Wildfire Study Shows Big Boost for Early Brand Adopters of Facebook Timeline

As March 30th loomed ever closer, Facebook marketers all over the globe were wringing their hands in anxious anticipation. They would soon be forced into a mandatory upgrade of their Facebook fan page from the classic brand profile format to the new Timeline. Would all the changes that Timeline introduces to the way users interact with brands have a noticeable effect on engagement metrics? The majority of brands on Facebook decided to wait and see how early adopters fared― in fact only 8MM fan pages converted  their profiles to Timeline of the 37MM fan pages registered on the social network. Some of the latest buzz in the press about the effect of Timeline on brands has been wrong. A few articles  have been released that note that Timeline has actually had a negative  impact on brand engagement, measuring growth rates post-Timeline of a handful of early adopter brands and using it as a benchmark to identify trends. This benchmark is incorrect.

Wildfire has compiled a statistically significant analysis of 42 early-adopter brands of Facebook’s Timeline. Wildfire was looking to understand engagement statistics such as People Talking about This (PTAT), Likes per Page Post, Comments per Page Post, and Fan Growth Rate for brand pages of all sizes of a representative cross-section of brands that switched on day one. 45% of the brands Wildfire tracked (for 21 days before the Timeline switch and 21 days after) have less than 1MM fans. 40% had between 1MM- 10MM fans. The remaining 15% had greater than 10MM fans.

Some key findings include:

1. Brands with less than 1 million fans got a sizable boost from switching to Timelines.

For brands with less than one million fans, which represent about 85 percent of the company pages on Facebook, the effect on engagement of switching to Timelines was very positive. Likes Per Brand Post increased by 60 percent, Comments Per Brand Post increased by 40 percent and PTAT spiked by 67 percent.

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A smaller increase in engagement was noted with brands sized between one to ten million fans.  For these brands, Likes Per Brand Post increased by about 14 percent, and PTAT increased by nearly 29 percent.  However, Comments Per Brand Post for this group actually decreased by about 17 percent.

The data showed that brands with more than 10 million fans actually saw decreases across all measures; however, the brands in this category were all participants in Facebook’s Timeline debut, which generated significant media attention and inflated engagement numbers for these brands at the time of the launch.

Despite the significant differences in engagement activity after the implementation of Timeline for brands, there was little change seen in Facebook Fan Growth Rate. Though Timeline is more engaging, the increased engagement doesn’t necessarily translate to an increase in fan count. People are interacting with pages without becoming fans, and continue to be very selective about which brands they will publicly like.

2. Photo and video posts perform better in the new Timeline layout.

Prior to Timeline, status updates were the best ways to generate likes and comments, outperforming the next best post type by about 22 percent and 17 percent respectively, while video posts were the best way to generate shares, outperforming the next-best type of post by nearly 70 percent.

With the new visual structure of the Timeline, performance of photo and video posts increased significantly.  This visual media has more screen real estate and is displayed very prominently – videos and photos posted to the Timeline attract more attention from users, and the engagement numbers reflect this.

Photos are now tops when it comes to generating comments, outperforming the next-best post type by more than 8 percent.  Video posts in the new Timeline layout now outperform the next-best post type at generating shares by 90 percent.

3. Pinned posts may perform better than regular posts, with pinned photo posts performing best.

Brands can now opt to “pin” or “feature” content in their Timeline to give it more prominence, and since February 29, the brands Wildfire tracked generated 98 featured posts and 18 pinned posts, out of 2,228 posts analyzed.

Although this is a small sample size, early indicators point to superior performance for pinned posts, but little change in performance for most types of featured posts. Wildfire’s preliminary findings suggest that brands could be more successful by pinning posts with greater frequency.

On a per-post basis, pinned posts performed better than regular posts, generating 39 percent more Likes, 6 percent more comments and 32 percent more shares than regular posts.  Pinning a photo may boost engagement even more: on a per-post basis, pinned photo posts generated 44 percent more likes, 3 percent more comments and 63 percent more shares than regular photo posts.

Featured video posts were tops when it comes to generating shares – featured video posts outperformed any other type of featured or pinned content by 3.77x, and outperformed regular video posts by 2x.

These findings should alleviate any marketer stress around the impending mandatory change. The new Facebook Timeline layout for brands has shown to increase engagement activity across a sample cross-section of pages representative of over 95% of all brands with a community on the network. The new Timeline format offers significant opportunities for brands to boost engagement with their content and their pages.

To read the full report, click here. 

What do you think of all the changes? Did you switch early?

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