Eight steps to driving results for travel brands from the new Facebook timeline

NB: This is a guest article by Marco Serusi, a Spain-based community engagement executive with SimpliFlying.

Those of us who work with Facebook Pages are already used to the incessant changes that Facebook has introduced over the years.

However, many were startled after the latest change was announced.

When Facebook finally decided to unveil its new Timeline for company pages, they gave page owners (marketers, to be more specific) a whole new playing field with lots of new tools and only 30 days to adapt and adopt the new format.

For those who had already prepared long-term plans for Facebook marketing at the beginning of the year, this radical change must have made their familiar football pitch appear like an ice-skating rink during the half-time break.

Admittedly, Facebook is trying to make things easier by allowing page admins to preview the new look of their pages before the new design goes live for everyone without exception.

The countdown is well underway and on March 30 all Fan Pages will be converted, permanently, to the new Timeline.

With such a slew of changes and new features being introduced with this update, it would be advisable to review all critical aspects of the transition before moving to Timeline.

To make this transition easier, we’ve created a selection of the Top Eight things travel marketers must know about the new Facebook Pages.

1. Catch the eye with an appealing Cover Image, and a square profile pic

The first and perhaps most eye-catching change is the introduction of a large cover image identical to the one already available on personal profiles of Facebook users.

Although it may seem like the perfect place for an advert, Facebook makes it clear that it cannot contain price or purchase information, contact details (like a web address), reference to user interface elements such as like or share, nor any call to action.

Think about it like the painting behind your office reception – while it’ll be an image that resembles your brand, it certainly cannot be “salesy”.

Moreover, your profile picture cannot be a long rectangular discount offer, but a small, square logo that appears as a 130x130px image when viewed.

What you need to know:

  • While this is a great way to instantly grab attention, the call-to-action limitations will pose a serious challenge to many companies that will have to find a way to portray the essence of their brand using only one image

2. Direct Messages finally make Facebook customer service a reality

Perhaps waking up to the fact that one of the ways Twitter scores over Facebook is by allowing brands to privately interact with their users, the new Page, by default (it can be disabled), will allow users to send direct messages to the company.

It should help by creating a new, private, communication channel and also reduce the chatter on the Wall (referred to as Timeline or Page henceforth).

Of course, while private interaction might be welcome relief for the airlines and hotels that get lots of rants on their pages, don’t forget to continue providing real-time, reliable and essential updates to your followers publicly on the Timeline.

What you need to know:

  • Facebook doesn’t allow brands to privately message customers who have “liked” their page until the customers message first (as distinct from Twitter). Even though this function can be disabled, we recommend using it since it can be a valuable channel of customer service.

3. Only three tabs to display your most important apps/content

Another area that is likely to be a bit of challenge for Page Admins is what used to be the Page’s tabs and apps sections. In the new design, they have been turned into small blocks aligned in a banner-like section just below the cover image.

Due to the limited space available this area can only hold a maximum of four blocks, of which Photos is permanent, leaving only three other visible tabs.

So you’ll have to carefully select which tabs will get you the most engagement or will lead to content that you absolutely need to share with your audience, since the hidden tabs will not get nearly as much exposure as the visible three.

What you need to know:

  • If you find it really hard to prioritize, choose the Top 3 by consensus within your team and fans and don’t fret – users will still be able to view the other sections by clicking on an extended menu that will reveal the other tabs.

4. Prominently highlight the important events in the development of your airline or hotel

Travel brands now have a great way to visually share their “history” on Facebook. A new feature allows brands to display their milestones as part of their Timeline, complete with images, date and a brief description.

The milestones will be featured as more visible posts and will be given a higher weight in the ranking algorithms that determine what each user can see.

For airlines, one great way to use this feature could be by marking route launches as milestones by adding a Timeline event, an image of the destination and a short story or description.

What you need to know:

  • Although this feature might seem to be for those companies that have a long heritage, it can prove to be very valuable to all travel companies that are creative enough to identify “hidden” milestones in their recent history, like route launches.

5. “Starring” for full-page-wide posts and Pinning

In keeping with the new, more visual feel of the Timeline, Facebook allows making certain posts, including company milestones, more eye-catching by expanding them from the default half-page width to full-page width by simply clicking on the star button at the top-right of your posts.

There is also an interesting “Pin” option that can be used to feature a particular post at the top of the Timeline, thus ensuring that it will be viewed by all of the page’s visitors.

Losing out on the opportunity to advertise on the cover image might be redeemed by this feature, but use it very selectively.

What you need to know:

  • Be selective and prioritize which posts should be starred and pinned. Too many posts being starred or pinned would lead to dilution of the value of the truly important posts.

6. Time to move away from custom Welcome pages

The second most obvious difference that users will see is the disappearance of Welcome Pages and “Like gates” that have been widely used by travel companies as a free advertising space and a useful place for highlighting promotions and campaigns or even to lead to apps.

All Pages, by default, will show the Timeline and none can be set as default.

Interestingly, you can still link directly to your custom tabs and apps from sites outside of Facebook, whichmeans you can continue linking people to “fan gate” pages from your main corporate website.

Though, anyone who tries to load facebook.com/yourcompany will be looking at your Timeline. If you want inbound visitors seeing one of your tabs/apps, you may need to circle back and update all your old Facebook links (at your website, email signatures, at Twitter, etc.).

What you need to know:

  • This change will probably disrupt some current campaigns as marketers try to find other ways to highlight specific content.

7. Integration with Third Party apps may appear different

Most large airlines and hotels use 3rd party apps to post on Facebook, like Radian6 or Sysomos, which provide much better analytics.

But in the latest design update, Facebook is trying to get Page admins to spend more time posting directly from Facebook, by making posts from 3rd party apps appear differently.

While they may not always be as pretty, postings from 3rd party apps have their advantage.

What you need to know:

  • So be sure to double check how they look every time you post, and be in touch with your vendor on when they would be releasing an update to comply with new Facebook standards.

8. Revamped, exportable Insights offers deeper insights into activity on your Page

On the flip-side, the new Pages will also make life easier for Page Admins by providing them with a new range of metrics that will be displayed in a new admin panel at the top of the page.

The improvements are so many that they would probably require another article to be thoroughly analyzed but here they are, in brief:

The ability to measure not only the number of fans but also the extended network reach (friends of fans).

A graph that allows the comparison of the week-by-week evolution of the weekly total reach, the number of people talking about the company and the frequency of posts.

A new post metrics section that allows admins to measure the exact reach of each individual post as well as the number of users it engaged and the number of people who talked about it.

Furthermore it also provides an intriguing “virality score” that measures the percentage of users who created a story from that particular post.

Moreover, Facebook now has a handy “export” feature that allows admins to download all the insights from their Page. This feature can come in handy to create monthly reports to keep track of the Page’s development over long periods of time.

What you need to know:

  • Deeper insights, better metrics and near real-time updating of numbers should give travel marketers a much better understanding of what sort of posts and campaigns work. Ultimately, it should help in the creation of more focused and streamlined Facebook Marketing strategies and the end of it all have some solid numbers to show to bosses curious about ROI.

The bottom line

Ultimately, the increasingly visual look of the new Timeline will allow travel brands:

  • to better engage their customers (since people are attracted to images)
  • to perform better customer service via direct messages
  • to better plan and manage their strategy with the great new insights tool
  • to perhaps even achieve (due to its image-focused design) what Pinterest is successfully doing – helping customers make travel plans in the Dreaming and Planning stages of travel.

And to do it all successfully, we recommend you don’t wait till the last day to convert your profile. Experiment a little, play around to see what works best for your brand.

NB: This is a guest article by Marco Serusi, a Spain-based community engagement executive with SimpliFlying. Follow Simpliflying on Twitter.

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  3. Francisco

    Great Article!!! Thanks for sharing it.

  4. Marcos Castro

    Thanks a lot! Excellent article… I’m still working on our fan page (facebook.com/hotelcoquille), but already made some changes thinking about what you have written!!! 🙂

  5. Claudia

    Nice and compact overview. Good articles like this one have to be recommended! Thx…

  6. Tamara

    Really great article – thanks Marco


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