What is the Impact of Facebook Timeline?
At the end of last month Facebook users saw one of the biggest refurbishments to the social network there has been, since it went global. The introduction of the Facebook Timeline has created a lot of controversy, as we all grapple with the changes to the design features of the site, while trying to continue to engage with our fans. Some love it, others hate it. But what kind of impact is this having on our pages and their abilities to connect with Facebook users?
Facebook states that “the new Pages helps businesses and organizations express their identity through features like cover photo and Page timeline” (Facebook Pages). Brittany Darwell of Inside Facebook reiterates this when writing:
“Timeline is primarily a design change and is unlikely to be directly responsible for any differences in fan engagement because most interaction occurs on posts within News Feed, not on pages themselves. Page owners should recognize the importance of Timeline as a first impression for visitors, but should not count on the redesign to change the way fans interact with their page.”
Facebook Timeline, according to Facebook, is only about changing design. They want to see businesses design interesting pages to capture people’s attention, and then focus on engaging fans through the news feed. But there have been reports that we are seeing less posts from pages getting through to people’s individual news feeds, and a marked drop in engagement with fans.
EdgeRank Checker and HubSpot released studies that looked into brand pages last month. They took 3,500 brand pages and found that all, regardless of whether they converted to Timeline of not, lost traffic (March 2012). HubSpot indicated that content scheduled to be published automatically to Facebook, after the company switched to Timeline, saw a 234% decrease in user engagement.
An eye movement study conducted by SimpleUsability found the Facebook Timeline that brand pages were forced to switch over to are “flawed”, with many of the new features going unnoticed or being misunderstood.
“The average user doesn’t fully understand the new layout, or interact with it in the way intended,” said Guy Redwood, managing director of SimpleUsability. “This will likely change over time, but as the mechanics of obtaining ‘Likes’ has become more difficult for brands, they now need to drive engagement more than ever.”
From the study SimpleUsability discovered the following:
- Cover photos are not as important as they think – most users in the study ignored the cover image entirely or disregarded it as ‘advertising space’. In most cases the first action a user took when landing on a facebook page was to scroll down the page to orientate themselves.
- The Timeline is a valuable feature – the benefit of the Timeline is that it has the ability to tell a brands story. The study found that it was easier to learn about a brand through their Facebook page then it was on their official website.
- The timeline only works if it is current – an outdated timeline confuses people, but the study found that most users do not look beyond one month in the Timelines reverse chronology.
- Users notice when a Friend ‘Likes’ or interacts with a brand – users are more likely to interact with a friends comment about a brand that they consider timely.
- Users rarely, if ever, interact with Apps – this could change over time as people become more familiar with Timeline, but for now, few people notice the customisable app button, it’s almost exclusively used to view photos.
Social Media Management platform Wildfire conducted their own research into how the Timeline has impacted on their partners pages by comparing how pages were accessed before the Timeline was adopted and a month after adoption. They found that top volume pages saw a marked increase in engagement, while other pages saw a general decline in all engagement areas. Wildfire also analysed types of posts and their impact pre- and post-timeline.
Pre-Timeline status updates were the best way to generate ‘likes’ and comments in comparison to other post types such as photos and video. However video posts were the best ways to generate ‘shares’ and outperformed all other post types. Post-Timeline the data revealed that status updates were still generating the most ‘likes’, that photo posts were slightly better at generating comments, and that videos were still the best way of generating ‘shares’.
What Wildfire has demonstrated is that the Timeline is working best for visual media – so it you have available visual media (photography, animation, illustration and videos) get these loaded onto your Facebook page.
Any change that takes place on a platform such as Facebook is going to cause some confusion, irritation and therefore some decrease in engagement. The old adage ‘time heals all wounds’ might well apply to this recent change, and after a while, once we understand how to use the site again, posts will start to reappear and our engagement increase.
On the other hand this could be the first sign of the tide turning against Facebook. The first group of people to leave the network won’t be those with pages, it will be the users, the people we are using the network to talk to. If this is something which concerns you then there are other alternatives such as Twitter (which is currently having a greater impact on search engine optimisation then Facebook is) and Google +.
Of course a social network is about cultivating your community through providing useful, interesting content of value, and building a meaningful dialogue between your audiences/customers to engage them effectively, rather than fancy design and layout changes. However, if the fancy design and layout changes are effecting engagement with meaningful content, then does this not defeat the purpose of the network for businesses?
What are the main changes that will impact on businesses pages
- Introduction of the Cover Photo (measuring 851 x 315 pixels).
- No more default landing pages, now when users come to your Facebook page they will land on one page only, the main page with your cover photo and wall.
- Private messaging – you will now have the ability to private message your fans.
- Pin Posts – you can now ‘pin’ selected wall posts to the top of your wall. This will highlight the post so that it appears at the top of your wall.
Other recommended articles:
Good examples of Facebook pages
For good use of Photo Covers – http://www.facebook.com/fanta?ref=ts
Good use of Twitter App’s and Timeline – http://www.facebook.com/edfringe?ref=ts
Good use of Multiple Apps (see Show Your Best) – http://www.facebook.com/olympics
Good use of photography and video and Highlight feature – http://www.facebook.com/smallpetitklein?ref=ts