Facebook Timeline will take time to entice brands

By Biprorshee Das , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital | February 17, 2012
Introducing plans to gradually roll out the Timeline format for brands, Facebook now allows brands to chalk out their story in a more visually appealing manner; experts believe that it will take some time for one to get used to a brand's Timeline.

Things are barely static in the social media space. And, it is just as well, with interfaces of social networking websites witnessing regular changes, some exciting the user, some not - but never lying dormant.


Advit Sahdev

Yashraj Vakil

Sherry Thomas

Vibha Gosher

After incorporating several changes to the interface in the recent past, the Timeline format being one of the most notable ones, Facebook plans to extend Timeline to brands as well. It is understood that beginning later this month, Timeline will gradually be made available to brands, too.

Timeline was introduced by Facebook in 2011, only for users' profile pages and not brand pages. An image-heavy format, it allows the user to precisely categorise activities on his/her profile. Also, an added feature is the 'Cover Photo' option, a large picture displayed along with the profile picture at the top of the page.

Quite signature of Facebook, the format was gradually rolled out and it did take time before it found favour among users. Similarly, the new template for brands will begin with a few brands.

Timeline has faced resistance from users, as many still prefer the old format, which they believe is simpler to operate. As brands begin to embrace Timeline, experts are of the opinion that there may be the initial hesitance and it will need a bit of getting used to.

Advit Sahdev, founder, Odigma, says, "The Timeline definitely gives the page a better look and feel. Redesigning the page, a brand can talk a lot more about itself and offer historical information."

Yashraj Vakil, chief operating officer, Red Digital, too, thinks it will only change the look of a brand page drastically. "The page will look better. It will be structured better. And, there will be space for brands to do more," he says.

Doubts, however, remain if it will all be about visual appeal, with engagement levels going down. More so because Timeline, as we know it in its current avatar, focuses a lot more on images and interaction between users. Activity relating to applications, liking a page and others are allotted little space on the profile page, and appear only in the News Feed.

"The most difficult thing on Timeline is to find content. Wall posts are way lower than it used to be. How branded application will be represented on Timeline remains to be seen. In its current format, it seems to be a bit of a challenge," says Vakil.

According to Sahdev, communication and interaction will remain unaffected because the user will not be able to distinguish till he/she actually visits the brand's profile.

Sherry Thomas, general manager, digital, Madison is of the view that a brand's interaction with the consumer will not be affected much. "When it comes to engagement, I do not see it being affected much. A lot of brands on Facebook today are unfortunately about gratification. Wherever there is gratification, followers of the brand will take note. It is just a matter of getting used to it and users will eventually do that," explains Thomas.

She adds that the template will be more useful for brands that have a rich and strong history.

"The Timeline will help narrate a beautiful story for brands with a strong history such as a Cadbury or a Levi's. Users love knowing a brand's history. It will get harder and be more challenging for new brands with little to tell," says Thomas.

Brands, though, will want to wait and watch how the format works before embracing the same. Vibha Gosher, vice-president, digital, 9XMedia says that while everything faces resistance in its initial stage, people eventually come around to it.

She adds that Timeline may lead to lower engagement levels. Saying how 9XMedia handles multiple pages for its various channels, she adds that participation and engagement were observed to have dipped when users moved to the Timeline format.

The overall outlook seems to be that Timeline, even if it takes time to find acceptance, will also invite more innovative ideas to connect with the brand loyalist.

"Facebook is committed to the idea. The onus is on brands and agencies to make it work. This will lead to more room for innovation," says Vakil.

The views are endorsed by Thomas, too. "It just makes our life a little harder. But then that is what digital is all about - constantly evolving," she sums up.

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