Does Timeline affect engagement on brands’ Facebook pages?

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On March 30, Facebook migrated all brands to its new Timeline format. As brands continue to look at how to best leverage the new format , social media measurement and analytics company Simply Measured has released findings indicating that most brands experience increased engagement with Timeline (disclosure: they only looked at 15 brand pages).

As you can see, Simply Measured’s data reflected in this chart from eMarketer shows that average engagement with brand pages (defined by comments and likes) rose from an average of 672 points of engagement per post to 2,441 or 46 percent over the course of the three weeks following the move to Timeline. That said, Simply Measured also reported that when looking at individual brands such as Old Spice, Target, AT&T and Ford, it saw a decline in engagement with brand posts. Despite the increase in people liking pages, however, Simply Measured found that interaction with specific content is declining. Hmm…

Sure, numbers don’t lie, but I question the analysis that Timeline is affecting engagement this significantly. As my colleague Lars Basche noted, it’s a known fact that engagement primarily happens in Facebook users’ news feeds, not on the page itself. And Timeline does not impact content within the news feed, so why would it have such a considerable correlation with engagement? Timeline is a change to the format of the page, not to a page’s EdgeRank or exposure within Facebook. And while it naturally may take people time to get used to the new look of Timeline, I don’t see how it would change the way people experience brands on Facebook, given that most of this interaction takes place in their news feeds.

Although the data dates back to earlier this month, EdgeRank – who I consider credible, given the algorithm was actually developed by Facebook – conducted an analysis of the very same topic as Simply Measured. However instead of the sample size of 15 brands that Simply Measured used, EdgeRank examined more than 3,500 Facebook brand pages, and found that Timeline had no direct impact on content within the news feed. Not to mention Simply Measured’s sample size seemed to noticeably lack B2B brands, and given our Text 100 clients are a combination of B2B and B2C companies, we care about both. As stated on the EdgeRank blog, “It appears that a majority of Pages experiencing abnormal changes in Engagement/Fan is due to the publicity that has occurred since the implementation of Timeline. Many high profile blogs are discussing the changes, how to use it, and which brands are using Timeline best.”

If you want to increase engagement, the answer has not changed with the rollout of Timeline: get more likes and comments so that EdgeRank shows your posts to more of your fans, and run sponsored story ads. How do you get more likes and comments? Craft engaging content, think visually and identify the best times to post, and you can check out these posts for further recommendations:

Exploring Facebook Timeline for Brands – 7 Tips for Success

How to Increase Feedback on Your Brand’s Facebook Page – Take a Hint From Journalists

Best Practices: Determining the Value of Facebook Ads

Using Data to Increase Engagement: The Science of Timing