STUDY: Facebook Timeline Doesn't Affect Engagement

By Brian Carter Comment

A new study by EdgeRank Checker has found that timeline does not affect fan engagement, going against recent reports that made it sound as if timeline might be able to dramatically improve Facebook page engagement.

Those posts were dismissed by some because of the small number of Facebook pages studied and because the pages in the study had received major press mentions about their new timeline looks. Perhaps they were only getting more engagement because of this media exposure.

The findings that timeline could improve engagement didn’t make sense to me, because most engagement happens in Facebook users’ news feeds, not on the page itself. Timeline is a change to the look of the page, not to EdgeRank or how most people experience Facebook.

Fewer than 2 percent of people go back to fan pages, and Facebook admitted at its Facebook Marketing Conference that only an average of 17 percent of fans see fan page posts in their news feeds. If you think it’s plausible that timeline could affect your Facebook visibility, you don’t know the fundamentals of Facebook marketing. It’s about posts and EdgeRank, not how your page looks.

The new study by EdgeRankChecker reviewed 3,500 Facebook pages. It looked at pages that had converted to timeline early (by March 26) versus those that had not converted. It found that posts from all pages were receiving less interaction. Pages that switched to timeline has less of a decrease, but this is likely due to extra attention to Facebook pages (because of press exposure). which may not continue.

We’re only switching to timeline this one time — you won’t get much, if any, press about it in the future. You can keep switching your cover photo to get people to come to your timeline page, but that may become annoying to some of your fans, and if they don’t like or comment on that post, you may just be hurting your EdgeRank and lowering your visibility to fans for the future.

EdgeRank Checker said in the study:

These data seem to imply that the timeline has no direct impact on engagement for brands. As a vast majority of all engagement takes place within the news feed, these data are not surprising, as timeline has no direct impact on content within the news feed.

Brand managers can rest assured that they are not experiencing significant losses when switching to timeline. Nearly all engagement takes place on the news feed, not on the page itself. Regardless of how Facebook changes the appearance of a page, this should rarely have a significant impact on engagement. This also suggests that brand managers must continue to focus on optimizing engagement within the news feed as usual.

If you want more engagement, the answer has not changed for more than a year now: get more likes and comments so that EdgeRank shows your posts to more of your fans, and run sponsored story ads.

Brian Carter is the author of The Like Economy: How Businesses Make Money with Facebook, and the forthcoming LinkedIn for Business: How Advertisers, Marketers, and Salespeople Get Leads, Sales, and Profits from LinkedIn.