Retooled Facebook Could Give Brands More Ways to Reach Consumers

New Timeline Won't Apply, but Brand Pages Will Be 'Consistent' With Look

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Facebook today unveiled a major redesign to its profile pages called Timeline, which transforms the list of status messages and comments into a scrapbook of a user's entire history on the platform. Even though this transforms the entire aesthetic and function of profile pages, this doesn't apply to brands and their pages.

While the updates revealed at Facebook's F8 conference add a suite of new tools for users to express what they are interested in -- like music, recipes, TV shows and news -- there's little detail on what brand pages will look like going forward. What we do know is that they won't look exactly like Timeline, but, according to Facebook VP-Global Marketing Solutions David Fischer, will be "consistent" with the Timeline look-and-feel, which is picture-heavy and curated to highlight only the most important events in a user's life.

The new Timeline pages let users feature any content -- check-ins, photos or other updates -- in longer-view reverse chronological order. So instead of the status updates and likes from the last week or month of activity, a user profile page can look like a summary of his or her entire existence on the social network.

"It suddenly gives [users] the opportunity to share what business you're in, the products you're using or buying and sharing that with your friends," said Mr. Fischer.

Users can also tack applications from media companies and developers on their timelines. For example, with the Nike Plus app, users can publish the runs and distances recorded on its mobile app straight to Facebook pages. Media behavior can also be stored there with top-viewed movies or TV shows or favorite songs or albums gleaned from apps from Hulu, Netflix or Spotify respectively.

So what's the opportunity for marketers?

The most immediate implications are for entertainment marketers. Now that users can share what they are listening to, watching or reading on Facebook through media partner applications, marketers can grab those mentions and give them wider distribution through sponsored stories. So far, marketers have only been able to take users' check-ins or status updates about their brands and distribute them to a wider Facebook audience. Sony Pictures for the upcoming movie "Moneyball" plans to promote when users watch the trailer; the band Coldplay will promote when users are listening to its music.

"Marketers want to promote stories about the things they're affiliated with but don't always own the apps," said Gokul Rajaram, Facebook Ads director of product management, referring to apps from services such as Spotify, Netflix or Hulu that allow users to share what content they're consuming. "Now you can promote stories from any app about objects you own, not just from the page owned by the marketer."

But for Facebook, which eMarketer predicts will clear $3.8 billion from advertising this year, will all these changes add up to more revenue? "Anything that increases engagement on Facebook, and captures more user data, will drive up ad revenues," said Hussein Fazal, CEO of Ad Parlor. "The announcements today definitely hit both of these key points."

This also opens up a whole new way to target . What users are listening to, watching or reading now will become a filter to serve ads against. For now, this new way to target ads will only be available through Facebook Ads' API and its direct sales team.

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