It’s that time again: Facebook interface changes. Yes, the end of February is slated to be another significant mile marker for Facebook, with the potential for a few growing pains for users/companies. After launching Timeline for user profiles in October, Facebook’s long-awaited shift to the Timeline for Pages is poised to be revealed at the Facebook Marketer Conference, Feb. 29. Some marketers are rejoicing, but the new layout also has its share of critics.
Since Timeline’s rollout, users have professed their love and displeasure over the new format (Mashable even provided readers with a cheat sheet on how to revert to “Facebook Classic”). Facebook has reassured its users that Timeline for Pages will not be an exact replica of the profile version, but the changes do beg the question, “Will this new interface foster new engagement or leave users disenchanted?” We can anticipate a few likely advantages and backlashes of the new UI:
- “It’s so shiny!”
The additional visual real estate is nothing to scoff at. The photo-rich display gives brands more flexibility to showcase their brand identity through products, logos or other assets and stimulate visual interest.
- “Where were you when?”
Brands can include significant dates and changes to their Timelines in a way the current wall format does not allow. “Remember when the original iPhone broke the mobile-computer barrier? When did that happen again? Oh right, launched June 2007.”
- “Look at me! Look at me!”
Brand wall posts appear to have a bolder call out, making it easier for fans to identify official content (or so predicts 247Grad).
- “It’s so shiny!”
This time I’m referring to viewers’ divided attention between the wall columns. The distracting layout could frustrate viewers trying to find specific information and left wondering how page admins will find fans’ comments/inquiries. It’s not a far reach that growing frustrations could lead to an increased bounce rate.
- “The dog ate your comment, customer.”
Fans aren’t the only ones who could potentially be frustrated with the divided columns; brands could more easily overlook their customers’ feedback among the posting noise. Even with the high volume of customers using social media to communicate their opinions to brands, only 8% are fully satisfied with their social customer service experience. Companies have a growing obligation to provide an appropriate level of customer support on their respective social sites to drive customer satisfation and retention. If brands don’t respond, users’ dependency on peer recommendations will increase, producing more postings amongst fans, and contributing to an overflow of comments. If Facebook retains the filtering option to distinguish between fan and page posts, this noise could be avoided, but the column formatting does not lend itself to easily identifying customer posts.
- “Show me where my tabs at. Where my tabs at?”
A key customization piece for brand pages has been the ability to create campaign-based tabs — an element which could be threatened with Timeline. If 247Grad’s design predictions are correct, Welcome and other custom tabs may still exist for brands to drive Likes, but may not have as significant a call out as they do in current form. Regardless, agencies and brands will need to prepare to relearn the format parameters and re-cut all existing graphics on current tabs.
- “And I’m like, forget you.”
Assuming that any of the prior points actually happen, brands run the risk of losing valuable customers’ attention to another site. How will your strategies need to evolve to maintain and grow engagement?
Brands can expect that platform changes like this will continue at a rapid pace, as social networks strive to become even more ingrained in daily habits. Especially when platforms change, it’s important to have a plan to move users from the social channel to your site. Timeline is a pivotal moment for companies to better represent their websites’ social capabilities.
How are you facilitating an engagement environment on your website, where you have complete control? Have you enabled social sharing, login or commenting? What do you anticipate the pros and cons of Timeline will be for your brand?