My expectations were sky-high but after several hours I realized that Facebook timeline is going to be a lot harder to implement than most brands think. As it stands now, there is a clear divide between brands that have "adopted" the timeline feature set full on and those that have simply "migrated" their old strategy to the timeline format with a few old brand assets tossed in for backfill.
Brand timelines such as those of Captain Morgan USA, which eschewed old ads and brand assets in favor of recreated period scenes, and The New York Times, which, anachronistically, documents behind-the-scenes newsroom happenings, come off as inventive. Likewise, that was the goal for client Fanta, whose brand characters are trapped in a lost-in-time game. In contrast, brands that displayed no clear adoption strategy were notable for the dual column, text-based timelines that felt visually reminiscent of a phone book.
This begs the question of what Facebook timeline for brands really means. How does it alter brand behavior vis-a-vis Facebook? And what are the resulting implications for brands looking to "adopt" vs. "migrate"?
The obvious change is the forced evolution of a brand to tell their story visually and chronologically. Taking full advantage of timeline will require increased time and attention from strategists and creatives who understand social narrative. Companies that heavily invest in this and use timeline as an opportunity to mature their approach to the platform will see Facebook start to produce real business results, in the form of conversion, change in preference and lead generation. Companies that resist investing will continue to see only minor business gains.
Beyond strategy, the new feature puts multimedia content at the core of the Facebook experience. The look of the new cover/profile photo, the hyper-visual layout, the pinned posts and the front-and-center placement of applications will reward brands who can not only develop a meaningful timeline strategy but "feed the beast" with a regular stream of content. With one fell swoop, Facebook is forcing brands to become publishers. Brands with a nimble view of social content and established planning processes will find it easy to dial up multimedia within their existing frameworks. However, those still figuring out what social publishing and planning entails may find their system stress tested by this influx of multimedia.
Finally, the Reach Generator premium-advertising option places true emphasis on quality editorial content and real-time media planning. Reach Generator will promote an actual post to 50% to 75% of a brand's existing fans via newsfeeds online and in mobile. However, the post becomes the ad, an important distinction. As such, the most successful brand pages will be run by a community manager who is an all-in-one moderator, editor, copywriter, analytics pro and media planner. In the near term, this individual and position may not exist, and the community-management bench will need to deepen to accommodate more expert voices. Irrespective of the Reach Generator product, this evolution to the community manager of tomorrow is one that is required if a brand is to truly embrace the new feature set -- and business opportunity -- that Facebook is making available.