This post has also been featured on the Dachis Group Collaboratory and Stuzo Insights.

“If the original Facebook was the first five minutes [of a conversation] and the stream was the next 15, what I want to show you today is the rest –- the next few hours of a deep engaging conversation.” – Mark Zuckerberg, f8 2011

On September 22, 2011 we were presented with some groundbreaking platform updates and partnerships, which would shape the way we engage in social channels as end users, technical solution providers and marketers. Notably, a major release at the time was Timeline for Facebook users.

Working in the area of brand marketing, I find this quote from that release rings just as true with the announcement of the the brand Timeline and new products at fMC (Facebook Marketing Conference) in New York on February 29th.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, opened the event by sharing some moments in which connections through the Facebook Platform have had a dramatic impact on government, family and institutions.

Chris Cox, VP of Product, echoed Mark’s original sentiments in his keynote today – this time expanding from the f8 presentations, discussing how the Facebook evolution more directly relates to brands and marketers.

Mike Hoefflinger, Director of Global Business Marketing at Facebook, delivered a compelling keynote, which gave a deeper overview of the platform changes and clearly marking Facebook’s positioning going forward from today. His delivery addressed the major announcement that Timeline is now available for brands and is “the richest, most customized marketing canvas we’ve ever built.” The point he clearly presented is that more and more Pages are going to become “mission control” for businesses to engage with consumers across all areas of the platform. We also received an overview of the new advertiser solutions to help brands achieve scale across the platform being offered from Facebook which we will provide an overview of later in this post.

Brand Pages Product and Timeline Updates

Below are some of the updates being released as part of the new brand pages product. This includes an entire page redesign and functionality updates, giving brands Timelines.

- Friend Activity is now surfaced on a brand’s Timeline. If someone likes or comments, stories of how your friends engage with the brand are surfaced. A more relevant and personal experiences can be delivered for each user of the page by being able to see how their friends are engaging.

- A new views and apps section helps users navigate to other parts of your page. “Tabs” which were formerly on the left hand side of the page have been replaced with the ability to select “views” across the top of the page. The photo application always shows as the first app option, and the page owner can control which other 3 immediately show to users in the same row with a custom designed icon. In total, through an expanded list option, up to 12 views can be surfaced to the users.

- The composer now provides the ability for brands to “pin” a story. These pin anchors posts at the top of the page by default for 7 days, unless refreshed. Marketers are still encouraged post frequently through their content strategy, while having one main story featured throughout the course of the content calendar.

 

- Page posts can be “starred.” Starring makes a post go full width across the Timeline to prominently feature the story. Posts can also be “hidden” from the public view, but still visible in the admins Activity Log.

- Milestones are now an option in the composer. Page owners can add an event, with a mandatory photo to feature relevant or key moments in the brands history. These have a larger story format and help highlight defining moments.

- Page owners can now change dates on posts to populate and manage timeline.

Brands can now assign a Cover Photo to show at the top of their Timeline. This large creative canvas area, set at 851×315 pixels provides an opportunity to create an immediate visual impact. It’s important to note that there are policies for brands related to how to use the platform and the Cover Photo, which includes limitations on using this creative area for promotional messaging and certain calls to action. The profile picture still exists, and is the consistent representation that is used when the brand icon is shown throughout the platform.

There are also a handful of updates when it comes to administering a page as an owner. These include the “Activity Log,” which can be used to manage Timeline and posts to control Timeline content. Also announced is a new “messaging” option for users to connect directly, and privately, with page owners to create a one-on-one dialogue. User Insights management and notifications options are also enhanced in the administration area.

As a page owner, you can preview and push your Timeline live at anytime. Note that your page will automatically roll over to Timeline, if not performed manually, on March 30, 2012.

New Advertising Products

“This is where marketing on Facebook is going to feel like the rest of Facebook.” – Mike Hoefflinger, Facebook’s Director of Global Business Marketing

Facebook also announced their new advertising solutions for marketers on the platform. Their key point through connecting Pages to the new distribution opportunities is that we are no longer creating ad messaging but providing the opportunity to deliver stories at scale and the amplification to drive a return on investment.

The new advertising (or I guess I should say, “story”) distribution offerings include Reach Generator, Premium on Facebook and Offers.

Reach Generator is an offering from Facebook to increase distribution and provide more visibility and ultimately brand favorability for brands. This enables brands to take stories they post from their page (“mission control”) and gain distribution by being featured on the right hand side of the home screen. Facebook reported on average, brands reach about 16% of their fans on a typical week through stories. The distribution and placement of stories through Reach Generator provides the opportunity to push this reach to 50% (and beyond) on a weekly basis and increase engagement levels. This has been in beta for a few months, and Facebook reported this story placement is providing double the engagement levels than posts not being featured on the home screen.

Premium on Facebook is Facebook’s premier offering for marketers on the platform and what they are stating is “the most impactful way to distribute your content.”

Starting at the Page level again, this product allows a story, which is created once to be distributed in multiple areas of the site for maximum reach. These placements include:

- Right hand side of the home page (as noted above.)

- Eligibility for sponsored distribution in the Facebook Newsfeed.

- Facebook’s logout screen will now show stories and become another area of distribution.

- Distribution to mobile devices.

Sponsored stories in the newfeed are showing a 5-10x CTR over placement in other areas of the site. Currently Facebook serves up over 100 billion impressions daily through the newsfeed and it is where people are expecting the stories in their life to be surfaced.

37 million Facebook users log out of the site every day (believe it or not, people do log out) and this has traditionally been an untapped area of real estate. Expect logout screen story distribution to be available in April ’11, while newsfeed and mobile distribution is already available. This announcement solidifies Facebook’s mobile positioning as they distribute these stories at scale to the over 425 million mobile users.

Offers provide a way for brands to get promotions in front of their more important customers. Offers can be distributed through a story, featured and give users the opportunity to claim the offer through 1 click, where it is then sent to their email and mobile device. Along with this there is frictionless distribution when you engage with an Offer.

 

As brand marketers, we all need to be master storytellers to drive word of mouth at scale. It is also becoming critical to optimize your business to coordinate content with the media teams. From a content strategy perspective, marketers need to monitor and understand what does and does not work to optimize their new Timelines and scale opportunities. Equally important to drive this distribution, there needs to be an awareness and a connection to when content reaches a certain level of engagement with the media team so they can amplify the best performing content through Facebook’s new products in a timely matter.

To sum up Facebook’s positioning… now is the time for brand marketers (whether they have before or not), to focus on leveraging the power of the platform to engage in two-way conversations and deliver rich social experiences that drive engagement and curate stories over time. This can be done through the the various Timeline story types, custom experiences and a multitude of other ways. Facebook on their end, has put a stake in the ground to be the command center for businesses looking to engage consumers in a social manner at scale. With 800+ million active users and the most advanced owned, earned and paid media products on the market, Facebook is bar none becoming more and more critical for brands. Throughout the day, Facebook and its key clients touched on the complexity of social business efforts and the need for trusted partners that can deliver the strategy, management, technologies and services in this ever-evolving ecosystem.

“We are going to find our voice, learn how to use it, listen and learn how to adapt… in small and powerful ways every single day.” – Sheryl Sandberg at fMC as she discussed the evolution of brands and marketers with today’s announcements.