Why Facebook Apps Matter with the New Timeline

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Facebook's new timeline for fan pages rolled out on 31st March 2012. You're already familiar with this from your personal Facebook page so it can be easy to take for granted the implications this will have on your campaign ideas.

The Default Welcome Page

This may be gone - which means no more driving new fans to a splash page with a big arrow to the Like button. But fret not! Many agency partners and clients I've spoken to are desperately lost about how to keep getting fans to Like their pages. As we'll see below, both the Cover Image and the new Timeline Apps are powerful tools to attract and engage with your fan base.

The Cover Image

Now, everyone who accesses your fan page will first arrive on your Timeline page. The general reaction to the new Timeline for Fan Pages has been a positive one so far. And the new Cover Image plays a big part in making it a success. Most brand people love the new wide canvas - and I've seen some good ones from the likes of FantaManchester United and check out this fabulous cover image from the Obama team - a simple picture tells you all need to know about the man.


The Rules of the Cover Image

But before you put that thinking hat on - I'd suggest you familiarise yourself with the basic rules of the Cover Image.

Cover Images need to be at least 720 px wide and may not contain any of the following:

  • Price or purchase information, such as "40% off" or "Download it at our website"
  • Contact information, such as web address, email, mailing address or other information intended for your Page's About section
  • References to user interface elements, such as Like or Share, or any other Facebook site features
  • Calls to action, such as "Get it now" or "Tell your friends"

To help you get started we've created a Facebook Timeline for Fan Pages photoshop template to try out your ideas. Click on the image below to download it.

But why is Facebook doing this?

Focus on Engagement and Reach - not Fans

Facebook is moving towards a more engagement driven metrics model and is encouraging brands to start looking beyond Fan counts. With the "People Talking about this Page" metric being made public on all Fan Pages, Facebook wants brands to start thinking about their reach (the number of people that see their stories on their feed) and engagement (the number of people interacting with or discussing your brand). Although I applaud this effort, it will take brands some time to adjust their strategy and develop campaigns that have a longer term perspective focused on engaging with fans.

But in the meantime, our clients are still talking about Fans! I can imagine why many brands may be freaking out about these changes. They want to know how get Fans to continue Liking their pages. We've been educating our clients on the benefits of the new Timeline for Fan Pages, and we've found opportunities to continue to grow your fan base while growing fan engagement.

Companies should realise there's a lot more they can do on Facebook for their businesses then they currently understand.

Apps to the Rescue

Apps are the new Tabs but they'll now be at the front and center - right below your Cover Image. This is where all the action is going to happen. Facebook has been working on providing more flexibility to what businesses can do on the site. Starting with the launch of iFrame apps and the Facebook Connect button, today you can build your own unique campaign experience entirely on Facebook and leverage the most pervasive social network to spread your message.

With the Timeline, Facebook apps will get a significant make-over. A new standard 850px wide page will simplify fan page application development and provide users with a more consistent experience across Facebook's 37 million Fan Pages.

But how do we still get the "Likes" if the default welcome page has disappeared?


Getting the Likes

Brands have to wake up to the idea that a Facebook application's URL is a powerful tool that they can use to drive their campaign. Although we may have lost the default welcome page on our Fan Pages which now forces all users to first arrive on our Timeline page, Facebook allows brands to use the unique URLs of their Facebook Applications in Facebook Ads and campaign executions. This is your new custom landing page and it can be used very effective to both deliver compelling brand experiences while continuing to grow your Fan base.

Timeline Apps - The Real Killer App

With the introduction of Timeline Apps, brands will now be able to add their app's activities to Fan's personal timelines. A great example of this is Pinterest, whose usage shot thru the roof after it launched its Facebook App with Timeline integration in January 2012 making them the fastest internet service to reach 10 million users. Thousands of Timeline Apps have since been launched and Facebook is actively promoting these.

This provides an excellent opportunity to develop campaigns that promote interaction and help spread your brand message amongst your fans' social network. There's never been a better time to build great social apps that will sell themselves.

So if you're planning a social campaign in April - its time for you to stretch your expectations of what your brand should be doing to stay relevant on Facebook.

Image sources and credits:

Header and body images: Pexels

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