Wasting Timeline

Source: Edgerank Checker

Are you having difficulties with the new Facebook Timeline for Brands? Feel like you are wasting your time?

You are not alone. In fact, according to Edgerank Checker a majority brands are seeing a significant drop in traffic and activity from their organic Facebook community management efforts. But it’s not because of Timeline. Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm for its controversial news feed changed, and is not sourcing brand posts with low interaction.

The average drop in traffic for brand pages is 10%, according to Edgerank Checker. In fact, a majority of brands are seeing a decrease in their page activity both before and after Timeline conversion. This demonstratesthe need for social interaction to be recognized by the Edgerank formula.

As most folks know getting sourced in Facebook’s newsfeed is the primary source of traffic, likes and fans on the network. User engagement is embodied by comments, likes and shares on Facebook. Edgerank recognizes these types of engagement as Actions and is quicker to source them in the larger Facebook newsfeed.

While user engagement on a Facebook brand page can drive newsfeed activity, most brands fail to do more than post standard content. And in the new Timeline format engagement on a brand page must be initiated by a fan. That creates new problems for brands that don’t interact on Facebook.

However, you could say that grassroots activity through brand ambassadors posting on Timeline represents an even stronger opportunity for brands. Getting people to talk about your effort instead of you talking about yourself becomes paramount for causes and brands.

Investment on Facebook should always be about where time and money is best spent. And for most nonprofits and brands with small marketing budgets, direct Timeline posting will continue to dwindle UNLESS they can get other people interacting with that content. That means they will have to adapt to the new format.

Timeline Is Now Pay to Play

Some brands say they have strengthened their community with timeline “and other tools [Facebook] announced.” The key word there is other tools: e.g. advertising. Most brands experiencing success are large revenue companies that spending money and resources, and deploying highly visual content.

At SxSW Facebook discussed its new marketing tools under NDA with select brands. A reliable source said the event was a thinly veiled sales call to spend significantly more on advertising if brands want to be successful with Timeline. By spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions, brands can influence their Edgerank.

Ads in the new system need some social context to drive continued engagement and influence Edgerank. Seeding content to a stakeholder group and getting engagement via advertising empowers brands to “let the value” of comments and likes roll with the Edgerank the post has “earned.” In addition, brands are penalized for sending traffic off site, and now should use in-line Facebook ads with special coupon codes.

Regardless, what this means for small and medium sized nonprofits, brands and individuals is that they probably can’t afford the investment necessary to dominate Facebook Timeline and influence Edgerank. That means brands should start focusing on getting in the newsfeed to successfully drive word of mouth on Facebook.

Word of Mouth Principles

Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) or grassroots activism as its known within the sector is about getting other people to talk about you. It’s really the driver of Edgerank technology. Optimizing posts with visual content and the right text (See Kami Huyse post on this) is critical for Timeline brand updates to work.

But this not a huge secret. Creating noteworthy content is a critical component of social media success. Optimizing that content for a particular medium is just good business. If people don’t have something to talk about…

At Mightycause, Director of Product Development Mike Cowden optimized Mightycause’s application for Timeline. He made sure that once a user opted into Timeline updates, any donation, new fundraiser, comment, or a wish to help a cause was recognized by Timeline as an action. Actions get higher priority from Edgerank for sourcing into the newsfeed, which in turn inspires greater conversation and dialogue. As you can see by the above chart, the results have been consistently strong.

You need the people. And that’s why brand evangelists are even more important than ever. No matter how great your content you need people talking about you organically (without prompting). That means relationship development and making your part of the conversation imminently shareable (on and off Facebook) becomes even more important in the face of Edgerank’s changes. Otherwise you are wasting your Timeline.