5 things you must know about Facebook Timeline for brands

This helpful guide shows how brands can make the most of Facebook’s new layout.

In its third major layout change, Facebook officially transitioned users’ profile pages to a new layout called Timeline a few months ago. But it delayed the transition for brand pages to March 30.

The delay for brands was to give them extra time to update their pages and apps. Even though Facebook has been reminding brands for months, it appears by all the confusion this past week that the forced migration to Timeline still caught many businesses by surprise.

Here are the top five things all Facebook brand page administrators need to know when it comes to Timeline:

1. New layouts and sizes for images, apps, and content

If you have visual indicators like images of arrows pointing to the “like” button of your Facebook page, then you’ll most likely need to update or delete these as soon as possible. With Timeline, your arrows encouraging users to like your page are probably pointing to the wrong place or no longer make any sense.

Existing apps will also need to be updated in the near feature to take advantage of new sizing options. Here’s a handy list of new Timeline-related pixel sizes:

Cover photos: 851 x 315

Profile pictures: 180 x 180

Apps: 851

Apps thumbnail images: 111 x 74

Highlighted and milestone images: 843 x 403

2. Strategically using Facebook cover photos

Agencies like mine at Definition 6 are strategically using Facebook’s new cover photo feature to highlight top content for our clients. For example, on Lawyers.com (a LexisNexis website) we’re using the Facebook cover photo to promote whatever the featured blog post of the day is: http://www.facebook.com/lawyerscom

What we found was that Facebook users unfamiliar with Facebook’s new Timeline layout were clicking on the cover photo thinking it was interactive content. Unfortunately, it’s not. It’s just an image. However, when a user clicks on an image, the image pops up in Facebook’s “theater mode” to display likes and comments for that image. After noticing this behavior trend, we were able to quickly capitalize on it. We’ve made sure that all images being used as cover photo images contained a detailed description and included a link to the featured article. As a result, we’re using the cover photo not just to reinforce branding and messaging but to also help drive traffic.

3. App shock

Unfortunately, brands that heavily relied on apps will be in for somewhat of a shock. Before Timeline, all your apps (previously called tabs) were listed along the left side of your Facebook page. But with Timeline, brand pages can showcase only four apps under the cover photo—and Facebook requires one of them to be photos. This means you have only three app slots initially visible to your audience and need to use this real estate wisely. Users can still toggle a dropdown to see all your brand page’s apps (Facebook allows a maximum of 12), but as a business, you’ll need to carefully consider the value of creating more Facebook apps, which three are displayed, and when they are displayed.

4. Increased focus on content

One way brands will have to adapt to Timeline is by focusing more on content and relying less on apps. Facebook’s new Timeline layout puts much more focus on the content in your Timeline than your apps. Small businesses can use this change as an opportunity. While they might not have been able to compete with big businesses with big app budgets, Timeline’s increased focus on content helps level the playing field and gives small business more opportunities to communicate with both fans and customers.

One of my favorite things about Timeline is the ability to easily showcase your brand’s history. Even if your company hasn’t been around for hundreds of years, you can still use this feature to communicate the changes and evolution of your business or industry. It doesn’t just have to be boring dates like when your company was founded. Be strategic and creative. For example, to help meet your recruitment and retention goals, think about adding dated content to your company Timeline like employees’ funny photos from your holiday parties, employee promotion announcements. and photos of office pets (if your small business is pet friendly).

For example, Definition 6 clients Coca-Cola and Raymond Weil have both filled out their Facebook Timelines. If you still feel that you don’t have enough to fill out a compelling Timeline history, then maybe you should consider using your Timeline to show thought leadership in your industry. For example, check out Spotify’s Facebook Timeline. It shows the history of music going back over 1,000 years. It’s a very clever execution for a new company without a lot of personal history to fill up a full Timeline.

Timeline also gives page admins multiple ways to showcase content. In addition to the cover photo, admins can also “pin” a story to the top of your Timeline for up to seven days, or “star” a story to make it expand to the full width of your Timeline. Between the cover photo and starred and pinned content in your timeline, business now have three major ways to feature content on their Facebook brand pages.

5. Enhanced admin panel

Part of the switch to Timeline includes an enhanced moderation and admin dashboard. Instead of having to pull up a separate page or tool, the new admin interface is at the top of your Facebook brand page and gives you access to notifications (comments and likes to your content), new likes (new people who have liked your brand page), insights (line graph showing how Facebook users engaged with your content), and messages (private direct messages). Many brands will find the new message tool valuable. Fans no longer have to disclose information by posting on your brand page’s wall. They can now initiate a private conversation with the page admins by sending them direct messages.

With these new enhanced features, reps for brands will need to rethink some of their planned tactics for Facebook marketing that they may have had in place for this year. By putting a larger focus on content, you will see less “like-gating” campaigns and more content-driven marketing campaigns that brands will leverage to connect with their consumers.

Jon Accarrino is director of social media for Definition 6.


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