For a social network that relies on goodwill (aka advertising dollars) from businesses, it's telling that Facebook has essentially shut out marketing and PR from their newly-released Timeline for Pages format. Businesses formerly enjoyed a robust cache of "free" functionality on iframes to promote sales, including for custom welcome tabs inviting users to like and share the page; e-mail and data capture; website links and much more. For the cost of an app and/or a few design hours, companies could sell, promote or feature the heck out of themselves, and the sky was the limit on creativity.
Now, we're not even allowed to tell potential customers how to reach us. The current Timeline rules state that none of the following information can be included on the cover photo of a brand's Timeline, including:
- Price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it at this website”
- Contact information, such as web address, email, mailing address or other information intended for a Page’s About section
- References to user interface elements, such as Like or Share, or any other Facebook site features
- Calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends”
That's all being reserved for the "Info section," a tiny text-only area barely noticed below the extremely large and suggested "engaging" cover photo. In fact, users have to click to see your website and unless you sell physical goods, it might be hard for someone to determine what you do. Take Counterintuity, for example. We're a web design, social media and marketing agency. Check back in a few days to see how we convey that in a photo that meets Facebook's strict guidelines.
It's no coincidence that Facebook recently introduced two new ad types, as well. With new "Premium on Facebook" ads, businesses can now expand their Facebook "reach" by paying for a video, a coupon or other message to appear on the timeline of Facebook users, full screen on log-out and even within users' newsfeeds. Until now, newsfeed had been free of any paid marketing messages.
It's evident that with their IPO imminently forthcoming, Facebook is trying to attract the heavy hitters who can afford to pay big bucks to have their ads placed right where they want them. That ad revenue will certainly look attractive to investors. But what about the little guys? We're left to purchase the big-brand leftovers like pay-per-click ads on the side of the page. Or, we can create really pretty cover images that somehow convey without mentioning the services we sell. Bands and musicians? They are no longer allowed to use third-party apps like ReverbNation or BandPage as their landing page.
We hope that the big brands and app companies will balk at not being allowed to capture data or promote contests on the Timeline cover photo. They have until March 30, the date that Timeline becomes mandatory for all brands.
Brands have spent millions creating custom landing pages and loading their page with apps, and research shows that those pages and apps actually help attract likes. By eliminating the use of iframes and third-party landing pages, Facebook is esentially moving the goalposts in the middle of the game.