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Forget Facebook tabs: Why Timeline and News Feed are prime social real estate for your bank

Ed. note: The following post, penned by Hearsay Social Compliance Officer Ally Basak Russell, originally appeared in ABA Banking Journal.

Facebook’s recent conversion to the Timeline format for business pages should be changing the way your bank approaches social media overall.
It’s time to adjust your strategy by taking advantage of the new format, as your existing page or pages will be automatically transitioned to the new format very soon, if they haven’t been already.
With this stylistic shift, Facebook encourages companies to tell stories and engage in two-way conversation, rather than using Facebook as just another medium for one-way brand advertising.
To this end, content posted in the Timeline appears in two adjacent columns with the most recent posts at the top. Also, banks have not one but two images to convey their brand attributes–they can now add a large cover image to complement their existing profile photo. (You can view an interactive schematic of the Timeline feature here.)
Changes in the treatment of Facebook apps, and the stress that Timeline puts on content will drive some new thinking at your bank.
Facebook Banks Timeline

How apps’ status changes

But perhaps the biggest change is that Facebook apps, formerly called “tabs,” can no longer be set as default landing pages when customers and prospects visit the bank’s page. Directing customers to a social campaign tab before they’ve liked your bank’s page is a term known as “fan-gating,” and this will no longer be possible.
Now, only the bank’s timeline can be the default landing page.
Additionally, these apps no longer take up prime real estate on your bank’s Facebook page. At first displayed on your page as small buttons, the buttons must be clicked by a user before they are taken to the app’s full page.
So, if tabs were the Boardwalk of social real estate in the old format, their replacement apps have now been relegated to social media real estate more like Baltic Avenue, or when done right, Marvin Gardens.
To be fair, apps can still be effective for soliciting participation in campaigns–by clicking on something, entering information in a lead generation form, or looking up the nearest bank branch. Since apps often mimic other digital campaigns, your bank’s digital presence will be cohesive and interactive when you use apps.

Rethinking your social approach

Another thing to consider: recent studies by Facebook show that after the initial “like” or viewing of a business page, consumers are not likely to come back to your page, no matter how positive their first experience.
Ever.
Consumers are 40 to 120 times more likely to see your posts in their news feeds.
So why should banks even spend resources to maintain a dynamic social presence?
The answer is simple: Compelling content, as opposed to compelling design or digital campaigns, is more important than ever because now the Timeline is the bank’s prime social real estate.
Essentially, if your bank is like many large corporations whose agencies invested heavily in Facebook tabs, you may want to pivot your social strategy.
Engaging with consumers based on the quality and quantity of your social copywriting is a change for which bank marketers should be prepared. This can be at the corporate or local branch level, but content must be authentic and human.

Candidates for content

What can your bank talk about? There are plenty of wonderful seasonal stories, stories about corporate philanthropy, contests, and educational resources that can be shared on the corporate bank page. Posting photos of employees is another great way to humanize your bank. Also, be sure to fill in your bank’s Timeline with its date of incorporation and other important milestones, like the introduction of a new product, service, or logo, or expansion into new regions.
Sharing localized authentic content is even better. Hearsay Social research indicates a six times increase in engagement level as measured by likes, comments, and shares, when companies incorporate local news, events, and preferences into content. This may include info on a local football game, charity event, or promotions aimed at the city’s sports teams.
Educational content for customers and prospects is also a sure bet to draw engagement. Banks can post tips on how to save for college or retirement, build credit, or apply for a loan.
Inversely, stale or bland corporate content won’t show up in customers’ or prospects’ News Feeds at all. This is because Facebook employs an algorithm called EdgeRank. This algorithm takes into account views, click rates, likes, and reshares, in order to determine engagement and to prioritize what appears in users’ News Feeds.
In short, if you have lots of engagement your posts will show up in News Feeds. In regulated industries like banking, writing content that is both engaging, helpful, and compliant can be challenging. It takes collaboration between the marketing and compliance/legal teams.

Fresher than eggs…

And you need to keep the content timely. You can’t just post when the spirit moves you. Facebook agrees with this, and has implemented various new features that encourage fresh content.
Pinning a post keeps it at the top of your Timeline for exactly one week. Even if new posts are created they will appear below the pinned content. Posts you might want to pin include special promotions, such as a bank fundraiser, an open house for a new branch location with giveaways for opening a new checking account, or a financial advisor sharing his top 10 tips to prepare for retirement. Similarly, highlighting a post doubles its width across the page, making it much more visible as users scroll through the timeline.

A stark reality banks must face

Facebook’s nearly one billion users don’t come back every day to be sold products and services.
They come back to connect with family, friends, and, yes, brands.
The shift to content and away from tabs allows your bank to be more authentic and compelling than ever before–deepening your relationship with customers through two-way communication rather than just one-way advertising.
If you can engage customers in conversation, they will have a reason to keep your posts in their News Feeds. And that’s crucial for bank marketers.

Tips for Facebook Brand Timelines: The Five Rules of Cover Photos, and How to Keep It Classy

Note: The following is a chapter from our how-to guide for the Facebook Page Brand Timeline Redesign, a free resource featuring everything you need to know about the new social marketing tools.
It’s been over a month since Facebook first announced the Facebook Pages Brand Timeline, and now all business pages have been converted to the new format. The absolute first thing page administrators must do on their new business timelines is upload a great cover photo that conveys the personality and values of their business.

Here are the five rules of what not to do with cover photo and, further below, some really great examples of cover photo done well.

  1. No purchase info: As tempting as the draw of F-commerce might be, the cover photo is a place to express the brand’s character and personality, not to jump right into a sales pitch.
  2. No contact info: By the same token, Facebook wants to keep things clean and organized, so the rules explicitly prohibit contact info in the cover photo. This shouldn’t be much of a burden for businesses since the about section below the cover photo may include this information.
  3. No Facebook actions: On the old Facebook pages, a savvy social marketer might have created a landing page with a giant unmissable arrow pointing to the Like button. Before the user could see wall posts, photos, or any other type of content, they’d have to click the Like button and become a fan. Now, with Facebook action requests barred from the cover photo, you can’t coerce fans into liking your page.
  4. No calls to action at all: You get the idea: no purchase info, no contact info, no Facebook actions… no calls to action at all. In a nutshell, Facebook wants you to keep it classy.
  5. No lying: This should be a policy for every social marketer when interacting with customers on social media pages, but Facebook has outlined it as a specific rule for cover photos. Don’t promise anything you shouldn’t be promising. This coincides with advertising laws, so it should come as no surprise.
What NOT to do on your cover photo

Keep It Classy

So there you have it: five specific things that you cannot do with your brand new cover photo. So what can you do?
Express yourself!
Your business probably already has plenty of imagery and photography lying around just waiting to represent your brand on Facebook. The screenshot at top showing off Hearsay Social’s Facebook Page is just one way of customizing your timeline.
Here are some examples of big brands and their local representatives (not to mention Hearsay Social customers) using cover photos to express their company stories and character:

The sky’s the limit! Believe it: the more creative you get, the more users will enjoy visiting your timeline.

Local Facebook fans beat corporate fans 40 to 1

Earlier today, independent research group Mainstay Salire released a white paper comparing the fans of corporate and local Facebook pages. According to Mainstay’s data, the typical Facebook post from a local Page reaches five times the percentage of fans as a corporate post, and eight times as many of the fans reached will engage with that post. (Engagement could mean anything from viewing a photo or watching a video to clicking a link, liking, commenting, or sharing.)
Combining those two factors—five times reach and eight times engagement—Mainstay concludes that a local fan is 40 times more valuable than a corporate fan on Facebook.
This new data confirms what has been reiterated time and again both by Facebook (as evident in this fMC conversation between Facebook VP David Fischer and Walmart CMO Stephen Quinn) as well as Hearsay Social, where making the enterprise successful on social at the local level has always been our top priority.
Our design team whipped up an infographic to visualize exactly how this plays out when you trace the path from a Page post to actual engagement on the user level:

What else can we learn about the benefit of local pages? Depending on your social media goals, there are benefits across the board, though it’s clear now that just accumulating as many fans as possible shouldn’t be the end goal.

1. Getting more link clicks

We know from our research that a large portions of posts on social media contain links. Most people post those links in hopes that someone will click them, but are people more likely to click links from bigger or smaller pages? As it turns out, smaller pages see higher clickthrough rates per fan. Not only do more fans see the link, but more of those that see the link are likely to click it.

2. Using more effective media types

Not all post types are equal. We looked at this before but it is even more obvious when comparing corporate and local pages. Looking at “People Talking About This” (PTAT), which is a count of everyone that has commented on, liked, or shared your post, we can see that certain types of posts get more traction. For local pages, photos are the most effective form of media, followed by status updates, videos, and, last of all, links. Interestingly, photos are the second most effective media type for corporate pages, trailing videos. My take is that large corporate pages videos get the most PTAT/Reach because corporate has a bigger budget and thus higher production value on the videos they produce and post to Facebook.

3. Avoiding negative feedback

Not everyone is aware of the negative feedback metrics on Facebook but they are very important. When your posts appear in someone’s News Feed, the user can choose to hide the story or to unsubscribe from your page’s posts completely. In either instance, you would lose the opportunity to reach that person with your content. Looking at the percentage of fans reached who submit negative feedback, we found that larger pages are more likely to elicit negative feedback. This could be caused by many factors, but it most likely comes down to lack of interesting, original content from corporate.
To conclude, we cannot say enough how important it is to make sure you update your Facebook timeline with unique, timely, and relevant content to the user. And, for large enterprises struggling to engage with individuals across social, the key lies in unlocking the power of local.
Feel free to share in the comments any trends you’ve noticed on your own social media pages! And be sure to download the Mainstay report, The Power of Going Local: Comparing the Impact of Corporate vs. Local Facebook Pages.