Timeline for Brands: 10 Tips for Fan Pages

March 5th, 2012

Timeline for Facebook is here, and it has some very cool features for brands. While the way fans interact with brand pages remains to be seen, the new format encourages engagement– not just “likes”– and will allow brands more control over how their story is presented on Facebook. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Visual Appeal – The biggest change with Timeline is the nice big cover image. This is a great branding opportunity and license for creative thinking. Keep in mind that you can NOT include a call to action or “fan-gating” (forcing people to like your page) in your cover photo. Think of this spot as branding opportunity, not an ad. Nike does this beautifully:
  2. Your Story – The new format allow brands to tell their story by highlighting key events throughout history– product launches, events, major announcements,etc. This is really important and should be given some serious time and consideration. Ben & Jerry’s does a nice job with this.
  3. Highlight the Highlights – When you hover over the right corner of a post, you’ll reveal a star and a pencil icon. Use the star to enlarge the post (this is especailly relevant for photos and videos), giving it visual priority for your fans.
  4. Take Out The Trash – Along with the ability to highlight important milestones from the past comes the ability to hide irrelevant posts that serve no other purpose than filling up space. Use the aforementioned pencil icon to get rid of anything that doesn’t support your brand.
  5. Feature Posts – One new feature that I really like is the ability to “pin” a post prominently at the top of the timeline for up to a week. This is great if you have a big announcement or are running a contest. Use the pencil icon to pin a post.
  6. Content is King – This has always been true, but Timeline really emphasizes the point. Fill your page with content-rich material that gives your fans a reason to come back. Videos, photos, recipes, blog posts, and contests, for example, will keep things interesting. I recently read that 96% of fans never come back to your page– give them a reason!
  7. Apps are the new Tabs – The familiar tabs in the left-hand column are replaced by Apps in Timeline. These are located below the cover photo and can link to any pages or applications, such as contests, YouTube, or a contact form. Only 4 will display on your page at a time (the others are revealed when a user clicks on a little down arrow), so choose those 4 top apps wisely. Check out this design on LiveStrong:
  8. Dimensions to Know: The dimensions for the cover photo is 850 x 315. The profile pic (which appears in feeds) is 180 x 180. Apps are 111 x 74 pixels.
  9. Contests – Consider launching your new Timeline page with a contest or other app to pull fans into your story. Red Bull is running a “Timewarp” that encourages fans to dig into their new Timeline and offers prizes and incentives for doing so.
  10. Emphasis on Engagement – The success of a Facebook fan page lies with your engagement numbers, not the number of “likes” you receive. The average engagement rate is 2%, even for major brands, but I’ve seen rates as high as 40-60% (check out Irish, Truly)! Higher engagement means your fans are ambassadors for your brand, telling your story and selling your product for you– the holy grail of PR.

Making the most of your Facebook page with Timeline will take some time. Take advantage of the preview function that allows you to play around with layout, add important milestones, increase content, and nail down your apps. Timeline for brands automatically goes live March 30!

Here are a few articles I found helpful:

Facebook Timeline for Brands: 10 Things to Get Right, Social Media Today

What PR Pros Need to Know About Facebook Timeline for Brands, PR Daily

How to Use Timeline for Brand Pages, Techcrunch

Preparing for Facebook Timeline: Tips to Tweak Your Editorial Strategy, Digital Pivot

what’s your mission?

July 22nd, 2011

I recently heard a presentation about the way our schools’ curriculum is created, and what was most impressive was the time and thought that went into a clearly defined mission statement. It got me thinking about mission statements and the general usefulness of having a goal as we move about our lives. Every business has one…though most are stuffed away in a dusty filing cabinet somewhere. But, when well done, they really do serve an important purpose and can be a guiding beacon for businesses, family and individuals. Here are a couple of examples:

1. Mission for a Common Goal. The “mission circle” for our local school that I referenced above was so impressive. Teachers and administrators spent many, many house debating the ultimate goals of the school curriculum and came up with 3 key components to a core knowledge all students should have at graduation. They should be 1) effective communicators, 2) responsible citizens, and 3) thinkers and problem solvers. Any curriculum ideas are weighed against this end goal– the ones that don’t stick are tossed out. The time and thought that went into creating this mission circle really helps to guide a diverse community of educators and brings them all under the same umbrella with a common purpose.

2. Mission for Giving. I recently met with a really neat couple who have a woodworking business here in Vermont. Like so many other small businesses, they are often asked to donate time or product for various good causes. If you are going to donate time or product to charitable causes, it’s helpful to clearly identify a cause that aligns with your values– personally or as a business. Having a focus to your giving allows you to incorporate charitable contributions into the bigger picture of your brand, and makes it easier to say “no” to those great causes that are not a fit.

3. Mission for Business. My husband flat out laughed at me when I brought him my business plan 10 years ago, but it has two very clear objectives that have been my guiding principles– and that have never failed me once. You ready? Here it is. 1) I want to work with companies whose products and/or services I believe in. 2) I want to work with people I would have at my dinner table on a Friday night. That’s it. And, let me tell you, every time I have strayed from these tenants of my business plan, I’ve regretted it deeply.

4. Mission for Life. A few years ago, my husband and I went out for a glorious cross country ski at Trapp’s and had a long discussion about our kids’ education. Living in a small Vermont town has a lot of perks, but lots of exciting options for education is not one of them. Luckily, our public school is wonderful and we decided on that beautiful ski that it was important for us to supplement our kids’ education– specifically through travel that would expose them to other parts of the world and different kinds of people. Having this goal has helped us make a lot of decisions about where and how we spend discretionary money…and we got to go to surf camp in Costa Rica:-)

Here’s my last piece of advice with a mission statement. When you’re done, run it by a 5 year old. If he or she can understand what you’re saying, then you’ve got a good statement. If it uses the words “innovative,” “teamwork,” “leadership,”or “forward-thinking” or benign, unquantifiable terms like “cutting-edge,” and “best” scrap it and start over. Spend the time doing some soul-searching to really delve into what’s important to you, not on finding the perfect words.

I love hearing about clearly focused goals that have impacted other people’s lives and business. What is yours?

Apple Stores have Mojo

May 23rd, 2011

I haven’t spent enough time in an Apple store to write a novel, as some people reportedly have, but I do love going into Apple retail stores to check out the latest gadgets and cool accessories. Scott Martin at USA Today explores why Apple retailers are flourishing while Gateway and even Best Buy flail. Amazing design (“store mojo”), exceptional customer service, a unique shopping experience, and passionate employees (“product evangelism”) top the list. Great lessons for any brand trying to stand apart and for retailers trying to survive in an online world.

Apple Rewrites Rules of Retailing

Lessons from Surf Camp: Turning Customers Into Ambassadors

April 28th, 2011

One of the things I love about today’s social media world is that there is no room for fakes. A company can spend millions of dollars spinning an image that can be debunked in a matter of hours by Joe Public via social media. On the flip side, companies that embrace the notion that each and every customer is a potential ambassador for their brand will have the most authentic and effective grassroots marketing campaign available– for free.

I’m not sure if Hillary Harrison and the gang at Peaks N’ Swells Surf Camp ever sat down and consciously decided that customer experince and word-of-mouth were their best marketing tools, or if it just came to them intuitively, but they nailed it. Before we even got on the plane to Costa Rica, I was blown away by the personal approach Hillary took in organizing the details of our vacation (see my last blog). And, from the moment we arrived, the entire experience exceeded every expectation I had. Here are just a couple of examples:

  • Exceeding Expectations – The website said our surf camp included professional photography of us surfing. I figured an hour or so of someone coming to take a few beauty shots. How about Hillary’s mom, a photographer, joining us all week, putting on a slideshow every evening, and sending us home with hundreds of amazing pictures!  The surf camp package also included “happy hour.” In some places this could mean a drink ticket. At Peaks N’ Swells it means an open beer fridge, fresh homemade salsa and hummus, veggies from the local organic farmers market, and mango smoothies made from the fruit on the property for the kids.
  • Quality of Instruction – This is always an unknown when you embark on learning something new. The surf and yoga instructors Hillary hired for our camp were both incredible.  Friendly, easy, knowledgable people who made our foray into the surf world a success. What better gaurantee of a return visit than to hook us on the sport by enabling success? We all left wanting more.
  • Happy Kids=Happy Parents. If you’re marketing to families, the only way parents can really have fun is if the kids are happy. The 5 kids at the camp were staffed by no less than 3 and sometimes as many as 6 adults, leaving us free to concentrate on catching our own waves without worrying about the kids. One little boy in the group wasn’t really ready for surfing, and spent the day building forts, cracking coconuts open, and staging hermit crab races on the beach with Darwin, a “tico” who quickly captured the admiration of all the kids. During yoga, the kids would be engaged in art projects or impromptu soccer games on the beach.
  • Authentic Relationships – By the end of our 10 days, we felt like family. It’s clear that the crew at Peaks N’ Swells really love what they do. We were treated less like guests and more like friends.

I could go on and on, but the point is that for all of their efforts, Hillary and her crew have 4 freshly minted ambassadors talking, Facebooking, blogging, posting reviews on TripAdvisor, and tweeting about the camp to anyone who will listen. My husband has already looked into plane tickets for a return trip, and the kids are begging me to homeschool them in Costa Rica for a month next winter (VERY TEMPTING!).  The woman who attended camp the week before us had already posted 2 blogs and a TripAdvisor review while we were there. And, of course, we’re all sharing the amazing photos, which speak more about the trip than I could ever write.

The entire goal of PR is to plant the seed for “word-of-mouth” to grow and blossom and eventually spread roots that contribute to a strong and authentic brand perception. In today’s social media world, customer experience is the single most important factor to a PR campaign, so take a cue from Peaks N’ Swells and turn your customers into your marketing team.

(And, yes, I did manage to get up on my board and catch a few waves!)

Making Space for Creativity

February 14th, 2011

Here’s a challenge. Take everything you do this week and divide it into 1 of these 4 boxes:

If your life is anything like mine, the Urgent & Unimportant list outweighs the others many days. All those tasks that suck up our time because they are right in front of us– answer that email, check Twitter, pick up milk, volunteer to help with a school event, get the mail, change the laundry– are so tantalizingly easy to check off the list.

But for those of us who want to lead a purposeful life, bring creativity to our work, and be present for our children, it’s the Important & Not Urgent list we need to attend to. What’s the next big idea for a client? Is the current strategy working, or does it need to be tweaked? Am I just running through the paces, or am I bringing my best and most creative thinking to my work? Am I present for my children when they really need me, or am I too busy baking cookies for the PTO? It’s so easy to put off the big questions that require clear and focused thinking when I’m running around like a crazy woman completing task after task.

For me, protecting space to be creative is something I need to be very intentional about. Otherwise, the urgent feels important, even when it’s not. Here are a couple ways I try to keep the creative juices flowing and my mind free for the important things in life:

  • Change the scenery. If you’re starting at a blank screen with your fingers hovering over the keyboard waiting for brilliance to strike, you may need to change your space. For me, some of my best and most creative thinking occurs on a solitary xc ski trail.
  • Schedule your day around your energy. Some people are night owls; others find peace and clarity of mind in the early hours of the morning. Rather than schedule your day around other peoples availability, protect those precious hours of productivity for yourself, your writing, and your big picture thinking.
  • Create space. Back in my agency days, we used to have “writing days”– one or two days a week we were encouraged to block out and work from home. No meetings, no interruptions, no office drama. Blissful.
  • Find inspiration. I know it sounds kind of hokey, but attend a lecture, find a workshop, or borrow a book from the library that inspires you and gives you a new perspective.
  • Know when to quit. For me, the words are either flowing, or they’re  simply not there. Writing a paragraph is either arduous and painful, or my fingers are flying. If it’s the former, I’ve learned I’m much better off doing something else and coming back to it later.
  • Spend some of your best thinking on your family and relationships, don’t squander it all on work. Make time with your spouse or partner to really connect on important questions. One of my friends books a “retreat” with her husband every spring and even keeps an agenda for their weekend.
  • Set a goal. For me, clearly articulating what I’m working for helps me to navigate my priorities and not get too wrapped up in the problem-du-jour. This is equally true for my kids as it is for my work.

Creating and protecting space for the Important, but not Urgent, things in my life is a constant endeavor for me and I would love to hear from anyone who has tips, ideas or inspiration to add to this list.

Has Christmas Jumped the Shark?

December 1st, 2010

Our tree 2011

It’s usually not until Christmas morning when you can’t even see the living room floor through all the toys, gifts, wrapping paper, and discarded packaging that I look around and feel a little gross about the unabashed consumerism that has just taken place. But this year, I started hearing Christmas music right after Halloween, “Black Friday” deals started the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, “Cyber Monday” became a five day event, and some new days popped up to get us shopping: “Small Business Saturday” and “Green Friday,” for example. To top it off, my inbox and mailbox are overflowing with holiday offers, and I’ve had at least 3 people ask me if I’ve finished my Christmas shopping. Eeeks! That old familiar craze that often fills my head this time of year was beginning to buzz before the Thanksgiving turkey was done roasting!

And then something put me over the edge. Not sure if it was seeing my kids trading Halloween candy while perusing Christmas catalogs, or that I fell for buying a Christmas List app. (Ok, I’m actually enjoying the app quite a bit). Am I the only one for whom this Christmas marketing extravaganza has backfired? You know how they say TV shows “jump the shark” at the point when they go completely  overboard trying to keep viewers interested and it actually has the reverse effect? I think Christmas may have jumped the shark this year. Instead of buying into the perception that I need to buy! buy! buy!, I’ve turned a deaf ear. The catalogs go straight to the recycling, emails are instantly deleted. Christmas is not just a time to go shopping. In fact, too much shopping takes most of the joy out of the season for me. Not only that, but with all the sales going on and the news reports that retailers are desperate for this to be a good season, I certainly wouldn’t buy anything full price. Is that what the major retailers anticipated collectively? Or are they just trying too darn hard?

Today is the first day of December–the official start of the countdown to Christmas– and I’m turning the channel. I’m going to find a new show with a fresh perspective. I really do love this season, and actually I’m really glad that, for me, the Christmas hype came and went between Halloween and Thanksgiving. Now I can enjoy the next 24 days with peace of mind. I’ll be buying gifts (and checking my list app twice) for all the people I love in my life, talking to my kids about the joy of giving (not just receiving), and enjoying this spirit of the season with my friends and family. Happy shopping and happy holidays.