An analysis by Wildfire Interactive found that early adopters of Facebook's new Timeline feature saw enhanced engagement. Whether this wears off remains to be seen.
Wildfire studied 43 brands over 42 days, for 21 days prior to the February 29 launch of Timeline and 21 days after the brands switched. It found double-digit percentage increases in People Talking About This, Likes per brand post, and Comments per brand post for 45 percent of the brands, representing 85 percent of total pages on Facebook.
On Wednesday, Simply Measured released a smaller study that found that the weeks-old Timeline format had lifted engagement with many brand posts by 46 percent.
The analysis was split between brands with less than 1 million fans, accounting for 45 percent of the total; brands with between 1 million and 10 million fans, accounting for 40 percent; and mega-brands, with more than 10 million fans, accounting for 15 percent of total pages studied.
Wildfire saw a significant difference in the effects of switching to Timeline between the different segments. Brands with less than 1 million fans, including Kate Spade New York and Diet Mountain Dew, saw double-digit increases in percentages of Likes, Comments and People Talking About This.
The mid segment, brands with between 1 and 10 million fans including Lexus and Dove, saw a smaller but still significant increase in engagement.
The mega brands, with over 10 million fans, actually experienced a decrease in engagement. However, all of these brands were partners in Facebook's Timeline debut, so this decrease could be the return to normal levels following the big splash.
"Because they were part of the Timeline launch, they saw some lift right before and around the launch, and then subsided to prior levels. So what might appear as a drop was a return to previous levels," says Jordan Drewitt, director of analytics for Wildfire. "But nevertheless, the lift was not as strong as for smaller pages."
Maya Grinberg, social media manager for Wildfire, also notes that, because of the sheer size of these brands' fan bases, it takes much more to move the engagement needle.
Wildfire also found changes in how different kinds of updates influenced engagement. Pre-Timeline, status updates were the best ways to generate likes and comments, while video posts were best at generating shares - by 69.5 percent.
Post-Timeline, status updates were still best at generating likes, but photos were best at generating comments. Videos increased their influence on shares, outperforming the next best post type by 90 percent.
Pinned posts were best at generating likes and comments, outperforming other types of pinned or featured content by 10 percent.
"Brands that pin posts to the top make sure that the post gets the very first eyeballs to hit the timeline. It's working the way we expect it to work, ensuring that users see them first," Grinberg says. "The other interesting result was that if it's a pinned photo post, it will do even better. Timeline is so visual, it's proving to be a much more engaging view than just regular photos were before."
Could the lift in engagement be simply the result of novelty? Possibly, according to Drewitt. Wildfire will continue to track engagement as Timeline rolls out across Facebook. He says, "It will take at least until early May to see the true effect of Timeline."
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Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.
March 19, 2014