Facebook Timeline cover photos gave us our first taste of social networking profiles for companies that could visually represent the brand and, more important, the personality of a business. Spicing up profiles on most other networks was left to creative descriptions and creative content. Twitter just changed that.
With the changes launched last week, Twitter is starting to look more like Facebook, a move that's great for brands trying to showcase themselves better on the network. For individual businesses and agencies, this presents several opportunities not to overlook.
1. Make your Twitter header image meaningful. More-meaningful header images give visitors greater knowledge of who and what you represent on Twitter. For nonprofits, this could translate into a switch every month of the photo to highlight an impact you've made on the community, with updated photos of projects and outreach programs. Oxfam America is already showing followers one of its missions through its header image.
2. Turn off the static. With the layout comes an opportunity for many entities to cancel stiff preconceptions. Government agencies can create imagery that eliminates stodgy appearances or show better location-based imagery. The official New York City Twitter account has implemented and added some NYC flavor without compromising the professionalism of a government account. You'll notice that the background image is not the same as the header, so showcasing two images is possible.
3. Be clear about your business services. Businesses can use the feature to reduce a possible misconception of their public offering. The header image can be used to further describe a business. Business names can lead to confusion about specialization, and while the background image provided a way to communicate, the header image provides a more defined space to present a business clearly. A Reno, Nev., restaurant with an unusual name that does not immediately convey food uses its header to visually demonstrate what it does.
4. A chance to get creative. Timeline cover photos give designers and creatives a chance to integrate the profile and cover photos and display a cool, collective piece. The same can be done with the header and the avatar on Twitter. Aesthetically, it draws users in to the profile. Ryan Seacrest seized that opportunity right away.
5. Individuals can have a consistent brand look. If you or your clients prefer to remain consistent across all profiles that relate back to your company, it's a chance to apply one look to all affiliates so profiles are immediately recognizable. "The Today Show" anchors seized that opportunity, with Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie have matching images. If all "Today" anchors switch to the standard, Twitter users will have no trouble recognizing and separating them from other shows' anchors.
The header image gives digital agencies more power to create a Twitter-designed page that better works for the client. This allows background designs to be more visual and less data intensive, allowing the header to represent data in a singular location. And it's fun, further proving that social is visual. The updated Twitter profile gives businesses an opportunity to showcase their brand and tell their story beyond a 160-character bio or a 140-character tweet.
To switch to the new look, edit your profile, and you'll find a place to upload a header photo under "Design." Twitter plans to switch all profiles in coming months. Read about the change on Twitter's blog.
T.J. Crawford is the director of strategy at Noble Studios, a Nevada tech firm and featured partner of Wildfire Interactive. A version of this article first appeared on SmartBlog on Social Media.