March 2nd, 2012 by Judith Aquino

Facebook unveiled numerous new features for brands this week, giving them more
ways to interact with consumers. In addition, these features will also make it more obvious which companies do not frequently update their accounts or produce multimedia content.

One of the major releases was timeline-enabled pages for brands. The official roll-out is not until March 30, but companies can get a head start by manually upgrading their page.  To help companies better illustrate the story behind their brand, the Timeline pages organize a brand’s posts, videos, and photos, which are referred to as “stories”, in one stream by month and year. The more images and videos a company includes, the better the effect.

Like the Timeline pages of personal accounts, brand pages will include a larger banner image at the top of the page. For many companies, this will mean having to come up with another creative image that fits the new dimensions.

In addition to that, on the right-hand side of a brand page, visitors will see the activities of friends who “like” the brand and have mentioned it in a post or status update. Studies have shown that consumers are more likely to pay attention to brands that are endorsed by people they know. However, although companies can block anyone from posting unsolicited content on their page, they cannot prevent users from seeing the posts about how their friends have interacted with the brand, including negative comments.

Coca-Cola's new brand page.

Additionally, Facebook  released a new fan page post for marketers called “Offers.” Using the new feature, marketers will be able to create an “Offer” or promotion for an item in a story, that users can click on to receive an email containing the offer.

Advertisers will also have the opportunity to place their ads in the log-out page. Venture Beat’s Jennifer Van Grove presents an interesting argument on why the ads will most likely be a flop with users but will be snapped up by advertisers regardless.

A beefed up Insights page will give marketers access to real-time insights which lets them track how many people are talking about their brand and which posts are trending immediately. Marketers could potentially use this information to quickly shape ads or new posts around topics that are popular with their fans.

According to a study by consulting firm A.T. Kearney, many major companies have a poor track record of interacting with their fans.

A.T. Kearney analyzed the Facebook conversations between 45 major brands, such as Disney, Gucci, McDonald’s, Louis Vuitton, American Express and Sony, and their fans between 2011 and 2010. The study showed that in 2010, 91 percent of the brands’ Facebook pages directed users to a one-way communication page, such as a closed Facebook wall that didn’t allow consumers to initiate a conversation. This increased to 94 percent in 2011.

Only 15 percent of the company responses invited further conversation, and only 17 percent managed to address the consumer by name.

Therefore, although these shiny new features can certainly make a brand page look more appealing, it is still up to each company to determine how well it wants to engage its audience.

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