Is Facebook’s move to the Timeline format better for business? Believe it or not, the evidence is already in. The answer is…it depends.
Recently, I was lucky enough to attend a presentation by our T3 social team about the impact on fan engagement for early adopter brands to the new Facebook Timeline format. The team looked at research by Wildfire Interactive, a maker of online marketing software. The research looked at 43 brands ranging in fan size from 22,000 to 40 million fans for 42 days, 21 before the change and 21 after. In addition, T3 evaluated the brands we work with. What they found was fascinating, surprising and not surprising at all, all at once.
Let’s quickly review the changes that came with Facebook’s Timeline.
First, there’s the new cover photo with art restrictions that can be summed up as “Keep your sales pitch out of my Facebook.”
Second, there’s one fixed view and three visible tabs, with your other tabs visible only when you click to open them. No more driving people straight to different tabs. Your fans land on your profile page and that’s that.
Third, fan posts are in a separate container and large-format photos and videos can be used in your brand posts. There’s also direct messaging now.
Lastly, you can use brand milestones to illustrate the history of your brand.
And the survey says…
Wildfire Interactive collected data on the following metrics:
• Daily fan growth rate
• People talking about this
• Comments per brand post
• Likes per brand post
That’s pretty much a wish list for what brands want out of their Facebook pages. So here’s what the research uncovered: Brands with less than a million fans saw nearly a 70% growth in people talking about them. Pair that with 40% more comments and 60% more likes per post and you’ve got a huge winner, right? Well, almost. Fan growth rate didn’t change at all.
For larger brands with 1 to 10 million fans, the numbers were mixed. There was roughly a 30% increase in people talking about the brands and 13% more likes per post. But the comments on posts were down 17%. Once again, fan growth stayed exactly the same.
The super big boy brands with 40 million+ fans got pretty beat up by the transition. Everything was down. Significantly. Except one: Fan growth rate. Didn’t change a lick.
So is the new Facebook Timeline better for brands? Depends.
If you are a smaller brand on Facebook, it’s much better. Timeline has significantly increased the engagement behavior of fans. Stay focused on great content to keep that momentum going.
For larger brands, the answer is “by and large.” The new functionality has definitely increased interaction between users. If (and it’s a big if) you can create opportunities to join conversations in an unobtrusive way, you can become part of the increased engagement users have with Facebook.
For mega brands on Facebook, the results are worse. But if you’re one of these brands, don’t worry. You’re kind of like the homecoming queen. People only really like you because everybody likes you. Your drop in numbers is mainly because people are nosey and they are off checking out all the other brands in their life. Post another million-dollar giveaway and they’ll all come running back.
The biggest takeaway.
All three groups saw absolutely no change in their growth rate. Zip, nada, nothing. Which leads us back to the core truth of Facebook: People read, like, comment and share what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.
Technology simply can’t bear the full weight of generating interest in your brand. Only content can do that. Relevant human content that tells the story of your brand in a relatable way. Tell that story on your page and no matter what Facebook does, it’ll be better for your brand.
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