The hullaballoo over Facebook timeline quickly died down when the IPO was announced, although grumbles about the usability of the new design continue to rumble on.
Facebook’s redesigned brand pages allow companies more control over which content gets priority, while timeline gives brands the opportunity to show off their illustrious history by uploading old photos and images.
While most brands are now using timeline to post regular content, it is more difficult to find examples of companies that have taken the time to fill in details of former glories.
With this in mind, I tried to find 10 examples of retailers that have taken the time to create great Facebook timelines.
What makes a great timeline?
As highlighted in our recently updated report, Facebook Pages for Business: A Best Practice Guide, there are several criteria for creating an engaging Facebook brand page:
- Use a striking cover photo. Your cover photo should be a clear high quality image that represents your brand.
- Use a clear, easily identifiable profile picture. This is the image that will appear across Facebook as a thumbnail image, so brands generally use the company logo.
- Prioritise your most important content. The first four are always visible at the top of the page, so make sure you place your most important and engaging content here.
- Post interesting and engaging content in the timeline. It’s a chance to show off your brand’s history, so dig out some interesting photos and shout about your achievements.
- Customise the layout to feature your most engaging content. This is a great way to prominently display images and video content on your site.
The 10 examples
While its cover photo is a bit of a jumbled mess, Tesco has made a good job of filling up its timeline with engaging visual content on a daily basis.
As you might expect, most of the posts are to promote new offers and discounts.
Furthermore the timeline includes all the brand’s milestones, including nostalgic TV ads, although some of them could be improved with the inclusion of images.
Tesco’s social team has also prioritised its new social apps above less interesting content such as ‘Notes’ and the 'Like' counter.
Argos’s cover photo is certainly striking, although if you haven’t seen its TV ads then it might not make much sense.
The recent activity on its timeline centres on the ad campaign, driving engagement by getting its fans to name the alien family members. One of the posts has clocked up almost 2,000 comments, so clearly Argos knows what its fans want.
Similarly, it follows best practice by placing its most engaging apps at the top of the page.
The one let down is the historical content included in the timeline, which is just images of old Argos magazines.
The Swedish furniture retailer has created a very attractive timeline, uploading daily content to keep its 858,000 fans interested and engaged.
While it doesn’t have any apps, its timeline does have fantastic images that detail how the brand has developed since 1933.
House of Fraser’s Facebook page could perhaps use a more interesting cover photo, but it ticks all the boxes in terms of prioritising apps and using attractive visuals to drive engagement.
It also makes great use of the timeline to promote the brand’s heritage that dates back to 1849.
House of Fraser has dug out interesting images of old fashion shows and window displays, however there is a noticeable gap between 1970 and 2009.
The American retailer has clearly spent a lot of time digging out images from its archive as it has one of the most detailed timelines I have seen.
It includes images and drawings at regular intervals dating all the way back to 1858.
Macy’s has also has some great shots of its 4th July firework display, a striking cover image and some great apps. Overall this is one of the most complete brand pages I found.
Walmart is another retailer that has taken advantage of Facebook timeline to showcase how the brand has grown over time.
It includes an image for almost every year from 1962, although many of the updates simply show when Walmart opened a store in a new state.
As one of the world’s biggest brands Walmart has more than 17m fans and they appear to be quite keen to engage with the brand’s frequent posts, most of which include product ideas without being too salesy.
Unlike many other retailers, Walmart steers clear of simply using its Facebook page to push out special offers.
The one negative about Walmart’s page is the cover image – personally I’m not a fan of it, although the photo was submitted by a fan so it's another way of boosting engagement.
Home Depot ticks all the boxes for best practice. It has a bold cover image, prioritised apps and historical content in the timeline.
It has also customised its page so comments by fans are shown at the top of the timeline, however brands should be wary of this, as two of the three comments shown are negative.
That said, it does at least show that Home Depot isn't censoring negative comments.
M&S is another brand that has utilised Facebook timeline to show off its heritage, though it doesn’t have as many milestones as the likes of Walmart and Macy’s.
It also has a fantastic cover image and profile picture, and some great updates that highlight its food and clothing ranges.
Toy’s ‘R’ Us has attracted almost 3m ‘likes’ and keeps its fan engaged with regular updates and posts.
Its cover image and timeline currently highlights its association with children’s cancer charity Alex’s Lemonade Stand, as does the most recent app.
Toys ‘R’ Us has also filled its timeline with relevant milestones – for example, did you know that Geoffrey the Giraffe was invented in 1960? You do now.
Gap has one of the most striking cover images I could find, and its timeline is full of eye-catching images promoting its product range.
It has also included a number of historical milestones and put its most interesting apps on show at the top of the page.
Gap has chosen to include user comments at the beginning of its timeline which can be a risk, but when I checked all four were positive.
Compiling this list was more difficult than I predicted, as a large number of brands have chosen to ignore the timeline.
A majority of UK brands have either made a token effort at including historical images and milestones or have neglected to do anything at all, although US companies tend to be more likely to take the time to document how their businesses have developed over time.
In general though, brands seem unconvinced of the benefits of filling in their timeline.
In contrast, all of the major brands that I looked at post images and content on a daily basis to keep their fans entertained and engaged. Most also have eye-catching cover photos and have prioritised their newest apps above less interesting ones.
It appears that brands appreciate the benefits of posting regular content on Facebook, but are just as dubious as most consumers are about timeline.