Gini Dietrich

Facebook Timeline Coming for Businesses

By: Gini Dietrich | February 14, 2012 | 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I have a secret. Nothing I write today is going to outdo Shonali Burke’s Valentine’s Day blog post.

So please go over there, get it out of the way, and come back.

It’s OK. I’ll wait.

Now, wasn’t it worth it? I, for one, am pleased to finally see the movie star’s talents coming through. Enough of this PR stuff. Let her do what she was born to do!

And on to our regularly scheduled program.

I have good news!

Rumor has it Facebook is rolling out its timeline feature to business pages this month.

I know, I know. Some of you hate timeline (I personally love it).

But, if you run a business or branded page, this is good news. It means soon you will be able to share updates with everyone, not just those who like your page.

According to BusinessInsider, the launch will happen on February 29, at the very exclusive Facebook Marketing Conference (oh la la).

Functionality of the Timeline

The personal timelines provide a history of your activity, allow you to create stories from your updates, and provide more functionality with visuals, mainly photos. It also allows people to subscribe to your updates without being your friend.

This is important for those of you (me included) who don’t like to open your Facebook page to people you don’t know.

I’ve begun testing different types of updates – the smart aleck ones go only to my friends, while informative or educational ones go public.

You could subscribe to my Facebook page and get a little bit more of my warped sense of humor than you do in other places. But you still won’t get the full out crazy Gini stuff, like my real feelings on cyclists doping (morons).

But that’s still on the personal page. Think about what that means for your business page.

What Does This Mean to You?

If you run a business or branded page, be ready for this change. Strategically you can begin to think about how to share different types of updates and information.

Say, for instance, you want to give something away to your fans (a product, service, coupon, or ebook). You now will be able to share that information only with your fans. But then share your latest blog post or job opening or event with anyone and everyone.

What I can’t seem to find out about is whether or not people will have to subscribe, rather than like your page, and what the difference will be betweens fans and subscribers. I also don’t know if there will be a search function so you can go through your archives (which would be fantastic for me when looking for the Facebook questions of the week), but rumor has it it’s coming.

All in all, there isn’t much you can do right now except think about how you’ll use your updates differently. And be ready for it. February 29.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • Curious how they’ll deal with customized tabs. That’s big business for a lot of developers and agencies.

    • ginidietrich

      @DannyBrown It’s hard to find any information, other than “a source” BusinessInsider talked to at Facebook. It’ll be interesting to see, for sure.

      • @ginidietrich @DannyBrown I’ve never been a big fan of the tabs, but if you want to run a contest, that’s how you have to do it. Like Danny I’m curious how that will work because the tabs take on a different look and feel with the personal timeline. There will be a huge backlash if that gets lost in the shuffle. I wonder if you will still get to choose a default landing tab.

    • @DannyBrown That works for us! 🙂

    • @DannyBrown Exactly!

  • I predict a backlash and a panic. Though I have had quite a few clients asking me if it was coming for business pages. Though…I’m not really sure if they are asking out of fear or anticipation. Will be interesting!

    • ginidietrich

      @KenMueller People are so funny. As a whole, we hate change. I think this is good for businesses. Why wouldn’t you want everyone to know what you’re doing?

      • @ginidietrich There will be an adjustment period, but the benefits outweigh the bad things. I read an article the other day from a social media site saying the timeline was horrible and that everyone hated it. Well, everyone on Facebook hates EVERY change for the most part. Then they get used to it and love it. You can’t ask people up front right after the changes are made.

        • ginidietrich

          @KenMueller Hey now – not everyone hates it. I love most of the changes. In fact, I know you do too. But I agree most aren’t as laid back about it as we are.

        • John_Trader1

          @ginidietrich @KenMueller Further proof that most humans are creatures of habit and don’t embrace change well. When it comes to changes on social media sites in the aggregate, most tend to bitch and complain but eventually accept. sounds to me like these changes are going to be quite beneficial for those that capitalize.

        • ginidietrich

          @John_Trader1 @KenMueller It’s actually kind of funny to watch. Everyone moan and complain and then adjust. How about just adjusting and skipping the complaining part?

        • @ginidietrich @John_Trader1 @KenMueller EXACTLY. Remember, it’s free, and you’re not the customer.

          We had a saying with a friend of ours that always bailed on dinner at the last minute. So we stopped inviting him – and said, we just skipped that whole part where we made the plans, and went straight to the part where he doesn’t come. LOL.

          Anyway, back to the discussion at hand. People hate change. I think this will be fun. ooooooo Molli and I will have to put our heads together! I wonder what our cover photo should be?

  • Cue droves of marketers wringing their hands and raging about the ficklemindedness of Facebook. Basically, it will be like Scott Pilgrim freaking out when the cool chick he was dating was so blase about changing the color of her hair, only magnified multiple times

    Personally I love Timeline and I can think of so many ways brands can tell stories in pictures. One example of an ad agency who created a timeline of a fictional guy with before and after images on either side of the page for a drug rehab clinic or agency (forgot the details) comes to mind.

    Bring it on, Zuck

    • ginidietrich

      @bhas OMG! @DannyBrown do you see this reference to Scott Pilgrim?!? HAHAHAHAAH!!!

      I love that example and I’m with you – bring it on , Zuck!

      • @ginidietrich @DannyBrown Haha you guys are also Scott Pilgrim types…who woulda thunk?

        • @bhas @ginidietrich Love Scott Pilgrim 🙂

          I think it’s less marketing hand-wringing than it is a pain in the ass for anyone (developer or agency) that’s using tabs as marketing tools, and there doesn’t seem an easy way to integrate these into the Timeline option. We’ll see.

    • BTW I will stop hogging the comment section, but before I go here is the ad I was talking about It’s by McCann Digital Israel for the Israel Anti-Drug Authority

      • ginidietrich

        @bhas VERY cool! Thank you!!

  • Thanks for the shout out, Gini! I personally am looking forward to the brand timeline rollout. I think it will be a terrific way for businesses to tell their stories, and you know how I feel about businesses that DON’T do that well. I love @bhas example below – exactly what I mean.

    Happy V-Day, my friend!

    • ginidietrich

      @Shonali Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

  • yvettepistorio

    Get out! (imagine me hitting you like Elaine as I say this…um, hopefully you watch Seinfeld!) I’m so excited about this! I agree with @Shonali that it will be a great way for businesses to tell their stories!

    • ginidietrich

      @yvettepistorio LOL!! Thank you for that visual.

      • @ginidietrich @yvettepistorio Doesn’t livefyre give extra points for a Seinfeld reference? WTH?

        • ginidietrich

          @Lisa Gerber @yvettepistorio LOL! We need to talk to them about that!

        • yvettepistorio

          @ginidietrich @Lisa Gerber Seriously, get on that 😉

  • John_Trader1

    As we count down the days to Facebook’s IPO, I feel like this won’t be the last of the changes we will see so they can build more relevance and utility into their platform. These changes seem to be sound and will pay dividends for those who are able to take advantage. Appreciate you writing this post to summarize. And the evolution of modern day story telling continues…

    • ginidietrich

      @John_Trader1 We likey the storytelling, don’t we?

      • John_Trader1

        @ginidietrich Facebook is trying to turn itself into: “Once upon a timeline…”

  • WilliamDeRosa

    While I love Timeline, and love fanpages being able to use this awesome layout, I predict a lot of flak over it. My clients are raging (we admin over 140 fanpages) about what is going to happen to the landing pages they spent so much money on for design and coding, the many many tabs purchased to connect various platforms, custom iFrame pages developed and integrated…contest tabs…even the sidebar graphics. If they take away all we built and that clients have spent money on, the clients (and biz/organizations) who don’t see a physical $ ROI will bail, or at least get jaded over this slap. Change is awesome, but it must also embrace the hard work and efforts of businesses who have invested so much time and money into the platform.

    • @WilliamDeRosa Amen, William. Amen.

    • ginidietrich

      @WilliamDeRosa Really great point! I can’t imagine they’d take away all that functionality, but then again…they probably don’t care what we think.

      • WilliamDeRosa

        @ginidietrich @DannyBrown Unfortunately (and I am a fb developer, so I’ll be kind!) they seem to think they can pretty much do anything since they are so large and powerful. They don’t believe brands or businesses will leave regardless due to the sheer size of available audience. We are in for an interesting day on the 29th (which in Facebook time, this means timeline for pages will come sometime in July! lol) when this all comes about. Hold hands and hope that FB understands the impact this will have.

        • ginidietrich

          @WilliamDeRosa Well, just like MySpace and AOL and other giants, they may have to learn their lesson the hard way.

        • WilliamDeRosa

          @ginidietrich I liked MySpace lol

      • patrickboegel

        @ginidietrich@WilliamDeRosa With that in mind, I would not anticipate this feature rolling out terribly quickly. There are clearly willing to test this based on brand interest, but then again, if the plan is to leave the current functionality for those brand who have invested in iFrame tab applications, then really, the most they will do here is add a header image and some customization to the status updates of a brand, ie locking which one you want pinned, ala what Twitter brand pages do. I think it is inevitable that they want brand pages to serve more as a minor touch point toward richer deeper application development. Facebook is NOT about the brand pages, it is about the actual general everyday user, the brand pages have no sustainability without engaged users. Facebook in my opinion is better off fostering brands to find ways to become more application driven via the open graph than it does via tabs.

  • HeatherTweedy

    To start, I can’t wait to see Timeline for businesses. I know my designer is already chomping at the bit to take advantage of the new layout. I’m very curious to see if the addition of Timeline increases traffic to actual brand pages.

    That said, I see where @WilliamDeRosa is coming from. Companies like Facebook present the ultimate challenge in that it’s unwise for clients to ignore the 800-pound gorilla but said gorilla can also smash all of your great plans to bits with one move. We try to warn clients that the benefit of Facebook’s reach comes with the con of being at their mercy, but it’s hard to explain when thousands (or tens or hundreds of thousands) appear to be wasted.

    However, I think one thing everyone could agree on is that a search bar within Facebook pages would be a phenomenal addition. If the rumors are true, it could possibly the first change ever to not warrant panic! Let’s see more of those, Facebook! 🙂

    • ginidietrich

      @HeatherTweedy I really, really hope they do the search bar. It’s already available in groups and it’s a God send somedays.

      • HeatherTweedy

        @ginidietrich If I’m wishing for updates, can they also add the edit post functionality that Google+ has? 😉

        • ginidietrich

          @HeatherTweedy And a way to schedule updates, too? In a way that doesn’t hurt you?

  • I don’t have much productive to add to the actual topic, but I’d like to say one thing. Telling us to read someone else’s post first is like the coolest thing ever. Obviously your established, but even so, most wouldn’t have had the cojones to send their readers to another blog. I love it – SCREAMS confidence and that you’re a badass for keeping our interests in mind.

    • ginidietrich

      @SociallyGenius LOL!! Thanks. But did you go over there? It’s so worth it. It’s so worth it, in fact, I wouldn’t mind if no one came back here. Today. Just today.

      • @ginidietrich Yup, you can even check the comment time stamps for indisputable proof. Came here and was like “Wow, this must be good if Gini’s opening with it!” And while you may be like an elephant (you said that, not me), I’m like a loyal dog that always finds his way home

        • ginidietrich

          @SociallyGenius I believe I said I have the MIND of an elephant. #goodlord

        • @SociallyGenius There is an elephant who often comes around my house to eat the banana trees.@ginidietrich does not look anything like her at first glance, or at 57549th.

          BTW Gini, how do you get that “My latest conversation” blurb? You need certain points?

      • @ginidietrich @SociallyGenius LOL

        • ginidietrich

          @MichaelBesson @SociallyGenius We’re all fun and games here.

  • There’s some interesting points of view/ comments in this thread.

    Facebook has done one thing very effectively; they’ve gotten folks to expect change. People don’t like it, but if they expect it, they’re more prepared for it!

    We’ve just completed building a FB application platform for a corporate client with 400+ distributors and they’ll be promoting it to over 250K active customers. Yikes!

    Based on @WilliamDeRosa ‘s comment, makes me think – “Oh shit!”

    May need to rework somethings, eh?

    You gotta love Facebook!

    • ginidietrich

      @Mark_Harai Don’t freak yet. We don’t know if this will take away all the time and money we’ve put into iFrames and customization. If it does, your thinking will be effective. In fact, you may want to say more than that.

      • @ginidietrich Thanks for your encouraging words Gini 😮

        What to say, what to say… lol!

    • @Mark_Harai @WilliamDeRosa That’s outrageous, I’d love to see that some time..

    • WilliamDeRosa

      @Mark_Harai lol I know. I have several speaking engagements over the next 2 weeks, two of which are based on facebook marketing and getting your page optimized etc…I now have to add a caveat to the beginning “For the next 2 or 3 weeks…”

  • ryancox

    Facebook Timelines for business pages vs. snow for @ginidietrich . Which happens first? (I’m taking bets)

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  • I didn’t know the expected FB biz page timeline release date, way cool keeping us up to date on that. My sense is that this could be the best asset of the FB business pages to date. I suspect that only time will tell..

  • I know I’m late to the party…but I had to second how awesome @Shonali ‘s Valentine video was! By far my favorite Valentine…my boyfriend was not happy he got trumped but hey he didn’t serenade me either!

  • In my opinion, Facebook has missed several opportunities to get the business side of Facebook right. And if they figure it out this time it’s going to be really big. But even if they don’t, it will at least have an impact for the biz that keeps an ear to the street.

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  • benwhut

    I’ve got mixed feelings about the new Timeline, but the Cover Photo would be great for marketing. However, one big beef is that the Cover Photo is so awkwardly shaped. It’s expansively wide and really stout. All the photos I want to use either get cropped severely or don’t fit right. I did find an app that lets me make my Cover Photos look really good that I wanted to share. 
    It allows you to use multiple images and add text.
    You can see some pretty inspiring user-generated samples here:

  • CynthiaSteenbarger