Facebook’s introduction of Timeline for personal profiles in January appeared to incite levels of rage in the general public unseen since the poll tax riots or when that lady put a cat in a wheelie bin. But whilst the announcement of its extension to Facebook pages seems to have sent the social media marketing community into a fit of Timeline-induced delirium, does anyone else actually give a hoot about Timeline for pages? Ignoring the showy marketing buzz words, does your everyday chap give a rat’s ass whether he can now connect with a brand’s history? Will the man on the street suddenly be won over by a big shiny cover photo? Moreover, does Timeline offer B2B brands in particular any meaningful new ways of engaging with customers?
In the spirit of investigative blogging, I thought I’d carry out a little amateur research in the form of a survey of some of my Facebook friends. Questionable sample size and demographics aside, the results were pretty interesting. Each respondent was a fan of 6 brands on average, and for 85% the motivation behind them ‘liking’ a page was an offer that a brand was running. Over half admitted to ‘never’ looking at brands’ Facebook pages once they had liked them and, perhaps most interestingly, 80% said that they couldn’t care less about the switch to Timeline. This sense of malaise is echoed in a recent survey by YouGov, which has revealed that social media has brought less benefit for brands than was originally thought, with over 40% of the great British public admitting to being thoroughly bored of it.
Overall this seems to leave us with an outlook bleaker than the results of a Jeremy Kyle lie-detector test. I’m willing to accept that the empirical credentials of my survey were somewhat questionable, but I think it is time for brands to face a few home truths about Facebook:
- People are opportunistic when liking brands –When it comes to clicking the all-important ‘like’ button on a brand page, I’ll usually only do it if there’s something in it for me (I’m fickle, what can I say?). The big question to ask is whether this counts as engagement. Will your fans’ attention be held once the potential reward is taken away? Can these types of fans be converted into customers? If the answer is no, it’s time to ask what you’re trying to achieve on Facebook.
- People don’t go on Facebook to be advertised at – Facebook for most people is about mingling and stalking people and playing Farmville. Of my respondents, those who had ‘unliked’ a brand’s Facebook page had done so because of being harangued by spam and annoying adverts (what Brian Solis has termed as ‘stream fatigue’). Brands need to realise that the newsfeed is a sacred grapevine of news, gossip and dirty laundry not a billboard for tiresome adverts.
- People don’t care that much about Timeline – So Timeline allows people to delve into a brand’s history, and a well-chosen cover photo can make a page a bit prettier. But I think it’s time to get a bit of perspective here – whilst small changes like being able to pin posts to the top of a timeline might have social media junkies chomping at the bit, one has to question the extent to which ‘prettiness’ genuinely translates into cold hard ROI.
Facebook and B2B marketing have traditionally been awkward bed partners. In fact, I’d even go so far as to agree with Chris Koch when he argues that Facebook stinks for B2B Marketing. Will Timeline change this at all or are we just flogging a horse that popped its clogs a long time ago?
Unlike consumer brands, the challenge for B2B marketers on Facebook is less that all-important decision of what cover picture to choose or what to include in their page navigation banner, and more getting people to click the blasted ‘like’ button in the first place. In this respect, to think that Timeline is going to come along in a billowing cape and save the day, I believe, is a little unrealistic. A combination of an (understandable) unwillingness to mix work and social life and a lack of material for shiny glittery campaigns to capture people’s attention means that B2B brands probably shouldn’t expect people to be falling over themselves to click the ‘like’ button.
It isn’t all doom and gloom, though. The good news for B2B brands on Facebook is that those like-ees who have bothered to interact with a page probably aren’t as fickle as people like me who will like anything at the mere insinuation of free stuff. But for such followers, content is undisputedly King. Coming up with genuinely interesting features such as interviews with experts and blog posts (showing thought-leadership, darling) and encouraging customers to give honest feedback is far more likely to catch someone’s eye when they look over their newsfeed than unabashed, irksome advertising. If B2B companies are ploughing time and resources into being on Facebook, content needs to take precedence over cover photo – Timeline, in this respect, may be somewhat less groundbreaking than some would have us believe.