In Social Media Connections Still King

With Facebook’s recent adaption of the Timeline page layout for brand pages, many Facebook marketers have shifted their focus to improving the look of their brand page.  While a shiny new layout is always exciting (“koodos” to Telus for the most creative use of the new layout I have seen to date), it is important not to forget that Facebook is primarily a conduit to connections.  For well over a decade, online marketing has focused on websites, to which marketers have attempted to drive traffic.  For many brands on Facebook the biggest challenge is shifting their thinking away from their Facebook page as a destination, and embracing their page as a broadcast tool.  The danger of a change to Facebook’s layout of brand pages, with Timeline being the most significant to date, is that marketers revert back to treating their Facebook page like a destination.

Initial reports on the change to page layout point to increased levels of interaction (link). Which is no surprise, given that Zuckerberg has an incredible knack for overcoming internal and external resistance to change, to ultimately produce an offering that strikes a balance between usefulness, simplicity and engagement.  The fact remains however, that the easiest way to develop a connection with a consumer at scale is through Facebook advertising, and the best way to foster that connection is through a sound publishing strategy.   At no point in a “relationship” between a brand and their fan base is a visit to a brand’s Facebook page a critical step; and even in cases where a visit to a brand page occurs, the ongoing interaction after the fact is generally going to happen in a user’s Newsfeed.

When I worked at Facebook, I often told our client/partners that Facebook was unlike the film Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come” does not work in the world of Facebook.  What good is building the most innovative app if you don’t first have the fanbase to justify the build? or at least the marketing budget to expose your social media initiative to a significant portion of your target market.   The goal of building the app that is truly organically “viral” is rarely attainable, even for the biggest brand pages, without some media support.  Although Facebook has utilized social tools within their ad units for years, there were previously two steps to most successful Facebook strategies for top brands.  1.  Aggregate fans (most often via ads).  2. Create engagement (most often via publishing).  With some of the recent changes to Facebook’s ad products, such as sponsored stories & reach generator, marketers have new tools that blend these two steps into one, but it still comes down to creating connections.

The blur between content and ads is nothing new for Facebook.  The philosophy at Facebook has been unique from the outset, and firmly entrenched since the last Microsoft display ad ran on Facebook about 3 years ago; provide consumers with relevant ads thanks to sound targeting, in a non-interruptive format, that enriches their user experience and provides social tools that can lay the foundation for authentic, two-way connections.  Brands need to rely on connections to produce “social context” in ad units, and showcase brand-to-consumer interaction as a way to inspire “trusted referral”. For marketersthat understand that, and don’tlose sight of the importance of connectivity, the change to the brand page layout should be a positive.  Businesses that are best at telling stories and creating emotional connectionsare going to be the most influential in the social space. Simply put, photos generate more engagement, and make social media more “social” because they are a better emotional trigger than a simple text post in most cases (link).

Overall improvement in per post analytics is bound to happen as a side effect of the new timeline layout, but the majority of this benefit is still going to come via communication in users’ newsfeeds rather than engagement on your brand page.  Having more visual posts will make the average message from a brand more engaging for most users, but frankly that is something that savvy page managers should have figured out before the new Timeline was introduced.  This change is surely a helpful catalyst for many brands.  What marketers cannot lose sight of is that the best looking Facebook page is only as good as the number of connections you have – and the single most efficient way to make those connections in most cases is a well-planned Facebook media spend.  Don’t fall into the trap of allocating a disproportionate amount of your effort to the look and feel of your new page if your resources are limited.  Facebook, as always, is a work in progress, so embrace the new profile layout and iterate, but don’t lose sight of the value of a connection.


With 10 years experience selling broadcast media (TV/Radio), Mike’s most recent media sales positions are with MySpace 2007-09 and Facebook 2009-2011.  Mike is now VP, Social Media at The Metrick System in Toronto, where he advises on social media strategy.

In our next edition Mike’s article on social media will focus on where social media truly fits in the consumer purchase funnel, as well as his concept “value proposition pyramid” for social media.


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