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

Welcome to Facebook Grammy

January 10th, 2012

For most of us, Facebook has become second nature. As we read about changes in security settings or what the new Timeline will look like, we can absorb that information into an established understanding about how Facebook works. Recently, however, I helped my mom set up a Facebook account which made me realize that it can feel a bit intimidating.

She shrieked in horror when we suggested a nice photo of her standing solo outdoors (“How inappropriate. I am a married woman!). Once we convinced her that no one would think she was trolling for men and showed her how to add “married” to her profile, things went pretty well. But, since 10.4 million of the 800 million people who use Facebook are between the ages of 55-64, I started thinking that perhaps a few simple tips for getting started might be helpful.

1. Choose a photo that shows what you look like. Names change, time goes by. If you’re planning to find old high school friends, they might need the visual clue.

2. Facebook is not Email. Commenting on a photo or status update is fine, but it’s not a place to have a lot of back and forth.

3. Facebook is about what is happening right now in your life. My mom just spent a weekend with the grandkids and, upon leaving, said she might write an “article” for Facebook. Nope. Keep it brief, keep it current.

4. There are a number of ways to find your friends. As soon as you have a few friends, Facebook will start to recommend other people you might know. Facebook will also search your email address book and/or mobile phone for you and then find those individuals on Facebook. Here’s an entire article on effective people searches.

5. Do NOT hit that “poke” button! In the early years of Facebook, poking was a means of virtual flirting. A lot of people attribute sexual meaning to a “poke.” Some people have no idea what it means. Better to play it on the safe side.

6. Boring is as boring does. After you’ve been on Facebook for 12 minutes, you’ll know what I mean. My growing list of topics to never post about include the weather, sick kids and what I made for dinner. Research has shown that politics, social causes, and medical ailments are among the leading topics that cause people to “unfriend” you.

6. Of course, there are worse things than being unfriended, like having your identity stolen. Here’s a great article from the Huffington Post on security considerations when creating your profile. The year you were born, phone number, home address, and vacation countdowns are all on the list.

7. Welcome to Facebook…welcome to Farmville. All I can say about this is that if you hover over the Farmville link in your news feed you can hide any and all posts from any person about Farmville FOREVER.

8. When you post on someone else’s wall, that message is seen by everyone who you AND the other person are friends with. If you want to send a private message, use the “message” button, which will be delivered to that person’s Facebook inbox. Or better yet, use email.

9. Facebook is a great place to share photos. You can “tag” photos with a name so that the person in the photo is notified when you post their picture to Facebook. Here’s a how-to page from Facebook’s Help Center.

10. Last but not least, check into Facebook’s Help Center (mentioned above) or do a simple Google search to find answers to your questions. There are hundreds of videos, articles and blog posts that contain information about Facebook. If you look hard enough, you might even find a book in the library.

And, by the way, my mom is loving Facebook– connecting with family on the West coast and old friends, sharing photos and laughing at videos. It may have taken a few minutes to get her going, but this iPad-toting, Mini-driving Grammy is well on her way to her very own social network.

From surfing Facebook to surfing in Costa Rica

March 31st, 2011

This is the story of one well-timed, well-placed Facebook post and how I went from surfing Facebook to surfing in Costa Rica. Here’s how it all went down.

A friend of mine posted a link to a surf camp in Costa Rica called Peaks N’ Swells, noting that her old college roommate was running family surf camps for spring break and that there was still availability for April. Out of curiosity, I clicked the link and found a vacation that was everything we could want: authentic, adventurous, athletic, and educational. A quick phone call to my friend revealed that she had stayed there years before and loved every minute of it. Before I knew it, I was emailing Hillary (who runs the camps) like we were long-lost BFF’s. The trust I transferred to her simply because she was a friend of a friend was quickly validated by her very attentive emails answering every question I tossed her way. She was familiar, friendly and courteous and extremely knowledgable about the area. So, we booked! And, it turns out we weren’t the only ones. Some friends who live right around the corner from us in Stowe also had the exact same experience (starting with the very same Facebook post). So Hillary now has 2 of her 3 villas rented for the week. 0-66% in less than a week with absolutely no $ spent on marketing– not bad.

As a marketer, I couldn’t help but start thinking about why this worked so well. Here’s what I came up with:

1. In this world of way too much information, consumers are much more inclined to make a purchase when it is recommended by someone they know and trust.

2. Everyone likes to buy things, but no one likes to be “sold to.” This is one of my favorite sayings. In this case, had Hillary been pushy or if our email exchanges had felt disingenuous, I probably would not have booked. She even gave me travel advice for another part of Costa Rica that would have taken us off her property for a few nights. Bravo Hillary! Be a resource, establish a relationship, be real and good karma will follow.

3. Timing is everything. At some point in the decision-making process, I read that the water in Costa Rica is 87 degrees in April. My thermometer had been hovering right around zero for a few days, with one frosty morning reading at -20F. Need I say more?

4. My friend who made the original Facebook post is a young mom living in an active, outdoorsy community. So, the particulars of this vacation package (surf lessons, daily yoga, a local organic farmer’s market, wildlife, and quality time with family) resonated with her friends. This type of vacation isn’t for everyone, but it struck a chord in Stowe.

5. Since booking the vacation, my excitement has grown with each and every email exchange I’ve had with Hillary. She has asked questions that make it very clear this is not a “cookie cutter” vacation. What kind of snacks do your kids like? How long is too long in the car? Do your kids like mangos? (The mango trees are in season). What are your main goals for the week? Customer experience IS pr, and it begins with the very first interaction.

6. And, last but not least, I had recently read an article posted by one of my favorite travel writers, Steve Jermanok, on his family trip to Costa Rica. Although we’re not following the exact itinerary he laid out in his blog, his experiences in Costa Rica in general got us really excited about visiting the country. It goes back to something I try to remember for all my clients– if you want to raise awareness of your brand, raise awareness for your category too.

So, we’re off to family surf camp! Stay tuned, the package also includes professional photography of yours truly surfing. If I actually manage to catch a wave, maybe I’ll post a photo.

True and Authentic

September 3rd, 2010

“Overloaded by sales pitches, consumers are gravitating toward brands that they sense are true and genuine.” Fast Company

One thing I love about working with True Body Products is that they strive daily to live up to the “true promise” they made when starting the company.  That promise, which touches on sustainable business practices and product integrity, means that in addition the fact that they have a really, really good and timely product, they can also successfully launch themselves into the media world just by being themselves.  There is nothing to spin or gloss.  There is no veneer, and in today’s world, authenticity earns solid brand loyalty.

The Altimeter Group release a report in July titled The 8 Success Criteria for Facebook Page Marketing, and guess what?  ”Live Authenticity” was near the top. For Facbook, this means providing your real name and posting a picture that wasn’t taken in a studio or brushed up in photoshop.  It means writing in the first person in a conversational tone, and engaging in conversation with fans.

Pam Moore backs this up with her  17 Tips to be a Good Friend and Advocate in Social Media. ”Be real, she says.  Those of us who have been around the block in social media can spot a fake a mile away. You are fooling nobody and doing nothing for yourself, your personal brand nor your business if you do it in a non-authentic way.”

It can be intimidating to “put yourself out there,” as an individual (it was for me!) or a business, but with authenticity behind you, there’s really nothing to be afraid of.  Be who you are.  Add your voice or opinion to your retweet, like, or comment. Engage in dialogue with the people.  Create relationships.  Align yourself with companies and brands you believe in. Don’t worry about how many fans and followers you have, worry about whether or not you’re connecting with them in a real and meaningful way.

(And, btw, being “true” to themselves also just earned True soap a place on Debra’s List– THE resource for non-toxic products).

Fear of Facebook

August 31st, 2010

I had a meeting yesterday that crystallized for me the fear some people still harbor over using social media– “the comments can be poisonous,” “we have no control over where the message goes,” “we do not have the capacity to monitor and respond to comments,” and “what will we do when advertisements of women in bikinis appear?”

Now, I should note that there are high school students involved in the constituency that would view this page (thus the concern about scantily clad ladies) and the issue– the possibility of school consolidation– is a contentious one bound to bring out lots of emotional commentary.

But, these conversations and comments, poisonous or not, are going to happen anyway. On the playground, over coffee, at dinner parties and play dates, and on Facebook where most students and parents already have accounts. The decision is not whether or not to allow community discourse– it’s whether to participate in it, or to put your fingers in your ears and pretend it doesn’t exist.  At the very least, wouldn’t it be good to have a pulse on community sentiment?

It’s not that I think these concerns are unfounded, it’s that they’re outdated.  There is no controlling the message anymore.  And while it’s scary to jump into the current of social media not knowing where it will take you, it’s also the single most effective way to inform, engage and communicate with a community of people around an issue– and to get an understanding of their fears, hopes and concerns.  Half the time, people just want to be heard…and they will be, whether or not you’re listening.