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Could Timeline turn Facebook pages from shop windows into company scrapbooks?

So, it’s been announced, then. Facebook’s ‘Timeline’ is coming for branded pages. Yet another Facebook change? Is this really a big deal? Perhaps…

It’s about time

Timeline has been available as an option for personal profiles for a while now (indeed, Facebook is nudging us all that way). At first glance not much changes when you make the switch. The same updates, the same photos and the same data are there.

But the whole ‘Timeline’ presentation encourages us to scroll back through old material – things we posted last month, last year, or back in the early days of Facebook. Indeed, the interface actively encourages us to add and date historic content: events, maps and scanned-in photos that relate to our lives before Facebook. Or even before the internet (Remember that? When I had hair?). Nostalgia, thanks to Facebook, is being given a bit of a comeback.

Timeline for Facebook Pages

So what does the prospect of Timeline mean for brands and their Facebook pages? Well, at first glance, not much. Just a new look to your page and a slight tweak to your content strategy? Possibly, yes. If your intention with Facebook is focussed simply on getting the most clicks and comments around each piece of content, then Timeline is arguably no big deal  (though there is the jolly distraction of that big new banner at the top).

There must be more to this…

But what if there’s a bit more to your business? What if your soul, your history or your approach isn’t usually at home on the bustling shopping mall of Facebook? What if the rush and panic of the latest Facebook update, competition or “Please Like Us!” frenzy  all seems a bit, well, a bit shallow for you? Facebook may be about to become a slightly more worthwhile platform.

Just in the same way Facebook has been encouraging us, as individuals, to browse back through our timelines, and those of our friends, stop and think about what that could mean for your organisation. What is your story? Do you have one?  When did your company start? Why did you start? How many of you were there on day 1? When did you open that first shop? When did key people join? When did people leave? When did you launch that incredible product that made you famous? Or that awful one that lost you thousands?

Will Timeline turn Facebook Pages from shop windows into company scrapbooks?

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With more of a role for history, heritage and stories, perhaps those businesses with a longer-term perspective will now find Facebook a slightly more meaningful place to be. Older content will no longer disappear from popular view as time (and, to an extent, the vagaries of EdgeRank) deem it to be old. It will remain located neatly on a timeline.

  • Plan for your content’s longer lifespan. Document your events, your news, your best moments.
  • Similarly, just as the good stuff will be longer preserved, so will the negative stuff. When an issue, a mistake or an argument is dealt with on Facebook, it will become even more important to be professional, open and honest. If you’re already doing this stuff right, nothing changes.
  • Is your approach to Facebook usually all about sales and special offers? Consider the limited value of these updates when viewed in the future.
  • How about having some fun with the old stuff? Do you have old brochure photos from the 70s or 80s? Historic photos from generations gone by? Celebrate it! Upload it, date it and show it to your Facebook fans. If they feel some affinity, they will comment, share and ‘Like’. Maybe actively encourage them to scroll back. A conversation (or competition) themed around the good ‘ol days could work well with Timeline.
  • Keep measuring – Facebook’s useful Insights feature will be handy. How long does content stay ‘talked about’? What kinds historic content are getting viewed and appreciated the most?

Who’s using Timeline?

Clothing brand Burberry has uploaded content dating back to the 19th century, effectively reminding us that there is so very much more to them than poorly dressed 90s rappers.

The New York Times is celebrating its 160 year heritage by populating its timeline with key events in the paper’s history – but I would love them to populate their timeline with actual news stories – What an asset that would be!

Manchester United – arguably the biggest sports brand in the world, has uploaded a wealth of historical photos – already gathering comments and Likes from United fans across the world.

And it’s early days, but at NixonMcInnes, we think we might have some fun too – plotting moments stretching from Will and Tom’s fateful 2001 breakfast meeting to our new work on the shape of social business.

It’s about time.

 

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