Facebook Timeline for Brands: Curation and Palpitation

Lots of attention has been put on the new Facebook Pages layout since fMC, with people displaying differing perspectives. The usual suspects have already released their pieces on how to prepare for Facebook Timelines. My friend Jay Baer says it betrays small businesses. We, meanwhile, see it as giving brands a new way to tell their story as communications becomes more and more focused on exactly that.

We started preparing for the inevitable rollout of Timelines months ago when it was launched for developers’ personal pages back in October. At the time we’d pulled together our own five-step prescription for preparing your timeline:

  1. Review company marketing/communication materials and history:
  2. Plot out the story you want to tell and the milestones for it
  3. Identify appropriate engagements to feature
  4. Identify approach to contentious issues
  5. Determine appropriate cover image

One aspect of the new system – the potential for issues – doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of attention. Here’s what we didn’t realize back in October:

The Timeline you see on a brand page is personalized by your friends’ actions.

See that circled post? That’s from Liam Lahey – a friend of mine, who posted a link that mentioned Obama in the descriptor text. The previous time I went to the page, it showed a link from Tara Hunt – another friend who had posted something mentioning Obama.

So, while curation is absolutely important, and companies should think about the story they need to tell, they also need to recognize that brands don’t control everything that people see on their Timelines.  That means, even though you’ve curated your timeline carefully anything that someone has posted about your brand could show up, and what does show up changes dynamically.

While this could be a positive thing, it’s also going to give brands migraines:

  1. It could point a renewed spotlight at issues that you wish would go away.
  2. It provides the potential for new issues to get greater attention due to the greater visibility given to Timeline posts.

What does that mean for you as a communicator?

From my perspective, it means that your community management, monitoring and measurement folks are now your best friend.

Community management, because as a brand you need to be watching the activity on your page and watching for spikes in attention.

Monitoring, because conversations could easily shift from your Facebook page to other online channels (blogs, forums, Twitter, etc).

Measurement, because you should be watching for spikes in traffic to old content (especially issues/crisis-focused content) and the resulting patterns that emerge.

In short, the launch of Facebook Timelines for your brand means you need to integrate. More thinking coming on that soon.