One of the most major changes to Facebook’s structure in its lifetime occurred on March 31st with the introduction of the Timeline for business pages.
Most of you are probably familiar with the Timeline, but if not, here is a quick description of how it works. It is a dynamic element that changes over time, with older posts moving down the page and becoming “invisible” unless the visitor chooses to look at that particular week, month or year in the timeline. It is a very visual platform as a brand has a ‘cover photo’ that stands at the top of the Timeline, as well imagery based posts standing out from those that are text based.
So how can email marketers use this new visually inspiring platform to drive email opt-ins?
The first key area that must be edited is the header just below the cover photo. This is an area that never changes position, and contains the “Views & Apps” banner, which can contain up to 12 items, distributed in three rows of four.
This is the first opportunity to highlight important items such as your email opt-in link. Eye tracking tests have revealed that highly visual app designs grab the attention of the viewer upon ‘Liking’ the page even more than the profile image or cover photo. This is therefore prime territory for a visual link to your email programme. Those visiting the Timeline are interested in the brand and the products that it sells, so if they are willing to ‘Like’ the brand on Facebook, it is only a small step to enroll them in an email programme. Remember to include a source field on your form so that you can keep track of where new customers have come from. This can be used to analyse the success of the email catchment programme on Facebook, and modify if necessary. As an example, Silverpop’s client Teletext Holiday designed an eye-catching email sign up logo that stood out from its other apps on the header.
Silverpop’s Engage email automation software allows brands to build an email opt-in form within the Facebook Timeline, and so make the process of opting-in as easy as possible. If fans have to be re-directed away from Facebook through a lengthy process, drop-outs will be large and email growth will be negligible. It is key to make the process of signing-up as easy and painless as possible.
It is, however, worth noting that this is not the only option for maintaining a visual presence on the Timeline. Facebook has introduced functionality to pin posts to the top of the Timeline for a seven day period, which provides a secondary strategy for catching email sign ups. Using this post style purely for email opt-in may well be too up-front for many users, so consider using a promotion or competition instead. Providing an email upon entering a competition is generally accepted. This mechanism provides an enticing alternative for fans to sign up for an email programme while also interacting with the brand.
Pinning email content to the top of the Timeline can also be an effective driver of social fans to an email programme. Users can often be weary of opting-in due to not wanting to be inundated with sales material in their personal inbox. Displaying the type of messaging that is sent out through an email programme can often bridge that gap by providing a reassurance that their email will only be used to send relevant and interesting content in a responsible manner.
Analytics can be used to discover how Facebook fans interact with these types of posts. This is a highly important step to creating not only an engaging brand, but an email list containing interactive and engaged recipients. Analysing simple statistics like the time of day that users interact, or the types of posts that create the greatest response can be used to grow an email list dramatically. Posting email relevant content on the most interactive days, and in the most interactive style, will give a programme a far greater chance of growing in size and capturing relevant users than if content is placed at irrelevant times of the day and in a dull style. Remember that imagery is key with the Timeline, so think about how it can be used to catch the eye of fans and encourage email sign-up.
As social networks increasingly draw together a user’s online presence and activity, the importance for brands to be seen in those news feeds should not be underestimated. Maintaining a presence in your users feeds, and promoting email programmes through this, will bring more opt-ins to your company’s email programmes.