Social Business Means Redefining What Business Is

Brian Solis talks about the bigger social business opportunity that is ahead of businesses and social media professionals:

When you look behind the scenes, you actually see more duct tape and rubber bands than fluidity and polish. Business units are still siloed and even the chief executives have gone on record saying that the acts of engagement do more for the company’s PR than it does for the improvement of products and services. Just look at your favorite social media source and you’ll see an endless array of examples of how brands are succeeding in social media. Again, most of them are basking in the brilliance of individual victories, some are actually breaking through the internal barriers that prevent collaboration, and others are simply stunts designed to spike conversations, sales, and PR. Nothing wrong with it…especially if it work as intended.

You and I are here together, right now, to do something greater. It’s up to us to lead the way for the socialization of business, understanding that it’s an uphill journey for the foreseeable future. But in the end, our experience and triumphs are unparalleled.

What Brian is talking about here isn’t social media marketing.  He’s talking about redefining what it means to be a business. It’s an ambitious vision, but has a few nascent successes that point to what could become the new corporate structure (Zappos comes to mind, 37 Signals, etc.)

For as long as the corporate entity has existed the model has been command and control.  Ground troops up on the front lines taking orders from well heeled Generals sipping tea well back from the front, who are ordering air support via massive branding campaigns on television, radio and print. All in an effort to convince the public that their product was just a little bit better, cheaper or faster.  And this worked well, for a long time.  But not any more.

With today’s connected, real-time landscape, business leaders and brands are in the thick of it.  They’re being pulled in every direction, flanked by conversations, complaints, kudos, competitors and their own internal chaos as they try to respond to the changes in the way business gets done.  And respond is all most have been able to do.  Not think, not plan, not leverage. Merely react.  Often these knee-jerk reactions are head-in-the-sand denials. Across the country there are conversations going on that start like this “Maybe we should just kill our Facebook presence,” because these leaders and brands aren’t fairing well in this new reality.

And even those that choose to engage in this new arena, as Brian points out, are doing it via smoke and mirrors, not necessarily through any enlightened state of corporate prescience.  But hey, if you’re one of the brands that hit the jackpot in connecting with customers online; well, by all means, don’t leave the girl you brought to the dance.  However, it’s important to understand the distinction between achieving success with social media marketing and reconstructing your business based on this new world order.

The marketing changes wrought by social media platforms have been hashed over ad nauseum for the last few years.  Most socia media successes can be boiled down to tactical executions of providing customer service and compelling experiences on the social web.  And that’s all well and good and interesting.  The evolution of marketing from spray and pray, one-size-fits-all messaging to actual conversation is welcome indeed; but in order for businesses to fully leverage the changes afforded by the social web they must embrace this new reality outside of their marketing department.  And that’s where I think Brian gets it right.

It’s not about redefining your message, it’s about rebuilding your company.  Breaking down command and control, creating better flows of information capital, creating more authentic and meaningful customer experiences and touchpoints, and empowering employees to put in their best to work for the business and customer every day.

This transformation starts when the business owners realize that the game has changed, that they in turn need to adapt.  Businesses must be willing to flip the megaphone around and put the wide end up to their corporate ear.  And then do something with the data to rearchitect their fundamental infrastructure to better serve the market. Because it’s not enough for a company to come up with the Old Spice Man campaign if customer feedback isn’t driving product development.  It’s not enough to launch a Facebook page when you’re customers are all active on a BBS somewhere.  It’s not enough to have branding, product, customer service, loyalty, global marketing, product teams, etc. all off experimenting with Twitter; when what’s needed is leaders who can to drive the new social way of operating on the Web through the organization to create a new way of thinking about delivering value to the market place.

A favorite metaphor for corporate dysfunction and disorganization is that the left hand isn’t talking to the right hand.  Well this problem is amplified by the challenges created by a real time, messy, loud market place full of demands.  And if organizations insist on relegating social media to the PR/customer service silo, without truly embracing the power it can bring them in terms of insight, innovation, customer and employee satisfaction and bigger and better shareholder returns, than the vision of social business is left unfulfilled, and we as champions of the space will have come up short in our mission to change how business is done.

How Klout Perks Really Work

klout logoKlout bills itself as a network of influencers that brands can tap into to leverage peer recommendations across social networks. This is based on the idea that friend recommendations are more valuable than traditional advertising because friends trust each others’ recommendations more than ads. The way it works, as sold on the website, is that you tap influencers in topic areas that are relevant to your brand, you offer them a perk, they love it and you, and then the influencers go out and spread your message via word-of-mouth on the social networks they’re most active on. It sounds good, but does it work for brands? The answer is no and yes.

Quick Background

I ran social marketing for a company recently that used Klout to drive new membership. We ran two campaigns, described below. One which failed miserably and one which was a huge success. I’ve described them below and provided actual numbers from Klout. The goal of these campaigns was to spread awareness of a new service, drive membership sign-ups and purchases. Your mileage will of course vary based on your goals.

How Klout Doesn’t Work – Test Campaign #1

You could be forgiven if you think that the best way to leverage their service is to target the most influential influencers in the Klout network for the topic you care about and then let them spread your message far and wide. I hope I’m forgiven anyway. This is what I initially thought, and was proven wrong. If you’re going to run a Klout campaign as a brand, this is definitely not the way to do it. I know from experience, dude. Let’s take a look at the messy details.

Here’s what we did with our first Klout campaign:

  • Identified 155 social influencers who had high Klout scores in Los Angeles, CA, a target market for our member acquisition efforts.
  • Offered a Klout perk to them of $100 in free stuff on our site, plus the ability to invite anyone in their network to join the private beta and get $10 to try us out too.

The thinking was that by giving these social influencers a sufficient amount of money to try the service and a way to give their followers and friends early access and a discount, that they would be stoked on the perk and spread the word. Friends would sign up for the discount and early access.

The cost of the campaign was $5,000 plus the cost of the coupons, which was dependent on the redemption rate of the perk.

The results:

  • Out of 155 influencers invited, 79 claimed the perk.
  • In addition to the 79 influencers we received an additional 173 downstream, referred members.
  • Each influencer sent 2.7 tweets on average, and along with downstream contributing tweets resulted in 302 tweets.
  • True reach, which represents how many people were reached by tweets was 426,165.
  • Impressions were 1.47 million.
  • Cost to acquire a member was $19.84 and the cost per purchaser was scary high; because most redeemed and used the $100.

What we learned:

  • Influencers were generally grateful of the perk, and some couldn’t believe it was $100. We definitely got some short-term brand awareness there.
  • The influencers didn’t really influence all that much. On average they had enough Klout to drive two extra members to sign up for the service. Since most of them had 10’s of thousands of followers, this is a pretty low activation rate.
  • The member acquisition cost was way out of whack with our model. It was nearly 20x what we look to pay for a member acquisition campaign.

How Klout Does Work – Test Campaign #2

You can probably guess that we were really disappointed by the costs and results of the first campaign. It was pretty clear that as an unknown brand you can’t buy word of mouth via Klout, regardless of the size of the perk. And even if you get a bit of word-of-mouth it doesn’t necessarily translate into action. We spoke with our friends at Klout about this and to their HUGE credit, they offered to run another campaign at no additional cost using a different model.

Here’s what we did with our second Klout campaign:

  • Target 10,000 Klout users in New York, regardless of Klout score.
  • Make the perk free early access to the site and a $25 off coupon for any purchase they make.
  • No referral credit for people they told. It was just $25 off for any perk recipient.

The Results:

  • 8,985 perk redeemers
  • 1.3 Tweets/Shares per influencer = 12,418 Tweets and shares (40x the first campaign)
  • True Reach of 1.93 million based on 8,985 participating influencers
  • 5.9 million impressions based on True Reach (3x the first campaign)
  • Cost to acquire a member was less than $1, even after adding in the $25 per purchaser credit
  • Cost to acquire a purchaser was just the $25. Both the cost per purchaser and cost per member were well in our target budgets.
  • Even if you factor in the $5,000 for the campaign the cost per member was just over a dollar (including coupon redemptions) and about $40 per purchaser – which were well within target acquisition costs.

What we learned:

  • The power of Klout is to reach a large number of people with an offer via Twitter.
  • Counting on the viral sharing is risky – reaching the masses is the better bet.
  • Klout score doesn’t matter. Everyone’s money is good, and the high scorers don’t move the needle in terms of a campaign of this size.
  • We saw a 3x lift in impressions and a 40x lift in social media mentions by going direct to a larger audience rather than relying on viral word of mouth.

How Klout Really Works

If you think about Klout, and you think about scores and whether they’re accurate or inaccurate, you’ll see from the above that that debate is really a silly argument. Klout doesn’t work because they have a database of influencers that get your word out; it works because they have a huge database of people, period. Score is irrelevant to campaigns like these. If you’re going for scale don’t try to tap influencer networks to get word of mouth referrals. The influencers carry less influence than you think and apathy is a hard thing to overcome on social networks.

Instead, reach for as many people as you can, and get them all to opt-in. You’ll get more scale, you get some great word-of-mouth because these lower Klout score folks are pumped to get a perk, and you’re reaching a well-connected, great customer.

One of the things we really learned was that a Klout user was a really great customer for the site. They bought more on average, they bought more often and they referred more friends (through our internal refer-a-friend program) than almost any other audience other than those users who were referred by existing site users.

These results obviously have big implications with regard to a user’s score and it’s importance or need for accuracy, and it has big implications for how you choose to run a Klout campaign vs. how you might initially think that it works. I hope it also reflects well on Klout – as a company they work really hard to make sure you’re successful. They went above and beyond to find a way to make our program work, and that’s all you can hope for from an advertising partner.

I hope it’s helpful in the Klout discussion – especially for marketers and brands thinking of using Klout to market their business.

Why Google Reader Might be the Missing Link in Your Social Media Workflow

I wrote in length about identifying and implementing a social media workflow as a way to make social media work for you and your organization while not becoming overwhelming or too much of a time suck.  Today I want to look at a particularly powerful tool that is often under-utilized in social media workflows.  Google Reader not only makes reading and sharing news easy; but it is also an important tool in building your following and reputation as a thought-leader online.  In this post I’ll show you how I use Google Reader to engage followers, build credibility and thought leadership, stregthen relationships and improve visibility across the social Web and Twitter in particular.

The premise is simple – share links to articles, blog posts, podcasts and videos relevant to your area of interest as a way to provide value to the people that follow you (and hopefully their followers as well via retweets) by being a filter that identifies high-quality content in the river of noise that is the Web.

This is not an exhaustive overview of the benefits and short comings of Google Reader.  Nor is it a post on how to use Google Reader.  There are plenty of other greatposts that cover the features and functionality of this powerful feed reader.  What I want to focus on is the workflow that you can use with Google Reader to accrue the benefits listed above on the social Web.

Setting Up Google Reader in Your Social Media Workflow

I use Google Reader to engage people, build thought leadership, strengthen relations and improve my visibility online by integrating my Google Reader activity into my social media workflow as follows:

Google Reader > Shared Items > Shared Items Feed published to FriendFeed > Google Reader items in FriendFeed published to Twitter

To set this workflow up take the following steps:

  1. Make your Google Reader shared items public and viewable by anyone. (You can view my shared items here.)You can do this by going into your shared items settings in the reader by clicking on Shared Items, then Sharing Settings.
  2. Get the feed URL for your shared items by clicking on Shared Items, then show details.  You will see stats for your shared items and also the feed URL.  It will look like this: http://www.google.com/reader/public/atom/user/08867225285676593227/state/com.google/broadcast
  3. Next, go to FriendFeed. If you don’t have a FriendFeed account register for one first and then follow the remaining steps.
  4. Add your public, shared items feed as a new service in FriendFeed by clicking on “Settings” (link is under your name on your FriendFeed page).  This will launch a dialog box where you can edit your preferences and add your Google Reader feed.
  5. Choose “add/edit” which appears next to the services icons that you currently have aggregated in FriendFeed.
  6. Click on “Blog” on the Services page.  (This page lists all of the eligible services you can add to FriendFeed along with all of the current services that are aggregated with your FriendFeed account. )
  7. Another dialogue box will pop up.  Paste your Google Reader feed URL in this box.
  8. Click the “Import Blog” button.

Your Google Reader is now importing into FriendFeed.  You’re almost there! The last step is setting up FriendFeed to publish your Google Reader items to your Twitter stream.

You can configure your FriendFeed/Twitter publishing settings under the settings tab as well.  Do this by:

  1. Click on “Settings” under your name on your FriendFeed home page.
  2. Click on Twitter publishing preferences.  This will take you to a page titled “Advanced Twitter Settings”
  3. If you didn’t log in to FriendFeed with your Twitter account at the beginning you’ll have to login to the account you want to publish your Google Reader items to before proceeding.
  4. Check the box that says “Link to source site instead of FriendFeed conversation (does not apply to comments)” This will ensure that when people click on your shared links on Twitter they will be taken to the source content instead of an intermediate page requiring another click to get to the source content.
  5. Make sure the box next to “Google Reader” is checked under the section “The services I’ve selected below”

You can see how I have my page configured for reference:

ff

That’s it – now your Google Reader shared items are set up to be imported into your Twitter stream.

Sharing Items with Your Followers on Twitter with Google Reader

Now that you have Google Reader integrated into your Twitter feed you need to start sharing items with your followers.  You do this simply by clicking the “Share” button at the bottom of each item in Google Reader.  Alternatively you can use “Shift+S” as a keyboard shortcut to share the items without a mouse click.  You can find the “Share” button at the bottom of each item in Google Reader, as seen below:

share_off

Simply click the “Share” button and it looks like this:

share_on

Your shared item will now appear in your Twitter stream:

twitter

You can tell it’s one of your shared items because the tweet says “from FriendFeed” and the URL is shortened using the ff.im link shortener.

Building Thought Leadership, Engagement, Visibility and Relationships with Shared Links

There is no shortage of commentary about information overload.  With millions of blogs publishing millions of articles, on top of the traditional news, video posts and podcasts, trying to keep up with the Web is impossible for most people.  People easily feel overwhelmed by the idea of having to sift through all the noise to find the information they like and are interested in.  In the world of new media there are no easily identified editors.  Unlike traditional media like the New York Times where their editors decide what is news and what isn’t, the blogosphere and social media has no appointed editors.  This is where your opportunity lies.

I’m not suggesting that you try to digest the Web and sift out the gems, that doesn’t really work as part of a sustainable workflow as part of your daily routine that earns your income.  But what you can do is canvass a small corner of the Web and become an ad hoc editor, a trusted filter, identifying the best content in that niche and share that with readers.  For example, if you’re in education you can round up the education blogs and feed them into your Google Reader.  You can slowly add them as you discover them (expedite this by searching for education related Tweets and using tools like IceRocket.com and Google Blog Search).

Then you can go through the education posts and share the best of the best each day with your followers on Twitter.  You’ll find that you’ll receive more replys, more retweets and more followers as you become known as a trusted source of information and news about the segment of the Web that your followers are interested in.

You’ll start to notice a few valueable things as a result of your sharing:

  • People will thank you for your tweets
  • People will retweet your links extending your reach beyond your current followers (and often their followers as the link spreads)
  • People will recommend you as a person to follow to their followers

These are all great indicators of a healthy and improving presence among your followers on Twitter.

Workflow Tips for Google Reader

Here are a few of my tips to keep Google Reader a productive part of your social media workflow (and not a burden).

  • I try to share news at least twice a day. Once in the morning, once in the evening.  I spend about 30 minutes at each point reading, sharing and saving articles to read later.  Occassionally I’ll also check it on my lunch break if I have time.
  • Don’t be afraid to declare feed bankruptcy. News has a definite shelf life.  If you can’t get to your feed reader for a couple of days and find that you have thousands of items unread don’t feel pressured to get through them all.  Go through the last 24-48 hours worth and then mark the rest as read.  There’ s no need to feel overwhelmed by the amount of unread content in your reader.
  • Mix it up. I share content about online video, social media and studies about online advertising effectiveness. But I also share funny stuff and general geekdom items from sites like Boing Boing and other fun stuff.  I only mix these in occassionally; but you don’t want to be a boring stiff – show some personality with your shared links.
  • Don’t import your links to Facebook. I did this at first and it was very noisy. Because Facebook doesn’t update as frequently as Twitter you can litterally overrun your friends’ news feeds with your shared items.  I’ve tried it both ways and have found that people seem happier when the links aren’t shared via Facebook. (I’ll have some more thoughts on this and how to surface the best links to Facebook in a future post.)

Putting it all Together

I often hear that people don’t have enough time to write content, that they get burnt out on writing blog posts and they feel like they can’t “keep up” with creating value for their followers on an ongoing and consistent basis.  Google Reader helps solve for this problem because it is easier and less time consuming to find and identify quality content to share.  Instead of producing content you’ll be known for your keen eye and ability to filter the signal from the noise for your followers.  People will come to appreciate and respect this service that you provide and it will in turn create and build your social capital among your online networks.

Did Google Miss the Next Big Thing by Chasing Social Media?

Facebook announced a new messaging platform today that combines all of your communications into one inbox and uses your social graph to prioritize and validate inbound messages. Email, IM, SMS and social messages in one place. It’s a unified approach to communication and focuses on the relationship between people, rather than between messages as its foundation. And I can’t help but wonder, Why didn’t Google do this first? And, did Google’s obsession with “catching” Facebook and Twitter leave a blind spot to this new way to bring efficiencies to digital communication?

In retrospect, Google was better positioned to unify communication types than Facebook. With Google Voice, Gmail, Wave, SMS-enabled GChat, YouTube and Docs, it had all the components in place and ready to go. Voice, Docs and Wave aren’t even available on the Facebook platform as viable options and Gmail is much more mature than Facebook messaging. But instead of tying these various forms of communication together they were busy chasing down the social grail; fumbling the Buzz launch, botching Wave and trying to court Twitter and roll out real time search.

Now don’t get me wrong, real time search is indeed important, and a big business to be in; but the bolted-on Buzz failed, Wave failed, Google Friend Connect didn’t take hold, and before those, Jaiku and Dodgeball died in-house too. And now, their nebulous new Google Me effort looks foolish compared to the innovation coming out of Facebook. In this mad quest to catch Facebook they’ve overlooked key strategic advantages that they’ve now fumbled to their biggest competitor.

When you’re focused on organizing the world’s information, it’s a pretty big miss to let your sworn enemy get to organizing our digital communications first.

The severity of this blow will take a bit of time to play out as more people become accustomed to getting their texts, IMs and email all in one place. And not just any place, but the place they spend more than 5 hours a month online (that’s 2.5x longer than users spend on Google properties, btw.) But once people realize the “cognitive load” savings realized by this centralization Google will start losing Gmail users and growth will slow.

Think about it, is there any reason to leave Facebook once messaging gets integrated? And with the orientation around individuals and not subject lines, communications will become easier to manage. Why would I go to GMail, then to docs, then to my phone, then to Chat when I can have it all in one place? (note: a Hacker News commentor astutely pointed out that these things _are_ in the same place on Google.  What I was referring to here, and rushed too quickly to articulate is that if I’m already spending 5.5 hours per month on Facebook looking at photos, commenting, liking things, etc. Why, once the functionality was available within the interface and on my mobile device, would I jump out of my default environment to use a series of other tools that don’t integrate at all w/my preferred online service. I hope this clarifies this a bit.)

Now, emails from my mom about traveling to see me for the holidays will be in the same place as her text messages about being delayed and where to pick her up. I’ll have flight info in the email with the real time info from her text message all in one place. Plus, with Facebook phone book I can call her from that same interface.

This is a powerful new way of handling communication. Or is it? Some early analysis likens Facebook to the old AOL, opining that Facebook too, will suffer the vagaries of time and evolution of the Web.

And while this may seem reminiscent of AOL in the days when many regular users considered AOL the Internet, I think we’re looking at something fundamentally different for a few reasons. The first has to do with scale. The sheer number of connections on Facebook make it a far more sustainable platform than AOL ever was. At it’s largest, AOL had 30 million members – that’s less than a tenth of the Facebook population. Second is APIs. The connected nature and ubiquity of the Facebook Connect and Like integrations (not to mention automatic personalization) have woven Facebook throughout a large portion of the Web. And third, the time. We, as a population are more digitally savvy than ever before. My parents have cell phones, my grandparents have cell phones. My 4 year old son texts my mother. We’re connected in a way that we never were in the AOL days – all playing into the hands of Facebook.

We’ve also heard the early rumblings of the privacy issues this new platform brings into question. And the privacy debate is an important one; but one that will happen at the fringes. There will be plenty of handwringing by pundits about what Zuck will do with our SMS and email data; but it’s an argument that won’t resonate with your casual user, even if it should. Let’s face it, the moment we accepted Gmail as our email client we gave up that inbox privacy ghost. This is just another step, and one that won’t raise the flags of rebellion among the proletariat.

So what’s next for Google? They’re now in the position where they have to play catch up again. Nothing they ship for Google Me will put them ahead of the game. They were sitting on a massive opportunity and missed it. While they’re out building self-driving cars, Facebook is building the true OS of the Web. And while privacy advocates and open Internet advocates will cry foul, the denziens of the Web will enjoy the cozy confines of their Facebook home and appreciate their newfound ability to have a single point communication interface that lets them manage all their relationships on the Web. And all of it will be hidden from Google.

As more and more of the world’s information gets organized by Facebook, the venerable search giant will need to stop chasing and start looking more at what opportunities their strengths provide if they want to be more than just the yellow pages of the Web.

Why Groupon Needs $950 Million More

The blogosphere is abuzz over tech-darling Groupon’s proposed $950 million Series G round. Many people have asked “Why do they need all that money?” And while expansion is the obvious answer, it’s a bit more nuanced than that. Groupon knows that in order to grow at scale in the SMB market you need a big sales organization with feet-on-the-street in the markets you’re hoping to reach. If you look at the successful small business advertising providers—the one’s that own large chunks of the market—they all have large sales forces. And it’s the large sales force that has stood between many a great, local-business-focused business plans and actual success.Groupon knows that without people pounding the pavement, pounding on doors and pounding the phone, they won’t reach the mass of SMBs who are 1) not actively seeking out new advertising options online and 2) are hounded by traditional SMB advertising providers like the Yellow Pages, who don’t ever let up on closing small business deals. And to put that organization in place is going to take a ton of cash. You need sales agents in each city, you need sales management, you need office space, you need call centers, you need fulfillment, billing and operations teams to handle that size of a customer base. And that takes a ton of money.

What Groupon is doing is something that no other tech company has done in recent memory—made a real run at securing a big chunk of the SMB market. Sure, new local-business-focused companies pop-up all the time. But most of them are either niche providers or they partner with the big existing yellow page providers to get access to their sales organization. They become a B2B channel provider leveraging the existing sales force because few can generate or raise the cash necessary to build a sales organization to go out and reach those SMBs directly.

Even mighty Google has taken this approach until now. They’re either unwilling to, or culturally unable to, commit to the SMB market with a massive sales force. Google has targeted savvy SMBs directly with AdWords solicitations; but has also worked aggressively to partner with yellow page companies to sell AdWords as part of existing yellow page bundled services, and often resold as CPM-based impressions (e.g. spend $2,500/month to get a quarter-page ad in the yellow book, a bolded listing with a photo on the site and a bucket of impressions driven by CPMs). And they’ve supported that initiative with direct mail, SEM (of course) and some print advertising as air cover to increase awareness and trial of AdWords through one channel or another.

But it was not until just last week that Google started outbound telesales direct to small business owners. That is a direct response to Groupon spurning their offer, and the realization that if they’re going to get serious about local business they can’t solve it with an algorithm. They need to put people toward the business unit to succeed.

All of this of course sheds quite a bit of light on the Groupon/Google negotiations and why the deal fell apart. I think what Groupon’s board realized (and kudos to them for this insight) is that Google—at its core—is not a sales-driven company. They don’t have the internal buy-in to be a hardcore sales organization and they’ve never committed the resources needed to make small business a booming success. They’ve tried to do it every other way except invest in a massive sales force. And I think Groupon looked at what has worked in reaching SMBs at scale and they realized it’s not arms-length. They realized that SMB advertising is still old school. It’s still knocking and dialing for dollars.

Groupon realized that what they needed is a sales-focused organization, not a technology-focused one. And tying up with Google would be a mistake, because at their core the two companies are fundamentally different in what they know about going to market. Google knows that it’s tech and better and more tech; Groupon knows that it’s how many calls can we make in a day. Groupon’s board knew it wouldn’t thrive under Google.

Additionally, Groupon knew that tying up with a dinosaur of a yellow page business was a bad idea too. The margins are non-existent, advertising dollars are shrinking and moving online, and most observers are waiting for someone to drag those pre-Internet monoliths out behind the wood shed and put a bullet in them. So the only logical step for Groupon, between their options, is to go out and build the sales organization they need that supports the tech organization that they are.

So while everyone oohs and ahhs at $950 million and will continue to talk about bubbles in the tech space; I personally think Groupon has made a very savvy decision to truly be one-of-a-kind, to be the first tech company to go hard after the SMB market—and win.

Thinking Is Fun

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Twitter and Comedy

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Cities Mapped by Photo Density

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46 of the Best Facebook Page Timeline Cover Images

Facebook announced the new timeline page design for brand pages last week at the Facebook Marketing Conference. The new Facebook page design gives brand pages the same timeline layout as user profile pages, with a few additional tools to help them manage their brand on the site. One of the most valuable changes to the pages is the ability to create a powerful branded presence by smart use of the cover art used on the page. Here are 50 of my favorite brand pages and their cover images as of today. If you’re looking for inspiration when setting up the timeline view of your brand’s Facebook page, you’re sure to find a few ideas here.

I think you’ll agree that with the new timeline changes for brands, a powerful Facebook presence starts with great cover art. Sure, some companies might not have the money for professional photography, but there are some great examples below of small businesses who have creatively found art work that works in the space and does a great job of branding their business.

These page cover photo dimensions are 815px by 315px. Profile images are 180px by 180px. And remember — all business pages will be upgraded to timeline by March 31, 2012. So get your cover art ready, and take advantage of the new Facebook page layout.

surfrider

Surfrider’s Facebook Page connects with fans of the non-profit, and puts its audience and focus front and center.

starbucks facebook cover photo

Starbucks does a great job of showcasing the beans, the start of any great cup of coffee.

Barack Obama facebook cover photo

Barack Obama’s Facebook page is excellent and it starts with this photo, which quickly shows that Obama gets (and is) one of us.

nike facebook cover photo

Nike uses the cover art to promote their new product line – the Fuel band.

redbull facebook cover photo

Red Bull‘s cover photo perfectly captures the brand essence through its connection to extreme sports.

Coca-Cola tells the brand history with its Facebook timeline, and the cover photo creates the overriding brand experience for the page.

spiderman facebook cover photo

The Spider-Man franchise is back, and this cover art teases the upcoming reboot.

chevy volt facebook cover photo

The Chevy Volt showcases its primary USP with a great shot of the vehicle plugged in, in front of some nice greenery.

the bachelor facebook cover photo

I don’t watch The Bachelor, but you get the gist of it pretty quickly just through the cover photo and profile picture they use. They also update it week after week with key scenes. Nice touch.

captain morgan facebook cover photo

Captain Morgan brings the iconic pirate to life and cleverly matches the profile image with the bottle label to break the hard line between the cover art and the rest of the profile.

american express facebook cover photo

Membership has its privileges is communicated clearly with AMEX’s Facebook cover photo.

alamo drafthouse cinema facebook cover photo

If this cover photo doesn’t tell you what you’re in for, I don’t know what will. Plus, Kenny Powers? Win!

herbal essence facebook cover photo

Herbal Essences showcases its product line with their Facebook cover photo.

louis vitton facebook cover photo

Louis Vuitton uses the cover photo as an invitation. Remember, the Facebook terms of service prohibit brands from putting messages such as “Save 40% now” or “Like Us!” in the cover photo.

livestrong facebook cover photo

Livestrong has a fresh take on its iconic yellow band.

smirnoff facebook cover photo

“Smirnoff drinkers make their own great nights” comes to life for their audience with their cover photo.

fanta facebook cover photo

Fanta has a game going right now and uses the cover photo area to promote it. They’ve lost some characters, and only Likes will bring them back.

modern family facebook cover photo

The characters of the hit TV show Modern Family are captured perfectly in this shot used for their Facebook cover photo.

chevy sonic facebook cover photo

Chevy’s Sonic performed the first kick-flip done by a car. If you didn’t know that, you’re not the target audience for the Sonic. Chevy does a great job capturing that awesome feat with their cover photo.

verizon facebook cover photo

Verizon goes the user generated route for its cover photo, showing off a picture snapped on one of its devices for its cover photo.

amy's ice creams

Amy’s Ice Creams does a great job showcasing their product and adding some brand whimsy while they’re at it.

brookfield homes facebook cover photoBrookfield Homes San Diego has a clear call to action and a visually interesting welcome for potential home buyers.

butterfinger facebook cover photoButterfinger lines up the profile image and cover photo to create a fun visual break with the hard borders of Facebook’s cover photo area.

the today show facebook cover photo

The Today Show is all about the personalities of the show — the Facebook cover photo is no different.

mcguire real estate facebook cover photo

McGuire Real Estate uses a stunning shot of downtown San Francisco to create a powerful Facebook presence for potential home shoppers.

 Ben & Jerry’s Facebook cover image is simple and right on brand with their other collaterals.

The Magnolia Bakery whets your appetite with the delicious confections they sell. You almost want to press your face up against the screen like when you were a kid walking by the window.

HSG Accounting is a great example of what you can do without a professional photography or incredible images. Find a great-looking shot on iStockPhoto or similar and crop it in an interesting way to create compelling cover art.

Assassin’s Creed uses a stunning shot from actual gameplay — nice.

People leaves no doubt to its value proposition. Want celebrity news? Read People. Simple.

Jive Time Records showcases their awesome selection of vinyl. A place that any High Fidelity fan could get lost in for hours.

ColdPlay‘s image is all about them and portrays them in the way that their fans expect and appreciate.

Tiffany is all about diamonds and little blue boxes. So is their cover photo.

Tide uses the cover art to introduce a new product to the Tide line.


Nespresso uses an alluring image with satin sheets that speak to the brand promise of a smooth, sensual coffee drink.

SportsCenter gives you a look behind the cameras, putting you in the director’s chair — right on the set.

Doug Bend is another great example of a small business without professional photography find artwork that speaks to their business and brand.

Canlis does a great job showcasing their property. That inviting image is just calling visitors to come and join them for a meal.

The Vow‘s page puts Channing Tatum front and center in a shot filled with dramatic tension.

Old Spice stays true to the branding of it’s campaigns. Explosions and tigers, oh my!

The New York Times gives you a look inside at the people who make the country’s most esteemed newspaper.

Burberry puts the latest runway look front and center with something right out of your favorite fashion or lifestyle magazine.

Toyota connects with the emotional side of owning a car. It’s not about the car, it’s about the lifestyle, the freedom of the open road with your best friend.

Verrado, a community outside of Phoenix, sets the scene with a tree-lined lane that has hometown written all over it.

Sports Clips

SportClips not only puts it’s USP front and center, it shows it in action, too.

The beauty of the Centerpoint on Mill development in Phoenix is captured in a perfect evening shot, showcasing the work and the possibilities of the development.

Disclosure: I’ve worked with Brookfield, Verrado and Centerpoint on their social marketing strategy.

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