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Facebook Timeline: Will It Benefit Your Business?

Social networking site hints that its Timeline feature may soon be available for brands. Here are some things to consider about Facebook Timeline and the value it could add to your business' social networking presence.

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By now you've seen Facebook's Timeline format. Maybe your own personal Facebook page is in the Timeline format. But what will Timeline mean for brands?

Currently, the Facebook Timeline format--which replaces profile pages and is basically a chronological scrapbook of your life--is available only for personal pages. Facebook has hinted that Timeline will be available for brands at some point in the future, but the company has not announced anything explicitly.

An interesting study commissioned by Mashable examined how users view Facebook Timeline and other revisions to social networking sites. The study, conducted by EyeTrackShop, compared the old Facebook profile page with the new Timeline. The study found that Facebook Timeline cover photos get noticed first, that Facebook ads get noticed more in Timeline than in the old profile format, and that personal information gets more attention in Timeline.

[ Strike up a conversation with your Facebook followers. Read 20 Tips For Boosting Facebook Engagement. ]

Clint Fralick, VP of client services at Boston-based social media agency Pandemic Labs, sees potential value in Facebook Timeline for business.

"As concept/metaphor, Timeline's value for businesses is the historical perspective it lends to the interaction between business/brand and Facebook community," said Fralick. "Previously, the date a brand was created and the date a brand got started on Facebook were completely separate, and brands' Facebook lifetimes always seemed to be incomplete. Brands didn't use Facebook in a chronological way, like regular users, and users couldn't do with brand pages what they so often do with friends: skim through old posts/photos, remember past good times, etc."

Fralick thinks businesses can benefit from Timeline even before they can deploy it for their own brands, via the residual effects of what users post on their own Timelines.

"Users filling out their own Timelines will generate a large number of stories organically that are linked to brands," he said. "Large fashion/lifestyle brands, for instance, are going to benefit from every person who uploads 10-year-old photos and goes on a thorough tagging/dating mission."

Alison Kimszal, an analyst at business and technology consultancy DefinedLogic, said Facebook Timeline would enable companies to tout their histories and provide improved navigation. "If Timeline is enabled for Facebook pages, it will allow companies to give a graphical representation of their company history--when the company began, significant milestone events over the years, photos, and videos," she said. "Timeline has also improved the navigation of profiles, allowing users to easily browse via months or years."

However, while experts can see some potential value in Facebook Timeline for brands, they also see drawbacks--most notably, interference with current Facebook apps and the potential for distraction. "There will be several drawbacks regarding brands that currently have Like Gates, Tabs, and other apps installed--Timeline will affect the way these currently function," said Kimszal. "Another drawback would be that customers who are used to the way brand pages look now may not like the new Timeline on the page."

Fralick agrees that Timeline could affect brands' existing Facebook apps, and notes that it might distract from what he sees as most important for businesses on Facebook--"posting simple, quality content and talking to their communities."

If Facebook Timeline becomes an option for businesses, what they need to keep in mind when deciding whether to implement the format is that Facebook is about engaging users with relevant content, said Kimszal: "The more relevant posts, photos, and videos are, the more consumers will engage with your brand."

Could Facebook Timeline be of value to your business? Will it be of benefit only to older, storied companies? What about companies that have histories they would rather customers forget? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below or by writing to me at debra.donstonmiller@gmail.com. InformationWeek is conducting our third annual State of Enterprise Storage survey on data management technologies and strategies. Upon completion, you will be eligible to enter a drawing to receive an Apple iPad 2. Take our Enterprise Storage Survey now. Survey ends Jan. 13.

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