A Post in Timeline is Fine: Retailers Will ‘Love’ the New Facebook

While social commerce has received a lot of attention in the media, many Australian retailers have yet to see great benefits from this channel. However this may soon change, with Facebook Inc. recently releasing 60 new applications designed to allow shoppers to share personal information on what products they own and intend to purchase.

Introducing Timeline

If you weren’t aware already, Facebook users now have the option of switching on their ‘Timeline’, which replaces the wall with a virtual scrapbook containing a chronology of events in a more graphical interface. As part of the new interface, users can add the latest Apps.

These applications provide new ways for consumers to interact with brands, updating their Timeline with brand-specific activities and controlling who can see their updates.

This announcement comes on the back of a set of features that the social networking company brought out last year, which made it possible for consumers to share a range of actions, other than the traditional ‘Like’ button feature.

Branded Apps for Timeline

Now, brands have the ability to build apps with up to 10 custom actions. Your customers could ‘Love’ your products, ‘Watch’ your video blog, ‘Listen’ to your podcasts, or pretty much anything else that you can think of.

An early adopter, GiantNerd.com, sells outdoor gear and apparel. Company President, Randall Weidberg, believes the new features will create a better way for his brand to interact with customers.

“We think it will allow users of GiantNerd to connect to Facebook in a way that is more meaningful,” he told Internet Retailer. “As opposed to just saying that you like something, it enables you to better describe your relationship to a product and to share that information with your friends.”

Jeremy Glass, Managing Director of Permission, a digital marketing and engagement agency, shares his excitement for Facebook Timeline’s new features.

“Timeline is the first example of a new area of digital CRM (customer relationship management),” says Glass. “Facebook users are now redefined within marketing segments that include new metrics, such as applications used, brands ‘liked’, and direct payments made through Facebook. With brands being such an essential part of people’s identities, Facebook’s new features open the door to an unprecedented landscape of understanding consumer preferences and behaviours, enabling them to build targeted f-commerce strategies.”

Concerns Regarding F-Commerce Are Misplaced

The concern for many Australian retailers is how to best represent their brand via this channel, with many of the larger companies having struggled to effectively adopt these kinds of social media in the past. Many household brands appear resistant to integrate this channel into their online retail offerings, when they should be expected to lead the charge.

Glass believes that this may be partially due to long-held, misplaced reservations.

“Many are tentative or simply scared off by the prospect of negative comments being posted on their accounts,” he says. “What they don’t realise is that consumers engaged in social media respect negative comments and the way an organisation respects, listens to and acts on feedback. They respect honest engagement and positive reaction.”

Apps for Timeline
An example of App interactions in Facebook's ticker - The Facebook Blog

He also provides some handy hints for businesses looking to get started on Facebook:

  • Find a topic to own, set up a page around it, brand it (‘brought to you by Brand X’) and offer questions to inspire debate.
  • Offer good advice and then, within the commentary, gently reintroduce your brand where appropriate. This is ideal when a particular product or service fills a specific need within the discussion.
  • Always offer your audience something, whether it be advice, tips, interesting facts or anything that can inspire discussion. The more people interact with your topic page, the more their friends will see your brand without feeling like it’s just an out-and-out marketing plug.
  • Ensure consistency with your regular online channel when it comes to attention and engagement. Your aim should be to provide a seamless ‘brand-voice’ across all channels.

From all indications, social media is becoming a larger concern for anyone interested in online marketing, while opportunities like this represent huge potential rewards for early-adopters.

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