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To Timeline or Not To Timeline

Posted on March 23, 2012 and read 2,979 times

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SR To Timeline or Not To TimelineSteve Red
President and Chief Creative Officer
Red Tettemer + Partners

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that a couple of weeks ago Facebook revealed that Timeline is available for Brand pages and will be mandatory for them as of March 30.

As web developers collectively groaned, marketers stormed the gated garden. Timeline’s storytelling potential spoke like a siren song to creatives around the world.

But we’re skeptical.

Because is that really what brands should be using the social gorilla for? Believe us, we’ve always preached the whole “advertising is storytelling” mantra that seems to be the buzz-phrase of the advertising moment,  but we’re not sure if Facebook needs to be storytelling. In the linear sense anyway. We’re just not sure people want to consume their Facebook brand pages or any of their Facebook like a magazine feature or a long vertical novel. At least not more than once. Because even if I’m interested in the entire history of Ben & Jerry’s or Starbucks or the fake history of the Old Spice Guy as told on Facebook, I’m probably not interested in it for a second time.

So where does that get us? Well, back to the way Facebook is now. We don’t wanna sound like change-hating-stick-in-the-muds, but what people seem to love about Facebook is eating up tiny pieces of the story when they’re hungry. A little bit here and another bit later on… if they liked the taste of it in the first place.

Most of us here at RT+P are pretty avid Facebookers and we also maintain many active energetic brand pages for our clients as well as our agency, but in all cases, Facebook is much more about being topical; about throwing out the latest bauble of interest (or what you hope will be interesting to your followers). It’s not really about driving the audience toward what happened last week, let alone months or years ago. In the attention-span-deficit-age, it’s all about current. Keep up the conversation or better yet, drive it, or risk being dropped like a stale potato chip.

In fact, for many, Twitter has become the go-to platform to instigate, editorialize, thrill, surprise and rally, because it’s so damn of-the-moment. Twitter is so urgent it makes us a little sweaty to think of our Facebook post up there for much longer than a couple of days and even that feels a little dusty. So the thought of continually filling out a living history of the brand on Facebook so that it always feels fresh and relevant and worth visiting makes us downright nauseous.

But we are creative people and Facebook, no matter how many times they shift and change, is still the 9000lb social heavy weight. And therefore we will vigilantly figure out ways to make the experience valuable for our clients and for our agency (and even for our silly little personal pages, though we won’t be quite as vigilant there). And we’ll crack it. Even as we write this down we’ve begun to have swirling ideas careen around our brains about how to contradict everything we’re writing.

We don’t talk about “storytelling” – we talk about hacking the graph. Threading bells with whistles to make entirely new instruments for users play with. We’re talking about creating persistent connections on and through the platform. We’re testing new premium ad products and page post ads to extend our reach. Because after the time and money our clients have poured into attracting millions to their Facebook doors, we have the duty to find new ways to make something powerful around the latest Facebook thingy.

So, no, we’re not seduced by glossy cover photos and graveyards of milestones. The way we see it, the new life-enhancing side of taking something that most folks only enjoy wading through and forcing them to dive deep isn’t the answer. Building something unique that cracks open the platform and transforms a new way for consumers to interact with a brand over and over – that’s the seductress.




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