On March 30th, Facebook automatically transitioned all brand pages to Timeline. Though Timeline is a massive upgrade over the previous page design, most pre-Timeline research has shown that over 85% of user interactions with pages occurred in Facebook’s News Feed.
This raises a question: Does the page design even matter that much? Since the change, some studies are already showing that Timeline has had no affect on engagement, though it may still be too early to tell whether or not that will remain to be the case.
Facebook Timeline Changes The Game
Since the changes are very new, it’s going to take some time and experimentation before we can truly judge what, if any, influence Timeline has with user interaction and engagement with pages. However, it’s hard to believe if equipped with a strong strategy and content plan that engagement numbers would not go up. Timeline provides a lot of new tools that enable page owners to better control the experience the user has on their page.
Some of these tools include controlling what content the user first sees when visiting a page, making photos and videos more aesthetically pleasing, marking historical milestones, and more options overall to better engage users. Therefore, it’s not just Facebook’s transformation to Timeline that may or may not affect engagement rates, it’s how you apply it.
Sports Teams Get Creative With Facebook Timeline
To find out how profesional sports teams are executing on the changes, I spent time on over 160 Facebook pages across all teams for the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, and EPL. The results were widely mixed. Some teams have not changed their strategy at all (for better or worse), while others have fully embraced the changes and are experimenting with the new features. Provided below are some examples, categorized by new Timeline feature.
Pin to Top
Though it is a misconception that you can no longer control the first-time user experience with a customized landing page (you can still do this when using Facebook ads), Facebook has made it apparent that they want users to connect with pages and “like” them because of content, and a relationship the user may have with the brand or team, not because of a contest or initial incentive.
To this point, the most interesting new feature is the “Pin to Top” feature. With this new tool, pages now have the ability to “pin,” or stick a piece of content to the top of the page. There is a lot noise on Facebook. As a result, often once something is posted, it’s gone within a matter of hours. If a team has a contest, ticket offering, or important announcement, they can now keep the same post at the top of the page for up to a week. Here are a few examples of how teams are utilizing the “Pin to Top” feature:
The Tennessee Titans promoted a contest to win a trip to the NFL draft in New York City and announce one of the team’s picks:
Boston Red Sox & Milwaukee Brewers
The Florida Panthers announced their Stanley Cup Playoff birth:
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks not only notify fans how to purchase playoff tickets, but they incorporate a sponsor at the same time:
The Portland Timbers include their fans in a Q&A with one of their players:
Arsenal offers prizes upon reaching 10 million fans. They are also one of the first teams to use “Pin to Top” to direct to another one of their tabs. This likely led to a significant increase in visits to this tab that they normally would not have experienced:
Everton Football Club
Everton provides their fans with ticket information:
Milestones are a great way for teams to share their history with their younger fans, and remember it with their older ones. Teams are now able to mark memorable dates in history like championships or MVP awards, as well as include photos or video and a description of the event.
Manchester United were one of the few teams to be included in the initial Timeline launch. As a result, they have one of the most detailed Timeline histories available to date. They even created a video announcing the launch. Here are a few examples of how they recapitulate their rich history:
They were founded as the Newton Heath LYR Football Club in 1878:
Their 1948 FA Cup Championship:
A video of the first day of legendary coach, Alex Ferguson:
1993 Premier League Champions:
New York Yankees
Another team with a bit of history, the Yankees, provide a ton of historical detail in their Timeline as well, including Babe Ruth’s legendary 60 home run season:
The end of Lou Gehrig’s historic playing streak:
Joe DiMaggio and the 1950 World Series Champions:
All the way up to the Torre years:
The Dodgers show off history that went beyond sports:
San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants (or Gothams) go all the way back to 1883:
They took their team photo dressed in suits to celebrate their “World’s Championship” in 1905:
The NY Islanders celebrate their glory years:
The Canucks remember their NHL debut:
The Blackhawks were founded in 1926:
They won the Cup in 1938:
Vancouver Whitecaps F.C.
The Vancouver Whitecaps include their Canadian Soccer League days:
As the Portland Timbers include their National American Soccer League years when Portland was dubbed “Soccer City USA.”
Yet another extinct soccer league, the Seattle Sounders look back at the Seattle Storm of the Western Soccer Alliance:
Photos and videos are clearly an important part of Facebook’s strategy (see the $1 billion acquisition of Instagram). They even admit that they are the most engaging types of content on the social network. This is why they created the “highlight” feature for pages. Pages can now expand posts from being concentrated on one half of the Timeline to the entire width of it. This makes both photos and videos easier to view, and aesthetically makes the page a much better visual experience.
Like “Pin to top,” highlighting enables teams to communicate to their fans that a particular post or piece of content is important and that they should spend more time engaging with it. Here are a few examples of how teams have found unique ways to utilize highlighting:
The Suns start a conversation about an upcoming game, as well as let their fans know when and where they can watch it:
St Louis Rams
With the announcement of Torry Holt’s retirement, the Rams take advantage of the extra space by creating a photo album looking back at Holt’s career:
The Jets discuss the draft with their fans and make use of the wider photos by incorporating a sponsor:
The Braves make Opening Day more visual:
The NY Rangers cause a video interview with Brad Richards to be more prominent:
The Vancouver Whitecaps show off their Disney Pro Soccer Classic championship with a photo slideshow:
San Jose Earthquakes
The San Jose Earthquakes provide their fans with access to highlights from their home opener:
Want a LA Galaxy desktop calendar? The team supplies twelve versions for their fans:
The Galaxy also reveal fan photos from a recent stadium promotion:
The Chicago Fire run a contest that integrates a sponsor:
Everton highlights a fan video:
Manchester City supplies some behind-the-scenes footage:
Though there are creative ways to administer it, the cover photo is probably the least important feature when compared to the others that we discussed.
The cover photo is simply an extension of the profile photo that is meant to accentuate the personality of the page. Facebook explicitly states that this space is not meant for promotional reasons, contact information, or any call-to-action (though many teams are currently using it for this purpose).
NY Yankees and Anaheim Ducks
Two teams, the Yankees and the Ducks, offer pre-sized photos on their official sites for fans who want to use them on their personal profile pages. As for the team pages, here are some of the most creative:
The Knicks use the new space to include their fans:
So did the Minnesota Wild:
Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake includes schedule information, ticket information, and new real estate for a sponsor:
NY Red Bulls
The NY Red Bulls also fill the cover photo with game and ticket info:
The same goes for the Chicago Fire:
The Blackburn Rovers offer some season ticket info:
Liverpool FC get creative with animation:
The teams who are experimenting with Timeline will be the ones who discover the most efficient use cases. Within a few months, we’ll have enough of a sample size to know whether or not Timeline has any affect on engagement rates. Regardless, focusing on community management and a strong content strategy remains paramount.
Are there any noteworthy pages that I missed? What are your thoughts on the new Facebook Timeline and what are some ways teams can incorporate it in their digital strategy? Comment below or tweet us and let us know what your favorite uses of Timeline by sports teams have been.