Eye Movement Study Reveals Six Must-Know Things About Facebook Brand Pages

Here is a great post from Read, Write, Web  about the new Facebook timeline and how consumers are interacting with Brand pages. I think some of the data is due to people “working out” how the timeline works for brands, so that could explain some of the results. Still its well worth the read:

Source: Read, Write, Web,By  

The Facebook Timeline that brand pages were forced to switch over to last week is “flawed,” according to an eye movement study of six brand pages by SimpleUsability, with many of the new features going unnoticed or being misunderstood.

“The average user doesn’t fully understand the new layout, or interact with it in the way intended,” said Guy Redwood, managing director of SimpleUsability. “This will likely change over time, but as the mechanics of obtaining ‘Likes’ has become more difficult for brands, they now need to drive engagement more than ever.”

The study tracked user eye movements when visiting the Web-based brand pages of American ExpressPizza HutCoca-ColaGapColdplay and Manchester United. In addition to pointing out problems with brand pages, the study found certain features on the pages as currently designed were more important.

Here are the six big takeaways from the study for brands still working on configuring their timelines.

Cover Photos Aren’t As Important As You Think

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Facebook has made a point of insisting brands can use their cover photos as opportunities, and a whole cottage industry is springing up on helping companies design cover images. But users in the study either ignored the cover images entirely or disregarded it as “advertising space.”

They also didn’t pay much attention to the profile picture or apps directly beneath a cover page. In most cases, a user’s first action when landing on the page was to scroll down and get themselves oriented with what they were viewing.

Timeline is Actually a Valuable Feature

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Timeline’s biggest benefit for brands, according to the study, is the ability to tell a brand’s story. The Timeline design is particularly effective in accomplishing this online, but users also liked the ease of finding the “About” button on brand pages. In many cases, users said it was easier to learn about a brand than it was on a corporate Web site.

The Timeline Only Works if It’s Current

Users got confused if a timeline appeared to be outdated. While there is benefit in going back and filling in a corporate history, most users in the study did not look beyond one month in the Timeline’s reverse chronological hierarchy.

Users Notice When Their Friends “Like” or Interact With a Brand

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The best way to get a user to interact with your brand is to get that users’ friends to interact with your brand. Users are more likely to interact with a friends’ comment about a brand that they consider timely.

More Data Needed to Measure the Effectiveness of Pinned Posts

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Brands can get around the problems presented by Timeline’s reverse chronological hierarchy by “pinning” a post to the top of their Timeline. But so far, few brands are using the pin feature and, when they do, they have little impact on users, according to SimpleUsability.

Users Rarely, if Ever, Interact With Apps

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That could change over time, as users get more familiar with the Timeline layout. But for now, very few users are even noticing the customizable app buttoons. When they do, it’s almost exclusively to look at photos.

So what happened at F8

At the F8 conference yesterday Mark Zuckerberg announced some changes to Facebook. He started by poking a bit of fun at himself (a bit of an unintentional pun there!).

Then he got into the serious business of announcing changes, the main one seems to be to your timeline, this video shows how it will look (its still in beta)

Mashable posted this great summary of some of the other changes this morning:

1. You’re going to get a Timeline — a scrapbook of your life. In a complete overhaul of its ever-evolving profile page, Facebook is introducing Timeline. This is a stream of information about you — the photos you’ve posted, all your status updates, the apps you’ve used, even the places you’ve visited on a world map — that scrolls all the way back to your birth. It encourages you to post more stuff about your past, such as baby pictures, using Facebook as a scrapbook.

The further back in Timeline you go, the more Facebook will compress the information so that you’re only seeing the most interesting parts of your history. You can customize this by clicking on a star next to a status, say, or enlarging a picture.

Timeline is in beta now, and will be opt-in to start. In the long run, it will become the new default profile page.

2. You don’t have to just Like something — now you can [verb] any [noun]. Remember when all you could do to something on Facebook — a video, a comment, a product, a person — was Like it? Pretty soon that’s going to seem laughably antiquated. The social network has launched Facebook Gestures, which means that Facebook’s partners and developers can turn any verb into a button.

So you’ll start seeing the option to tell the world you’re Reading a particular book, for example, or Watching a given movie, or Listening to a certain tune. In turn, as many observers have pointed out, this is likely to lead to an explosion of oversharing — and far more information on your friends’ activities showing up in your news feed than you probably cared to know.

3. Facebook apps need only ask permission once to share stories on your behalf. Although not as big a deal as the Timeline, this tweak may be one of the more controversial. Previously, apps had to ask every time they shared information about you in your profile. Now, the first time you authorize the app, it will tell you what it’s going to share about you. If you’re cool with that, the app never has to ask you again.

But you don’t have to worry about this app stuff clogging your news feed, because …

4. All “lightweight” information is going to the Ticker. Status updates, photos from a wedding or a vacation, changes in relationship status: these are the kinds of things you want to see from your friends when you look at your news feed. Who killed whom in Mafia Wars? Who planted what in FarmVille? Not so much. So that kind of trivial detail has been banished to the Ticker, a real-time list of things your friends are posting now that scrolls down the side of your screen.

5. You can watch TV and movies, listen to music, and read news with your friends — all within Facebook. Starting today, thanks to a whole bunch of partnerships, there are a lot more things you can do without ever having to leave Facebook. You can watch a show on Hulu, listen to a song on Spotify, or check out a story on Yahoo News (or Mashable, via the Washington Post‘s Social Read app). The ticker will tell you what your friends are watching, listening to or reading, allowing you to share the experience with them by clicking on a link.

The upshot: a brand-new kind of media-based peer pressure. On stage, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings — a launch partner — revealed that he had only just decided to watch Breaking Bad because Facebook’s Ticker told him a colleague was watching it. Netflix’s own algorithm had been recommending the show to him for years, but that was never reason enough for Hastings.

6. Facebook has more users and more engagement than ever. We got two interesting nuggets of information out of Zuckerberg (and the Zuckerberg-impersonating Andy Samberg): Facebook has hit 800 million users, and most of them are active. The social network just saw a new record for the most visitors in one day: an eye-popping 500 million.

Indeed, the whole impression left by the event was that of a confident, fast-evolving company that is becoming ever more professional, and Zuckerberg’s stage show bore more than a little resemblance to an Apple keynote. It’s going to be interesting to see what Google+ can do to keep up.

Source: Chris Taylor, Mashable, Sept 2011