Creative Ways To Use Your Facebook Timeline

For those of us who help create and manage social media campaigns across many platforms, changes to any social media channel’s format often present a host of challenges – and opportunities.  Once you’re past the angst of having to deal with an entirely new format, it’s time to think about ways you can leverage this new development to your advantage.  Here are just a few creative ways you can use Facebook’s new Timeline layout to elevate your brand:

Design Creative Cover Photos

Like an overpowering billboard, the new 851 x 351 pixel “cover photo” is up to you to plan and use effectively.  With a little creative elbow grease, you can transform this expansive area into something downright awesome.  Not everyone is capable of graphically designing with the complexity of the space provided in mind, let alone using the free online opportunity to their real advantage.

Yes…there are rules to using this space to Facebook’s specifications.  This is not a space for commercial use.  Inviting your visitors to like your website, or tell your friends about your business is not allowed.  Nor can you include such things as price or purchase locations – and don’t think this is a place for your business address and contact information.  But do think of it as a first impression to your brand’s overall image, a visual “hello” to old and new fans.

Don’t let that discourage you from promoting your business.  If you’re stumped, take a moment to review these examples of effective Facebook Timelines. 

There’s no reason you can’t use your timeline area to promote the benefits of your brand – and change the image out frequently to keep your Facebook audience interested and engaged in your ongoing progress.

Pin Or Star It For Emphasis

Some information on your page may be promotional in nature.  Pinning your posts to the top of your page will keep that one special post at the top of your timeline for an entire week (7 days).  If you’re running a business promotion or have a conversation that’s become extremely popular, pinning your post to the top is one way to control the content on your timeline page without the previous landing page options.

Pinning is easy:

On your Facebook fan page timeline, choose the post you wish to pin to the top.

Hover your mouse over the top right hand corner of the post and the pencil will appear with the options Edit or remove.

Click to Enlarge Image

Click the pencil.

The menu will now appear with the option to Pin to Top.

Select Pin to Top.

Another Timeline option Facebook as enabled is the ability to “star” posts – enabling them to be given preference in your timeline.  A starred post will expand to display across the full-page of your profile – a wide 403 pixels.  Consider starring messages that have great images of your brand, or even you, to emphasize its importance to your audience.   Here’s a great example that includes a video in the post – for a wider screen appeal:

Celebrate Your Brand’s History

Facebook’s Timeline features “milestones” – a great way for you to make special note of your brand’s development over time.  Did you start in a garage only to grow into an office?  We’re products or services added to your company mix that were new to your business sector?  Milestones are a great way to tell your brand’s story in historical order.  Don’t forget to  make note of any awards you’ve received, sales goals achieved, or new campaign launches that may have been memorable.

Here’s another good opportunity to engage your employees – and even your fans to help you identify which milestones they feel were most important in your development.  You might even be surprised by their answers and insights!

This tactic works especially well for older brands with rich histories that have been ingrained in our culture.  Take for example Ford and ESPN – both of whom share old television campaigns we may likely remember (if you’re old enough!).

    One consideration  here is to review all of the past content your brand has used, and integrate them into your timeline as historical milestones.

Create A Contest

One of the first and most talked about Facebook/Timeline contests has been from Red Bull.  The socially savvy used their own timeline as a platform to launch a well received scavenger hunt.  By searching through the brand’s timeline, and learning about their key milestones, clues were provided to win the contest.  A simple and effective way to both educate and engage a loyal following of growing fans.

Or, for example, take Coca-Cola – who has hidden clues and riddles in their posts on their Facebook page.  Once unlocked, it takes you to a third-party website; an easy way to track the promotions click-through rates to prizes.

There’s no doubt these are just the beginning of many creative applications to come from agencies and brands around the world.  As the administrator of your brand’s Facebook page, it’s time you started thinking about ways to creatively use it to your unique advantage.

How are you planning to use it for your brand’s page? 

It’s Time To Take Your Social Media Seriously

No doubt, nearly every brand of all sizes have taken to using social media to promote their products or services.  Few, however, really take this marketing opportunity seriously.

“Wait a minute”…you say… “we take Facebook very seriously!”  Maybe you do.  Consider this:

If your goal is to get a specific number of followers on Facebook as your measure of success – you’re not taking social media seriously. Creating a fan page to use as a broadcast channel is not taking it seriously.  Launching social games and giveaways to attract new fans without following through on their real interest is not taking it seriously.

It’s important to remember – participation is not engagement.  Social media isn’t about the exploitation of the technology, but rather a vehicle to enable you to be a service to the community.

At this time of year, it’s a good time to take a look at your social media outreach and ask yourself if you’re really serious about it – or just using it (and your audience).  But how can you change your thinking and actions toward opportunities like Facebook and still capitalize on its potential and impact?  Here’s a few ways:

1. Quit thinking of, and treating your friends and followers as customers.  Think of them as human beings that are searching for meaning and relationships.

2. No one owes you any brand loyalty just because you happen to have achieved fame.  Trust is difficult to earn, and even harder to maintain.

3. Listen.  Listen to what your community is saying.  When they’re asking you a question, they are also telling you something.

4. Focus on long-term results, not short-term gains.  Like any relationship, the lasting ones take time to develop and nurture.

5. We want to know who you really are – so tell us. We don’t care what your brand produces, but more about how it can help us.  Don’t forget that people want to know “why” even before they know “what”.

6. You’re likely an amateur – accept it. No matter what your place in the market is, it’s likely to be challenged and changed over time as technology changes.  And it will change quickly.

7. Make your technology human.  We exchange emotions via social media – use that to your advantage.

10. Be Real.  Say what you mean, and mean what you say.  Transparency and authenticity are the cornerstones to lasting social media results.

Still, many brands will dismiss social media as a trending hype.  But the ability to connect with new people in an instant, sharing their lives through words, photos and video is a new paradigm in brand marketing.  It can transform the way you do business – and the way you’re perceived.  Don’t let it slip past you.

How will you use social media in the year ahead?  Do you have a plan?  We want to hear about it!

Launch Your Business Deals On Facebook

There’s nothing like feeling you’re getting a great deal on your purchase – especially in this economy.  The challenge is to find it easily, and with a brand you love and follow.  With the introduction of Facebook’s Deals, location-based offerings become easy for every business to try – and may just be a winner on a variety of marketing levels.

Now local businesses can offer their clients specific specials and promotions when they check into their location via Facebook.  The system will be rolled-out in the weeks ahead to all locations across the US.  In combination with Facebooks Places, this kicks geolocated specials into high gear on a widely accepted mobile platform.

Using Deals seems easy.  Once you check in to “Places”, businesses offering deals in your location simply have a yellow icon attached to them.

When you touch the Place, you can view the deal and check in to claim it:

The next step is equally as easy…simply go to the cash register to claim your discount.

Businesses can create a variety of different types of Deals: individual deals for a discount, free merchandise or other reward; friend deals where you and your friends claim an offer together; loyalty deals for being a frequent visitor to a place; and charity deals where businesses pledge to donate to a cause when you check in.  The combinations and types will undoubtedly grow with the system’s use.

If you are a local business that wants to offer deals, you can learn how to get started here. 

Will you be using Facebook’s Deals for your business?  If so…how?

Will “Social Media” Phrase Peak In 2012?

According to a post by Justin Kistner, Social Evangelist at web analytics company Webtrends, social media will peak in 2012 – just in time for the Mayan calendar to end and the world as we know it. Mr. Kistner also noted today that the current era of social media “is Facebook’s game to lose.”

Some interesting data Google Trends (below) suggests that the term ‘Web 2.0’ became popular in 2005 and peaked in mid-2007.  How was this measured?  Google use, of course. . You see that the term “social media” started to become popular in 2008, and then took a sharp turn upwards in usage n 2009.

I’ll side with to Kistner’s assessment that we have a year or two more of growth with the use of the term “social media”.  If the trending proves similar to other semantic trends,  2012 would be a reasonable year for it to peak.

Do you think the term “social media” could last longer in the venacular than “web 2.0”?  What might the next popular phrase for this communication sector be if not?

Measuring Your Social Media


Yes…it can be done…and with accuracy.  Brand awareness is still a major goal, but metrics play a key role in measuring the ROI from your investment in time – or your client’s investment in you.  Start with the goal… then determine the time you think it should take to achive – then measure your results for the two.  It’s not as difficult as you’d think.  Here’s a few suggestions to get you started:

For Facebook

So much expectation around this platform that it’s quickly become the defacto leader in the social media mix.  There are plenty of tools and demos you can work with, a few of which really help measure your success:

  • How many times was your promotion message liked?
  • If you launched your own Facebook application, how many times was it actually installed and shared?
  • Did you actually reach your targeted audience?  Check in with Facebook Insights for some guidance.
  • What was your investment into your Facebook campaign in dollard, and how does that compare with the cost-per-click, or better yet, amount of new sales?

The Viral Blog

Blogger outreach programs are key to public relations these days.  For the money, it’s quickly becoming a cost-effective way to spread your brand’s message.

  • Use Google Alerts to find out just how many bloggers are talking about you.
  • Do your research to find out what comments they received.
  • Measure your web traffic both before, and after the campaign.

The Tweet

Immediate results – for la fraction of a penny on an impression. Twitter is quickly becoming the go-to application to launch a brand. Measuring your impact on Twitter is fairly simple to uncover:

  • How many times was your hashtag used?
  • Who retweeted your posts?
  • If you have a vanity URL – how many times was it accessed and used?
  • Of course, how many new followers did you gain?  Be sure to eliminate the growing army of spammers who really arent’ engaged with you.

Video, Video, Video

Perhaps our personal favorite, YouTube (Vimeo, Viddler, etc.) are quickly becoming THE tool of choice.  Try to discover:

  • What is your new views count?
  • Did you receive any “likes”?
  • What was the download count for your video?
  • Did you gain new subscribers to your channel?
  • How many social shares did you track?

These suggestions just begin to scratch the surface of possibilities for measuring your campaign.  New tools to help you do this spring up like dandelions in a field of grass.  The key is to truly define your goals before you start…and establish your form of measurement well before taking any steps toward a launch.

After all…without an accurate way to measure your efforts, why even start?

What are YOU doing to measure your campaigns?  What successes/failures have you experienced that might help others?

How about you – how are you measuring your campaigns and defining success?

Top Digital Marketing Trends for 2010

courtesy of Branding Strategy Insider

The new year is virtually upon us, and we can expect 2010 to be another fast-paced year of major transformations in marketing.  As the economy continues to recover, the popular “do-it-yourself” culture that has given rise to all things social media and automated will begin to include new structural elements of collective wisdom and remote computing.

The innovative team at Last Exit has produced a list of digital marketing trends that we think are well worth your time to read and plan for in the year ahead.  Without revisions, we offer it to you here for your consideration:

1. Facebook Replaces Personal Email: As Facebook becomes increasingly used as a verb (e.g.”I Facebooked you today”) in ways that Hotmail and gmail never were, it will be interesting to see the extent to which it will displace personal email as a communication tool.  It’s already completely permission based, there is no spam (yet), and no address book required – your friends are already there.

2. The Cloud Helps Open-Source Software Make Proper Money: Open-source software projects that were typically the purview of programmers and technophiles are now available to the masses. In one example, Beanstalk, a fully hosted, version-controlled code repository that uses the Subversion open-source project has created a subscription based service that – for a small fee – removes the hassle of setting up Subversions and maintaining servers.  Services like this can really only be financially viable with cloud computing infrastructure – so companies such as Beanstalk don’t have the huge upfront capital outlay for servers. With the right skills any open-source project can be commercialized this way.

3. Mobile Commerce –  The Promise That Has Never Delivered, Yet: Though mobile phones have, for a while now, delivered real benefits to global societies by facilitating the transfer of money, only recently has mobile device use extended to payment for goods and services. The game changer has – and will continue to be – the iPhone/iTunes platform.  In-app purchases on the iPhone can tempt users to buy small items, upgrades, updates, etc, while iTunes holds their precious credit card information.  All, of course, is done in seamless fashion, enough to promote impulse purchases.  It would seem like an easy task for this to be extended to other platforms with PayPal or Google Checkout, but so far it has not been done.

4. Fewer Registrations – One Sign-in Fits All: As consumers grow increasingly frustrated  and resentful about registering yet again on another website, juggling different IDs and remembering a dizzying array of passwords, information-managing services such as Facebook Connect and OpenID will becoming even more useful and will continue to be adopted at great speed through 2010.

5. Disruption vs. Continuity – Alternatives to the “Big Idea”: As the significance of social networks continues to grow, businesses are investing more in community building as a marketing driver. According to the recent Tribalization of Business study released by Deloitte, 94% of businesses will continue or increase their investment in online communities and social media and, for the majority of these companies, their marketing function will drive this investment. At the same time, as evidenced by Google’s recent release of “free floating” social tools, such as Google Waves and Sidewiki, there is an increasing shift toward online identity and social activity being an integrated part of the network as a whole, rather than concentrated within discrete platforms such as Facebook.

With the increasing emphasis on marketing and advertising through social networks and the increasing pervasiveness of social tools, marketing objectives come into conflict with advertising techniques. While advertising has often sought to distinguish itself and stop the consumer in their tracks with a disruptive “big idea,” the emphasis is now shifting toward persuasion through fitting organically into the consumer’s social sphere. It will always be the objective of marketing to provide creativity and novelty, but the way in will increasingly be one of persistence and continuity.

6. Self-Sufficiency: The Continuing Evolution of Web-Driven, Open-Source DIY Culture: Much has been said about the power and potential of collective intelligence, and many of the breakthrough solutions of tomorrow appear to lie in more effectively pooling the resources and intelligence of our increasingly networked world. On the other side of the equation, the power of pooled intelligence and networked resources have empowered individuals to take on more and more complex undertakings themselves.

From drawing on the collective intelligence of blogs and university open courseware to educate themselves, to services like ponoko, spoonflower and cafe press that facilitate small-scale production, to offline resource pooling like pop- up retail and collective office spaces, individuals are discovering that it has never been easier to try doing it themselves.

7. Info-Art: Where we once had pop-psychologists and pop-philosophers, we now appear to have pop-statisticians and pop-economists. The growing wealth of data and the access to rich and diverse data sources that are significant by-products of information networks have made the art of data analysis a defining skill of our time.

At the same time, the skill of elegantly visualizing that data has become a defining art of our time. The art of the infographic is becoming increasingly pervasive as people look more and more to the growing amount of data at our disposal for insight, and more refined as the interactions of that data becomes more complex. Expect to see greater innovation spurred by more elegant ways of capturing and visualizing information by a growing number of info-artists.

8. Crowd Sourcing: Across many industries and organizations, crowd sourcing will become a growing tool as part of various outsourcing strategies. Organizations will mobilize the passionate special-interest groups to not only carry a message but also to lead and take part in activities on their behalf. From political canvassing to software development, from people journalism to environmental activism, expect to see huge growth in crowdsourcing models provoked and led, in large part, by digital social media strategies.

9. More Flash, Not Less: Outside of the obvious brand sites, micro-sites and media sites (video, games, etc.) where it appears absolutely necessary, Flash has often been looked down upon if not completely discounted by both techies and search engine optimizers. It seemed to face an uncertain future as a viable tool for serious websites and applications such as eCommerce tools and corporate websites. However, Adobe’s rich media tool has enjoyed the grit and determination of its advocates and external development community. Now, several tricks, authoring tools and server side scripting workarounds have meant that Flash-built websites no longer serve up a single, impenetrable page. They offer deep, searchable, indexable sites that will allow acute, detailed traffic and behavioral analytics and search engine optimization.

As websites continue to increase in their importance as a company’s storefront, the demand for rich, brand-extending experiences will also increase. Further proliferation of  fast broadband will reduce download issues while the adoption of Flash on mobile devices will dramatically increase and fuel reach and the desire/need for highly usable, brand transporting, conversion oriented experiences.

What do YOU think about these trends?    What will you do to capitalize these emerging trends?

Teaching Social Media

Su1 – Workshop_ Social Media Grow Your Business and Make Money | Confab Conference for Consultants by Consultants

I was asked by one of our SmartBrand associates, Alice Heiman, to be one of several smart panel members including Michael Clawson, Camilla Downs and Dave Barnhart to present our experience and suggestions about how social media can help you grow your business and sales at this year’s Confab USA conference.

It was a very interesting, lively topic that encompassed three hours of varying perspectives and ideas to an audience of consultants and managers at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino here in Reno.  Our presentation will be shared online soon, which I’ll link here when it’s uploaded for reference.

From this experience, I confirmed my basic belief about social media – one size (and approach) will never “fit all”.  As unique as every brand is, whether a personal, professional or corporate entity, social media requires a very targeted, customized approach in alignment with the brand’s target market.  More importantly, social media is just one aspect of an comprehensive, integrated marketing campaign.  If the basics of that brand marketing aren’t in place, social media (for all it’s power and glory), will make little to no sense.

Presenting as a team to help this active group of consultants and managers was a challenge.  How can you provide some sense of strategy to a room of professionals who may not share the same end goal?  It seemed more helpful to simply provide some tactical information to them, and answer specific questions as they were asked.  And they were asked in droves.

Our panel did a terrific job of making sense from a variety of perspectives – while trying to solve a wide range of challenges from the very basic, to the very advanced.  It was really an honor and pleasure to be seated with these pros.

So my question to you is…how would you handle this kind of presentation?  What have you found helpful in providing good information to a diverse range of audience participants on a topic as broad ranging as social media?  Your insights are always appreciated here on SmartBlog.

%d bloggers like this: