Facebook’s timeline feature for brands, offering companies a new platform from which to promote their services and products, has gone live. With some commentators arguing that companies risk being left behind if they don’t embrace the new offering, a number of international brands have signed up from the outset. 

As previously reported in WTR, the timeline feature was announced in October last year, and has been available to individual users since December last year. Companies that have already taken advantage of the new feature include Coca Cola, Manchester United Football Club and Burberry. Some brands with a long history have been making good use of the new feature: The New York Times has added archive photographs and stories which date back to the paper’s beginnings in the mid-19th century, while Bulmers cider has hired a social media agency to make the most of the company’s 125-year history on its Facebook page.

Among the changes that the new timeline format brings are a number of brand-friendly features. These include more prominent images, and the facility to pin a particular post to the top of their page for up to seven days, allowing them to highlight more important posts and updates. Businesses will also be able to interact with their fans and customers in a more meaningful way, including contacting fans directly. Ideally, customers will share content on their own pages and talk about products, effectively acting as brand ambassadors.

Facebook suggests that to make the most of these new features, brands should regard their page as not simply a static website that people have to visit, but rather a tool that allows them to tell stories and to interact with their consumers. Fanta’s Facebook page, for example, offers fans the opportunity to play games based on the exploits of its cartoon characters Gigi, Lola, Floyd and Tristan.

While the timeline format offers new opportunities for brands to market themselves and to interact with customers, as WTR previously reported, there may also be some pitfalls in store.

For instance, brands’ pages are open to comment from anyone, not just fans or friends as was previously the case. This could leave them more vulnerable to attacks, ranging from uncomplimentary comments from dissatisfied customers to more sophisticated initiatives from rival brands.

The new development therefore provides an opportunity for brands to take stock of their social media. The slew of new options may take some brand owners by surprise if they have not kept up-to-date with the changes, and a moribund or uncared-for Facebook page may prove a turn-off for consumers who are accustomed to increasingly sophisticated and interactive advertising campaigns. Some commentators have suggested that the gap between social media-savvy companies and those who are less comfortable with the fast evolving technology will become more apparent as brands are forced to adapt to these new features. Trademark counsel will also have to adapt, ensuring that their brands are positioned properly and, crucially, not the prey of imposters.

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