at all."

Also, monitoring the conversations -- especially the negative ones -- will require a lot of time, he said. Each brand will need to determine how to respond to criticism -- i.e., hide it? Delete it? Respond publicly to it?

Brands lose the ability to set an app as a default landing page with Timeline for Pages, which could stunt engagement for contests, Srebnik also noted.

For these reasons, the change is drawing little enthusiasm, said Adena DeMonte, director of marketing for Badgeville. She is not enthusiastic about the change, which will be forced on companies.

Above all, though, Timeline for Pages is to benefit Facebook -- not the brands themselves, which should focus on creating their interactive experiences on their own Web pages.

"This is taking away the flexibility and freedom of brands to design their own experiences for customers. It effectively removes the ability of brands to engage with their audience in their own personal way," DeMonte said.

A New Mode of Advertising

It is true that Timeline is the core feature for Facebook to monetize its social network, N. Venkat Venkatraman, management professor at Boston University, told the E-Commerce Times -- but that is not necessarily a net negative.

Timeline for Pages has the potential to be very powerful for brands, he said.

"Marketers can track the pattern of interactions of different consumers over time. More important, I suspect is that a consumer may have a deeper and richer basis of engaging with a brand or a business. Marketers can richly demonstrate their value offering over time, and consumers may be able to see the value more readily," Venkatraman explained.

Finally, he concluded, "we may even see newer formats of advertising whereby a brand shows comparative shifts with other brands over time and uses that powerful data as the basis for consumers to shift. "

Facebook did not respond to our request to comment for this story..

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