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17 April 2012

Is Facebook Timeline ignoring community engagement?

Rachel Hawkes, account director, Elemental By Rachel Hawkes

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence around at the moment about how Facebook’s Timeline is driving user engagement.  Whilst this may be true to some extents, is it necessarily the whole picture?

Adobe released a report that stated engagement across Facebook had increased by 176% in the first quarter of this year. It puts this spike largely down to changes Facebook has implemented recently – particularly Timeline.  Another report by Simply Measured looked brands including Toyota, Red Bull, Ben & Jerrys etc., that were quick to adopt Timeline ahead of the March 30th roll out and found that those brands saw a 14% increase in fan engagement, 46% increase in content engagement and 65% increase in interactive content engagement (of photos and video).

Timeline has some great new features, such as the cover image, which allows a brand to tell an instant story and being able to pin an individual post (or posts) to the top of the Timeline for an extra seven days to gain additional exposure.  Visual content has always been a great way of sparking engagement from users, and with Timeline brands now have the ability to ‘star’ what they feel is a compelling photo or video to highlight it to users.

Not necessarily driving engagement, there are also – finally – a level of moderation tools for Page owners, and users can also now send the Page a private message which can assist in general enquiries, customer service and similar.

But what is Timeline doing for peer-to-peer engagement?  Now, all of the messages on a Page by users are grouped together under ‘Recent Posts by Others’ and it shows snippets of the latest few posts.  Page owners may highlight a post by a user to bring it to the top of that list (as they can can with their own posts) – and only then does is it visible on the main Timeline - but it's not in real time and relies on manual intervention by the page pwner.  So, if your Facebook audience use your page as a community, they interact with each other, answer each other’s questions and swap stories – the question is whether Facebook Timeline helping or hindering that?

From what I can see, the answer is that it's currently hindering it.  Most brands should be ultimately striving for peer-to-peer engagement helping to bring users back to the Page time and again to check for new posts by other users.  It also fosters a sense of community and cuts down on the management by the brand if other people are acknowledging and answering posts on its behalf.

Automatically hiding these posts away rather than integrating them with the overall Timeline means they aren’t seen and are for the most part, ignored.  Yes, Timeline offers more tools for Page owners to drive engagement through its own content, but it leaves the community out in the cold.

It will be interesting to see how, if and when Facebook will address this.

Verity Facebook Insights
Facebook insights for a client page

Categories: Social media, Marketing

Tags: Facebook, timeline, community, Facebook Pages, Facebook Timeline, peer to peer, engagement

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