Facebook’s Timeline for Brands: A Facebook Performance Opportunity

Facebook’s new Timeline for Brands enables marketers to foster engagement with participants. This engagement can equal Facebook performance. Brands can separate themselves from the competition by using real-time Facebook engagement data and insights to optimize their brand pages for performance.  

Facebook recently announced the launch of Facebook Timeline for Brands, or new profile pages for brands on the social networking site. New features of brand pages include the following:

  • pages are much more visual as brands have the opportunity to use large cover photos and videos to promote themselves;
  • brands can now prominently feature their most important tabs at the top of their pages;
  • brands can pin key posts to the top of their pages for up to seven days (i.e., they can highlight important posts for a longer time period); and
  • similar to Twitter, brands can privately message fans (and vice versa), helping Facebook become a more powerful customer service tool

The new pages are the hub for your brand on Facebook. All of your brand’s Facebook activities, ads and posts originate from your brand page. The brand page is also the key place for you and your fans to communicate, enabling you to foster stronger customer relationships.

Brands now have a platform on Facebook for complete experience optimization — i.e., engaging participants through sights, sounds, words, interactions, ads, games and apps, all in one easy-to-find place. Facebook noted that it wants Timeline for Brands to bring back the relationship between the customer and shopkeeper. The updated brand pages provide a platform for brands to engage with customers on a more personal and relevant level than probably any other platform, including the brand’s own website.

The same day Facebook launched Timeline for Brands, it also announced its new real-time Page Insights. Real-time insights are a game changer as marketers used to have to wait 48 hours for Facebook data.

Facebook Product Manager David Baser recently talked to AdAge about what real-time insights means for brands seeking performance through Facebook pages. Baser maintained that engagement can equal performance if brands are able to leverage real-time participant data to quickly optimize brand pages. For instance, if a brand knows that a certain post is driving a significant number of likes, comments or shares, that brand can quickly pin that post to the top of its brand page.

The new brand pages and real-time insights give brands the opportunity to understand how well they’re interacting with their users and how responsive customers are to the brand. These engagement metrics don’t necessarily directly equate to performance (i.e., sales and leads), but they can help a brand understand its ability to increase the likelihood of performance — e.g., conversions, new customers, improved customer loyalty and increased average order size.

The like button isn’t the only Facebook engagement metric of interest to marketers. Facebook also now reports on various engagement metrics centered on actions. These include the “People Talking About This” metric, which incorporates likes, comments, shares, tags, check-ins and event RSVPs, and the “Engaged Users” metric, which incorporates clicks on links, photos and video views. Performance marketers are focused on collecting and analyzing this engagement data to inform brand page content, make real-time brand page optimization decisions and increase the chance of performance. Brands should consider the following when analyzing their Facebook marketing strategy:

  1. Test specific posts (videos, polls, etc.) around new products, promotions and events.
  2. Collect engagement data.
  3. Measure changes in customer behavior (e.g., sales, leads, new-to-file customers, order size, etc.) based on the data.

Facebook’s new Timeline for Brands enables marketers to foster engagement with participants. This engagement can equal Facebook performance. Brands can separate themselves from the competition by using real-time Facebook engagement data and insights to optimize their brand pages for performance.

Building and Executing a True Performance Marketing Campaign

Performance marketers are redefining the marketing landscape in real time, continually refining the blend of art and science needed to drive results. Achieving a true performance marketing campaign is complex, and it’s arguably the toughest challenge marketers have ever faced. Nevertheless, those who do build a true performance marketing capability will reap unmatched rewards.

In a recent article he wrote for ClickZ, There is More to Performance Marketing than Measuring Performance, Jonathan Shapiro, CEO of online performance marketing agency MediaWhiz, aptly noted that today’s best performance marketers “are not just measuring results, but actively improving them.” Shapiro describes a true performance marketing campaign as one in which the marketer forecasts return on investment, pays only for performance and continually optimizes while the campaign is live.

Shapiro then asks why more marketers, advertisers and agencies aren’t taking advantage of performance marketing tools and strategies. His answer? “The relative newness of the industry has not provided sufficient time for most marketing organizations to develop the expertise or technology to manage a true performance marketing campaign.” I agree that performance marketing is the future of our industry, and that the development of performance marketing expertise and technology is the key to success. What follows are some strategies to help you build and execute a true performance marketing campaign.

Finding Performance
True performance marketers must be visible wherever and whenever there’s an opportunity for performance. The increasingly splintered web requires brands to “get found” in more places and on more devices. Thus true performance marketers must be committed to being found across all paid, owned and earned media. This requires continually evaluating new channels, products, devices, processes, technologies and distribution partners. It also requires having a team with expertise in everything, from the latest trends in search to the hottest new mobile devices.

Cross-Channel Integration & Attribution
True performance marketers are business strategists who foster integration between search, display, social, mobile, affiliate, CRM, offline advertising, merchandising, inventory and more. Cross-channel insights inform overall marketing strategy, helping performance marketers determine the right channel to spend each and every marketing dollar.

Technology plays a major role in uncovering these insights. Performance marketers are currently perfecting tools to help them make cross-channel buying and optimization decisions in real-time. It’s an understatement to say that efficiently managing and passing data between cross-channel tracking systems is challenging. This combined with custom segmentation, advanced targeting techniques, unprecedented data volume growth and marketplace demand for immediate transparency makes it clear that legacy data processing cycles are inadequate to handle these terabytes of data.

Not to mention, performance marketers need additional headroom to handle peak demand (e.g., holiday). The good news is that access to on-demand cloud computing and data management solutions are now within the reach of every performance marketer.

Attribution is also a cornerstone of a true performance marketing campaign. However, determining how to best leverage and optimize paid/owned/earned media isn’t just about how much money you should spend in various channels. It’s an exercise in understanding people, the communities they form, how they communicate and how to engage them in conversation.

True performance marketers are focused on improving marketing economics by dedicating the ideal budget to each channel while concurrently optimizing the creative to best appeal to each channel’s audience. This is done through real-time message/creative testing, and requires more than just powerful technology. It requires art — i.e., performance marketing people with innovative ideas on how to best engage audiences.

Performance marketers are redefining the marketing landscape in real time, continually refining the blend of art and science needed to drive results. Achieving a true performance marketing campaign is complex, and it’s arguably the toughest challenge marketers have ever faced. Nevertheless, those who do build a true performance marketing capability will reap unmatched rewards.

Industry Experts Weigh In: Marketing That Matters

Earlier this month, I participated in a professional development and networking event for alumni of the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) graduate program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. I spoke with some of my colleagues about how they define performance marketing and what they envision for the next generation of performance marketers, and they shared valuable insights about its growth and accountability.

Earlier this month, I participated in a professional development and networking event for alumni of the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) graduate program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. I spoke with some of my colleagues about how they define performance marketing and what they envision for the next generation of performance marketers, and they shared valuable insights about its growth and accountability. Here’s what a few of them had to say:

Tom Collinger, associate professor and sector head of direct, e-commerce and search marketing and associate dean of Medill. Collinger is also president of The TC Group, a marketing strategy consulting firm, and serves as a member on the editorial advisory board for the Journal of Consumer Marketing.

CG: What does performance marketing mean to you?
TC: Performance marketing is, after all, redundant, isn’t it? The goal of all marketing and communications is to grow connections and engagement that results in sales performance. I believe the term has grown in popularity recently as a result of the growth in measureable outcomes to marketing initiatives, but, really, can you ever imagine a marketing communications initiative funded without a stated expectation of results? I can’t either. So, for me, performance marketing means an expectation of results as a consequence of the strategies used to promote a brand.

CG: What advice do you have for the next generation of performance marketers?
TC: I’d advise the next generation of performance marketers not to fall victim to the belief that an immediate and measureable result to a prompted marketing communications initiative is always the best basis of proving success. Rather, consider each and every initiative in the context of how a business, brand or service is made more or less relevant to a customer. Each initiative is a brick that either builds or erodes the wall that becomes the barriers to switch.

Ron Jacobs, president of Jacobs & Clevenger, an independent multichannel direct digital marketing agency. Jacobs started a professional program in direct marketing at DePaul University in 1990, and in 2006, he began an endowment for the program. He also devoted 17 years as a senior lecturer in the Medill IMC program. Jacobs co-authored the “Eighth Edition of Successful Direct Marketing Methods,” the best-selling book on the tools and techniques of direct marketing.

CG: What does performance marketing mean to you?
RJ: I find myself constantly reminding my clients, staff and students that performance marketing is direct response marketing, and many of the traditional tools and techniques of direct marketing apply. The ultimate objective should be conversions or sales. The messages and calls to action need to reflect the keywords that got prospects there in the first place. Moreover, while you may not be able to measure everything, you can easily find three to five key performance indicators that make sense for your business.

CG: What advice do you have for the next generation of performance marketers?
RJ: Today, virtually all marketing communications are accountable; it’s the new normal. Performance marketing is a leader in this transition. Marketers, media and agencies are shared stakeholders in this change; we all need to find ways to adjust our business models to accommodate it. 
Whether seeking direct marketing or broader results, the accountability of the web continues to drive the evolution of performance-based approaches toward game-changing methods to better assess and optimize performance.

Final thoughts
Initially an arms race to get the right technologies in place, performance marketing has become more consumer centric as the practice begins to mature. Successful performance marketers will understand consumers and how they use technology to find information and ultimately make decisions.

The measurement process for performance marketing almost always includes generating response; collecting information; and analyzing large data sets, complex systems and partnerships — all focused on the consumer as a participant in the exchange. This intelligent data management links the business intelligence engine with the execution engine to reduce marketing waste, optimize marketing spend and scale quality implementation for improved return on investment.

As these industry experts stated, consumers’ perspectives will only continue to gain significance in performance marketing. Marketers must find ways to be relevant, and performance marketing offers several reliable methods to connect with high-value audience segments, quantify success and keep campaigns accountable.

How do you envision the future of performance marketing? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments thread below or email me at craig.greenfield@performics.com.