In a Tuesday blog post, Facebook announced that all its individual users would be switching over to its new Timeline profile. When Facebook launched the Timeline feature in December, engineer Paul McDonald described it this way: "Timeline gives you an easy way to rediscover the things you shared, and collect your most important moments."
So far, Timeline is available only for individuals' personal pages, not for brand pages. Many predict Timeline for brands is coming, though. And brands have already started taking advantage, through personal pages. For instance, Web entrepreneur Sean Parker's profile prominently features the logo for the music service Spotify.
If Timeline does become available for brands, it would "revolutionize brand pages," says Christine Campbell, program manager for SEO and social media at Resolute Digital. "The brand pages as they are now on Facebook are boring, [are] mostly text, and make successful user interaction difficult. Timeline's focus on images and telling a true story will really help most brands get a better page out of the service."
The big questions
Dave Racine, director of social media and PR at Hanson Dodge Creative, says his firm has already developed strategies for brands to use Timeline.
"Only the interesting will survive," he says. "Now, we have to ask ourselves: Are we making visual content around the moments that truly connect with our fans—and will they want to share it?"
If brands can be part of users' big moments, those they select to be part of their Timelines would get a lot of traction, he says.
Online marketing strategist Tommy Walker, who posted a video on Facebook about Timelines, says, "The brands that already do well on Facebook do so because they're highly adaptable, so they'll find ways to make the new things work for them."
One way they're already using timeline to their advantage, Walker says, is by asking employees to make photos related to the brand their Timeline "album covers." Brands that are viewed as socially friendly are more likely to have employees willing to do that, he says.
Brands also would have to alter their messaging for Timelines, says Shannon Baker, Director of PR and Social Media at GatesmanMarmion+Dave.
"A brand will become obsolete on Facebook unless it takes the changes into consideration, because pushed messages will no longer be received," she says. Communication on Facebook would revolve much more around relationships, she says.
"Creating a direct call to action in status updates and encouraging sharing of posts will increase the reach of status updates, photos, links and other content," Baker says. "Since Timeline is also putting an emphasis on photos, businesses can use the new algorithms to their advantage by coupling status updates with relevant photos to increase reach and visibility."
Walker says brands should start thinking of their updates as more "episodic," as pieces in a larger story.
Winners and losers
Certain brands would definitely get more out of the Timeline feature than others, says Patrick Smith of C2 Creative Consulting.
"The companies that will benefit the most from the Timeline feature are businesses with tangible products," he says. "With such a photo-heavy layout, the companies that utilize the visual impact of Timeline will be using it to its full advantage."
Companies without tangible, physical products would have some options, though. Timeline makes apps more prominent on a user's profile page, so creating apps users can feature on their profiles would be a good move, says Walker. Plus, brands could get some attention through the new Facebook Actions feature, which enables users to do more than just "like" services or products.
"As engagement with Facebook Actions increases, insights will provide a valuable source of information for tailoring a brand's Facebook advertising approach," says Baker.
A sure thing?
Many observers say Timelines for brands is a sure thing, but Walker isn't so sure. "I don't see it," he says. "Brands aren't people."
The Timeline is built to tell the story of a person's life, he says. That doesn't necessarily apply to brands. Plus, limiting Timelines to personal pages helps people more instantly know a personal page from a brand page.
"Having the way it is right now creates a major differentiation between the two," Walker says.