When it comes to Facebook fan engagement and the new Timeline for pages, there are two groups. One is armed with anecdotal case studies that show how the new design affects fan engagement rate positively. Another is armed with anecdotal case studies that show Timeline for brands has actually decreased fan engagement with companies on Facebook. Whom should you believe?

Facebook Flaws

The folks at Inside Facebook claim that reports by Vitrue and SimplyMeasured, which have released statistics claiming to represent the impact of Timeline on engagement, are flawed. Brittany Darwell writes:

Timeline is primarily a design change and is unlikely to be directly responsible for any differences in fan engagement because most interaction occurs on posts within News Feed, not on pages themselves. Page owners should recognize the importance of Timeline as a first impression for visitors, but should not count on the redesign to change the way fans interact with their page."

As more companies converted to Facebook Timeline and now that every Facebook page has converted to the new layout, visiting company pages becomes a novelty -- we want to see how they have designed their page. Such activity may result in some new fans and increased activity, but when the novelty fades, Facebook pages will still be about engaging fans via news feed rather than actual Facebook page visits. Unless companies with interesting Timeline designs can make posts that remind fans to visit the page, the effect will be minimal.

Both EdgeRank Checker and HubSpot released studies that looked at brand pages. Edge Rank looked at 3,500 brand pages and found that all, regardless of whether they converted to Timeline, lost traffic during the month of March. HubSpot indicated that content scheduled to publish automatically to Facebook in March, after the company switched to Timeline, posted a 234% decrease in user engagement. Content posted manually, however, had about the same level of pre-Timeline engagement.

There is No Deeper Meaning...

What does this all mean? The same thing it did before Facebook Timeline was announced: Cultivating your community on Facebook relies more on providing value-added content, building meaningful customer experiences and engaging users effectively than on some fancy design or layout changes.