Q&A talks about changes at Facebook with Seth Lieberman, founder and CEO of Pangea Media/SnapApp in Watertown, Mass. SnapApp is a marketing platform that empowers brands, publishers and agencies to foster conversations across the web.
Q: Facebook went to a new timeline layout for non-personal pages recently. What are the implications for businesses?
A: Overall, the switch to Timeline increases the focus on engagement and enables businesses to interact with their audience in a more personal way. Timeline provides opportunities for savvy companies to get more out of their Facebook marketing — but to make that happen, companies will need to invest more resources in thinking about and implementing their Facebook strategy. As a result of the switch, as soon as possible businesses should check out their page and make sure everything "looks" OK. In particular, images will likely need to be resized, new images added, and any tabs or apps need to be checked for compatibility with Timeline. Note that the switch to TimeLine means that tabs (or Favorite Apps) are now much more prominent on the page.
After a quick image check/update, companies should be reviewing and updating their Facebook content strategy. In particular, they should be thinking about how to increase engagement on Facebook with frequent, quality content that focuses on interaction. One of the most effective ways to do this is by taking advantage of the new prominence that tabs/ apps have in Timeline and filling them up with interactive content including videos, sweepstakes, coupons, quizzes and surveys.
Q: One of the things you have said about the change is that marketers will no longer be able to set any default welcome/landing pages. What does that mean in layman's terms? What is the impact?
A: Before Timeline, it was possible for companies to set up a "welcome" tab or page that first time visitors saw when they accessed the page. A popular tactic was to "Like Gate" this tab in order to increase "likes." Now "Timeline" is the default page and, while companies can still like-gate individual tabs and the content on these tabs, they can't "like-gate" Timeline which is now their primary Facebook page. If "likes" are important to your company, you may need to work a bit harder to earn them.
Q: What is "EdgeRank" and where does that fit in all of this?
A: EdgeRank is Facebook's algorithm for determining which items appear in users' News Feeds. Included in the EdgeRank calculation are relationships ("Affinity"), interaction ("Weight") and time. Companies looking to ensure that their content/posts/name appears near the top of individual users' News Feeds can boost their EdgeRank by layering in frequent, high quality (interactive) content that drives shares, comments, likes, etc.
Q: What can businesses do to overcome any problems with the switch to Timeline?
A: One thing Facebook has made clear is that the switch to Timeline is not "optional." So there is no "rolling back' to the previous News Feed state. That said, there are dozens of tutorials, videos, guides and help pages from Facebook and others out there. We recently hosted a webinar on marketing strategies using Facebook Timeline that featured both tactical information like how many pixels a cover photo or profile image should be as well as information on some of the strategic/content options that companies should consider.
Q: Is Facebook still the place for marketers to be? It seems as if a lot of the free aspects of it are beyond a marketer's control. Is that a good idea for getting the right message across?
A: Yes. Facebook continues to be an important marketing channel. That said, it is always dangerous to make universal statements — the value of Facebook to a business depends a lot on the type of business as well as whether they are using Facebook effectively. There are many things companies can try and a lot of data they can collect to determine just where Facebook fits in their own marketing mix.
To your point, however, for all but the simplest products, I think it is important to maintain a separate website where individuals can go to learn more details about products and services, get questions answered, etc. In that case, perhaps Facebook is more of the hook and a way to stay top of mind by continuing the conversation, but not the place to share all of your product features or differentiators.
Q: What's the next best thing to Facebook in terms of marketing? Where does Pinterest fit into the picture, if at all?
A: It depends on your business. It also depends on your marketing goals — branding or generating leads or driving actual sales, for example? Google paid search is an obvious choice, Linked In is considered valuable by many marketers, Twitter is gaining traction particularly as a customer service channel. Pinterest is certainly getting lots of attention these days — it is probably too early, as is true with Google + to say how it will shake out. One thing is certain, however, the chance of a single best option for every conceivable business is pretty much zero.
Q: Are Facebook and similar sites going to take the place of paid media? What are your thoughts on how business should be using Facebook in that regard?
A: Facebook ads and similar are paid media options. What is not paid media in the traditional sense is the sort of social/viral /referral marketing that comes out of social networks. But just because they are not paid media does not mean they are "free." Most companies will need to invest to maximize these channels if they are a critical part of their marketing strategy.For most companies marketing/advertising needs to be a mix of channels.