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Facebook Advertising & The Timeline Cover Photo - A Debate to Close Out 2012

Nate Riggs
Nate Riggs / December 21, 2011

I really wasn't planning to write this particular post, but a few comments between myself, Jason Keith and Heather Whaling has sparked my curiosity on some of the other implications of Facebook's new(er) Timeline Layout.

Yesterday, we looked at what I thought was a pretty neat application of Timeline's cover image, and how ABC's hit series, Modern Family, is using it to build awareness and advocacy among their Facebook fan base. Go back and dig into that short post and comments to catch up for today.

You Are So Emotional!

And, so am I.

We humans are mere buckets of emotions wrapped up neatly in skin and clothes.

Marketers and advertisers have come to understand that as a core tenet of reaching audiences with the right message that evokes the emotional triggers that lead to purchase decisions, right?

Fail to uncover and spark those triggers, and the failure of your product, service, campaign or even your business as a whole lies around the next corner.

Earlier this morning, my friend Anthony tweeted to me a Forbes article entitled: Why Ads Grab You More on Facebook Than on TV or the Web.

The article details two related studies by Nelisen's NeuroFocus that delve into the how we as humans neurologically engage with more premium websites like Facebook, Yahoo, and the New York Times. The summary bullets from the study are below:

  • Compared to NeuroFocus norms, “premium websites” such as Facebook, Yahoo, and the New York Times deliver substantially more engaging experiences than the average website.
  • Consumers do respond differently to premium websites oriented toward three different purposes: social networking, light news and entertainment, and hard news and commentary.
  • These differences are represented neurologically by different levels of attention, emotional engagement, and memory activation.
  • All of these differences appear to be related to the expectations people bring to these sites when they visit them, and these expectations, in turn, appear to impact how people respond to advertising on these sites.
  • A related study of advertising on three media contexts supports these results, showing superior attention emotional engagement for an ad presented in a social media online context vs. on TV or on a corporate web page

"The face is a window to the emotions."

In another article on Mashable related to the same study, CEO of NeuroFocus and known mind reader, A.K. Pradeep, shares that "since childhood we are trained to read people’s faces to discern emotion, and that such information is key to survival: Thus the stimulation we experience when scanning our news feeds."


The news feeds he's referring to are those found inside Facebook where the faces of your friends (and friends of friends) are most prominent.

Where as sites like Yahoo! and The New York Times scored higher than the behemoth network in terms of memory and recall, Facebook dominated emotional engagement among the 84 adult subjects who were wired with EEG sensors in order to measure their brain wave activity as they browsed around each of the sites.

Back to Yesterday's Post on Facebook Timeline

Facebook makes money on selling advertising features to agencies, brands, small business owners, bloggers and really anyone who's willing to type in their credit card information and open an account.

In yesterday's post, ABC was praised (or questioned) for creating a branded Modern Family timeline cover photo and making it available for their fans to use on their own profile.

What's interesting about Facebook's new layout is now the general user can have their cake and eat it to:

  • A personal headshot or avatar image for friend identification
  • A customizable cover photo to make a public and emotionally driven statement about their lives. (As an example, Heather brought up the idea of New York Yankee fans plastering a Yankee branded image to their cover photo)

Still, Jason pointed out that using a branded image as a cover photo is technically against Facebook's terms of service, though it doesn't seem too practical that this policy is being strictly policed.

Now the Floor is Yours

Given all of this information, what's your take?

Here are some questions to get you started. Pick one (or all of them) and share your ideas in the comments. Cool?

  • Should branded images be allowed to be used by fans to promote the brands they love?
  • Do you think ABC's approach is an effective way to leverage the emotional connections triggered by the presence of human faces on Facebook?
  • How could the use of branded cover photos affect Facebook's advertising model?

{Wait for it....}

And, GO!

Tagged With: Social Media, Content Marketing, Strategy