By now, your brand’s Facebook page has probably converted over to the new Timeline format. Timeline was introduced as a radically new version of the old Facebook profile. When it was announced, users complained that the new profile page wasn’t as clean or organized as the old “wall” and marketers bemoaned the fact that brands could no longer choose the landing tab visitors saw when arriving on their page. In spite of the criticism, Facebook made the change mandatory and switched all brand pages effective March 30, 2012.
Facebook had its reasons for making the change. First, social media is now a more mature business and Facebook needed to differentiate itself from other platforms like Google+ which offer many of the same features (and some new innovations Facebook doesn’t offer.) Also, Facebook seemed intent on making brand pages a destination. Prior to Timeline, fewer than 2% of users visited the average brand’s page after liking it. Facebook wanted to boost engagement and saw Timeline as a better way for brands to share their content. With that decision made, Facebook had to decide if it was better to let users keep their old profile and implement Timeline for brands or create a uniform experience across the platform. Simplicity won out.
While the jury is still out in terms of the overall effect (some initial studies suggest that engagement has gone up) little data has been published about Timeline’s impact on brand’s ability to generate the “Like.” Some pundits will argue that it doesn’t matter because Likes don’t mean as much if consumers are oblivious to the brand when they walk past it in the store. They’ll also cite several studies which claim that the number one reason consumers like a brand on Facebook is to get free stuff. They’ll tell you that you must separate the wheat from the chaff and engage the users who are truly passionate about your brand.
For an established brand this might make sense, but if you’re starting a new business, have a new product, or are just beginning with social media it creates a “chicken or the egg” scenario. After all, how can you engage if no one likes your page? Getting the Like isn’t the end-goal, but it is a necessary first step.