The Facebook timeline marks the biggest change to personal profiles that I can remember. It is a large shift. The obvious question that arises from this change is “will Facebook rollout timelines to business pages as well?”
We simply do not know, but is where things could get pretty interesting (and disruptive) for businesses.
Learning From Facebook’s Past
In the past, whenever Facebook has made changes to profile pages, changes to business pages have followed a few months later. They are not always exactly equal, but usually equally disruptive.
If business pages get converted over to something even remotely similar to timelines, it will be the biggest shift in business pages since they were created. It would likely mean current tab layouts will be trashed and a lot of work done by brands and vendors would have to be rewritten.
We have seen Facebook show little concern with forcing all businesses to changeover, dumping old tab layouts for new dimensions. So we know they have it in them to force this big of a change if they believe in its value. But we also have seen them show a little constraint and give time with big changes as they did with the recent switch from FBML to iFrame focused tab content.
What Are The Opportunities For Businesses?
I think the new timeline layout could also offer a lot of opportunity to brands. The new timeline basically has one large visual section up top and a bunch of widgets down below. Using widgets to feature games, content, promotions and fans offers some cool opportunities. And if Facebook opened up the cover image space for some HTML5 wizardy (which is probably a big long shot) we could see some very cool, interactive brand pages that are ascetically pleasing and sound marketing channels.
Our Best Educated Guesses
Facebook will likely make a big change to business pages in the next 6 to 9 months. It will likely not be a full swing over to the user timeline, but will still be a big change.
1. Tabs will remain in some form – We know this because there is an industry built around tabs. Facebook’s own ad system is largely built on sending clicks to tabs. And Facebook NEEDS to maintain legal separation from some content by making sure it is in an iFrame and off their site. This either means pages will not be getting Timeline OR they get Timeline and pages will exist as they do now, one click away.
2. Apps will reign supreme – Facebook has made it clear that the big opportunity to interact with fans in the future is with apps that compel users to share info and actions. These future apps of Facebook will live mainly on external site activity and in user timelines. But Facebook will need to find a way to integrate these apps into Facebook business pages as well.
3. Timelines do not work as well for brands – I can see something similar to an historical Timeline for brand pages, but I think it will be emphasized. Brands want engagement and marketing space. A brand Timeline would be cool to show past photos, announcements, achievements, etc, but little of that space achieves likes, comments, or conversions for a business. If we see a brand timeline, I suspect it will not be head of the class.
4. Widgets are interesting – Current user profiles offer a limited number of widgets or “Channels” that Facebook allows users to control. Friends, maps, etc (full list above). This option on a brand page is both useful and dangerous. It can add quite a lot of noise and very little focus in a short time period. While it would be cool to be able to add a lot of brand customized widgets, we know the more things we put on a brand page, the less focused the consumer journey will be. Ultimately I see either now Channels on brand pages or even fewer options than the user timelines have. And perhaps even a smaller space allotted.
5. Covers are a waste of space – Covers are great for personal pages, but they seem to be too big for a business page. It basically forces you to scroll as your first step on a page. It is hard to predict how this would affect users’ interaction with pages. I see Facebook either using covers for business pages with a smaller height OR not rolling them out on business pages overall.
The Timeline is a big change for Facebook and points to a lot of opportunities for businesses without the need to change business pages dramatically. Facebook seems to be learning how to take better care of their business customers. The ones who pay for all those ads.
For now, businesses should focus on Focus on the newsfeed, ads, and apps.
What do you think, will Facebook roll out timelines for businesses?
Image source: Mashable