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On Thursday, December 15, Facebook rolled out the preview of the new Timeline profile view. This functionality was originally announced at f8 in October, with the intent to roll it out shortly after the conference but was delayed for various reasons. At this point, Facebook is allowing all users to preview their Timelines. Users who opt into the preview (which will reportedly last a few weeks), will have one week to de-clutter their Timelines, adjust privacy settings and prune content. During that time, they can choose to publish at any point, but after the preview week has passed, they will automatically be switched over. This summary serves to share a description of new functionality, summarize the implications to marketers and demystify some of the privacy options.
Your Timeline is Your Scrapbook
From its first announcement at f8, Facebook has asked us to think of our Timelines as visual scrapbooks of our lives. Where the old profile view was a log of our recent activity, sorted chronologically and hard to look back upon, Timeline provides a more interactive view back on your life.
Navigation by Year/Month
Cover Image At the top of the profile page is a large cover image, giving users a place to add a little character to their Timeline. Hovering over this area will pop up a ‘Change cover’ CTA which takes you through the process of updating this image. The cover image is generally displayed at 851x315px, but as a user’s browser height shrinks, the page automatically scrolls to display more information above the fold. Beneath the cover image is a summary of information about you. Your job title, education, location and hometown or relationship status are all displayed here, with an “About” link that leads to a page with more detailed information. To the right of that, there are a series of four tiles: “Friends,” “Photos,” “Map,” and “Likes,” though this area can be expanded to also show other information, including recent apps using the new Open Graph verbs (which, for example, are being used by Spotify and social readers like The Washington Post). Navigation As well as being able to navigate to “Friends,” “Photos,” “Map,” “Likes,” and other content on the top of the page, users are able to explore a Timeline by year and month. On the upper right corner of the profile page is a list of years, which can be drilled into to view activity that occurred during those times. This makes older content discoverable and increases the ‘stickiness’ of a user’s profile page, making it a destination that is interesting to explore instead of just a list of things that user has recently been doing and posting. Status Updates & Life Events Status updates will work much like they always have, but you’re now able to add more context by posting a “Life Event.” “Life Events” cover everything from relationship status changes (which should be familiar) to weight loss to having a baby to taking a trip or getting a piercing. With life events, you can add photos, tag people and places and add dates.
You can now also post a status update at any point on your timeline – including backdating updates. Clicking on the line that runs down the center of your profile page pops up a status update box, allowing you to fill in the blanks in your scrapbook. Posting on friend’s Timeline will take the place of posting on his “Wall.” Place Tagging & Map Another new feature is that you can now attach a location to any content posted on the Timeline, such as status updates, links or photos. These are then plotted on your map, which is a geographic visualization of your activity on the platform.
You can also update your map directly, adding photos, and tagging places you’ve been and lived. Open Graph Apps The Timeline integrates the new Facebook Open Graph apps, displaying the content in aggregate as described below. New Open Graph apps allow marketers to create their own “verbs” and publish actions native to the platform. Spotify and social readers (like The Washington Post) are early adopters of these. Verbs will need to be vetted by Facebook and go through an approval process that has not been launched yet. Mobile As of December 18, Timeline is available not only on the desktop version of Facebook, but also on both iOS and Android mobile apps and mobile web.
Many of the big layout changes of Timeline rely on aggregation. With this new view of your profile, Facebook is grouping similar stories together and displaying them as aggregates instead of cluttering the Timeline by showing them individually. This is particularly relevant as you explore past months and years – summarizing a user’s activities in an easily digestible way. The places you’ve been to in a specific time period are aggregated on a map. Birthday wishes are aggregated in a list. Likes are aggregated and displayed by year. Friends you’ve made are aggregated into a Facepile (a grid displaying the faces of your friends). Stories from new Open Graph apps will also be aggregated. For example, music you’ve listened to on Spotify is collected in a box near the top of your Timeline. News you’ve read with social readers is displayed similarly.
Social App Discovery:
With these new Facebook changes, app activity is being shown in two places: both aggregated on a user’s Timeline and streamed as it’s happening on the Ticker. Aggregation highlights frequently used apps on users’ profiles. The Ticker shows real-time app and platform activity as it’s happening. Both of these features are designed to promote the social discovery of apps, with the assumption the apps frequently used by a user’s friends are likely to be relevant to them as well.
The new Open Graph apps give context to a user’s actions and reward apps that have a high amount of engagement. It’s expected that, when branded, this new breed of apps will become more important than brand pages for discovery and amplification of a brand’s content.
So what does this mean to us? Brand Pages As of right now, brand pages have not changed to a Timeline view. While we do know that Facebook is working on them and there will be changes eventually, no dates have been given yet and it’s unknown what the changes will be. Likes in the Timeline Timeline is a shift from a chronological posting of your activity on the platform to aggregated content displayed by relevancy via Graph Rank. Consequently, stories posted when users “Like” your brand’s page may not be shown as the top story on their profile pages for long. Brand “Likes” will be collected together and displayed as a group within the time period the actions were taken. This means that they may drift down the page and be shown with older content. In the same vein, because it is much easier to explore a user’s history on the Timeline, older “Likes” will be uncovered as a user drills into past months and years in a way that wasn’t possible before.
Sponsored Stories Though the number and format of Sponsored Stories has not changed on the newsfeed, they have been reduced within the profile Timeline environment. In the “old Facebook” there could be upwards of 7 sponsored stories along the right hand column of a user’s profile. Now with the addition of the Timeline navigator, the number of Sponsored Stories has been reduced to approximately 2-3. As Timeline invites users to explore friends’ “digital scrapbook,” time spent on Timeline profiles will arguably increase because there is more to do and more to see. This adds to the value of the Ticker’s real estate for brands and the stories their apps post there.
Graph Rank For a long time, Edge Rank has been Facebook’s algorithm for determining relevancy and filtering the content shown on users’ newsfeeds. Several factors were considered when determining Edge Rank: Number of likes and comments on a post How much of that was from your friends Whether the content was posted by a brand or friend you interact with a lot How often you click through on the type of content in question How recently it was posted And so on – Facebook isn’t forthcoming about details
Graph Rank takes Edge Rank and adds Open Graph apps to the equation, including factors like how often you or your friends interact with content posted by an app. This rewards apps that are popular by pulling them to the top of the feed and highlighting their use. “How often will this app be used?” is a question we should strongly consider when designing these apps for our clients. Apps that only publish stories once (for example, when you first use them) will be less valuable to brands because they are less likely to earn high Graph Rank and will tend to drift to the bottom of the pile.
Facebook Developers have already had the opportunity to switch over to Timeline after f8. Now it’s everyone else’s turn. For the first time, all users are able to see Timeline-enabled profiles of friends who have switched over. Above friends’ profiles that have switched to Timeline, there is a display asking the user if they would like
to “Learn More.” The user is led to an intro video and the prompt button to “Get Timeline.”
After the user “Gets Timeline,” they are introduced to their profile laid out in the Timeline format. Users are able to make adjustments (feature life event pictures, de-tag, erase conversations, update privacy settings) during a “7-day preview.” During this time the user is also able to click “Publish Now” at any time to go live. On December 22, all users’ profiles will be switched over to Timeline, regardless of whether they’ve used the preview period.
Privacy Timeline invites people to display the scrapbook of their lives in a format that is accessible and open for friends to easily explore. Unlike the “old Facebook,” the past is not buried. You can click back to a friend’s college pictures in 2001 in as many steps as it takes to see the brand pages they like. Therefore this evolution of Facebook begs a “profile cleaning” and a refresher of Privacy Settings and Friend Lists. While users have long had the ability to create lists, Facebook is making it easier to do so with the introduction of ‘Smart Lists’, which automatically bucket people listed as family, schoolmates or co-workers together. Taking a cue from Google Circles, users can then post easily customized Status Update, Places, Photos and Life Events to specific lists.
To curate Life Events and year highlights, users are able to Hide pieces of content from the Timeline or delete altogether. Or a user can choose to “Feature” a piece of content to be displayed more prominently in the Timeline as the highlight for that period.
Contact For More Information
Beth McCabe, Vice President/Director, Social Marketing & Technology, Digitas Beth.McCabe@digitas.com