The new Timeline for Facebook Pages is officially here. As of March 30th, all businesses had to adhere to the new design – whether they liked it or not. However, you should welcome the change, and not fear it, because it brought with it many new features and tools to help you build a more active and engaging community surrounding your brand on Facebook.
At Thunder, we manage several different Facebook Pages, working to successfully create communication between our clients’ brands and their fans. Changing their Pages over to the Timeline layout was exciting because it opened the door to several new possibilities.
So what kinds of fun things can you do with Timeline for Pages? Let’s walk through the new features!
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1. Timeline Cover Photo
This is the first and most noticeable change people will see when they come to your Page, and it’s also your opportunity to give your Page a voice and a personality. Your cover image, which is 851 x 315 pixels, should be a strong representation of your brand. However, there are a few rules to keep in mind.
First, the image can NOT include contact information, calls to action, promotions, or discounts. Additionally, the cover photo cannot direct people to “like” your Page.
If you’re looking for cover photo ideas, consider something that showcases your business’ products, people using your product, the history of your brand, a unique selling point of your product, or an image that involves your audience in some way. A great way to get your fans involved in your Page is to let them help design it! Have a contest to let your fans submit their own photos for the chance to have their image selected as your cover photo.
Red Bull put together a really awesome Cover Photo scavenger hunt to roll out their new Facebook Timeline design, which enticed their fans to interact with their Page and website.
2. Admin Panel
The Admin Panel is only visible to admins of your Page, and you can access your Page’s Insights, Notifications, Messages and more. Your Insights show the total number of Likes your Page has, the number of people talking about your Page, and your weekly total reach. You can also see which posts were most popular, the best external referring sites, and the demographics of your fans.
It’s important to know who is most interested in your business or brand when creating content, so that you know which “voice” to use and who you’re speaking directly to. Analyzing information from Facebook Insights definitely helps you discover the best approach to take.
In this section, which was moved up to the top of your Page underneath your profile picture, you can include details about your business, your contact information, and links to your website, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and more.
The length was expanded with the new layout to allow for up to 170 characters. Local Business Pages must now choose between location and website, or phone number and website. Unfortunately, they do not have the option to include all 3. Additional links can also be displayed in the description or biography section.
Users now have the ability to privately message your Page. With this function enabled, any Facebook user, regardless if they “like” your Page or not, can send your Page a private message. Reasons for someone to privately message your Page could include: customer inquiries, customer service issues, and even reputation management issues that can be resolved in a private forum rather than on the public Timeline.
Be sure to check messages regularly and respond promptly! It is important to note, however, that you cannot initiate conversations when using Facebook as the Page, you can only respond to messages sent to your Page first. If you do not want people to be able to message your Page, this feature can also be disabled.
This is probably the most controversial change, because the default landing tabs are now gone. On your Page, four apps are always displayed, though you can access up to 12 apps by clicking on the drop down arrow to the right of the boxes. The first box will always show your photos, but the other 3 can be rearranged and customized however you like.
Each app has a unique url, so you are able to draw traffic to any “landing page” you want from within Facebook, using ads, your own profile, or any other appropriate places. While the traditional fan gates are a thing of the past, you can still draw traffic from outside Facebook using your own website or blog, other social profiles, tweets, email campaigns, or email signatures. You can also customize the thumbnail image on your apps, which is another great opportunity for branding, calls to action and specials.
The dimensions of apps are 111 x 74 pixels, and for a really great explanation on how to customize your app thumbnails and create new apps, check out BlogHer’s tips.
Here’s a great example of Timeline branding on Social Stars’ Facebook Page.
You can pin any of your posts to the top of your Page by hovering over the update, clicking the edit pencil in the top right corner, and then selecting ‘pin to top.’ You can tell a post is pinned by the orange ribbon in the right corner.
This feature allows you to keep older, yet important, updates “pinned” to the top of the Page for 7 days, regardless of most recent updates. You should note, however, that you can only pin one update at a time, and pinned updates can not be highlighted to stretch across both columns. Don’t worry, we’ll get to how you can highlight a post shortly…
7. Wall Posts
All wall posts and Page mentions made by Facebook users are now grouped together in one box, rather than spread out over your Page based on when they commented. This box includes direct wall posts made on your Page, as well as @mentions from Facebook users. Click ‘see all’ to view and respond to these comments in a separate popup window.
Similar to wall posts, all the other Pages you have ‘liked’ as your Page are grouped together and displayed in a box as well. The ‘featured’ likes, which are displayed in this box, rotate with each new Page visit or refresh.
I told you we would get to highlighting, didn’t I? You can now stretch a post across both columns of your Timeline by hovering over the top right corner of the post and clicking on the star icon. In case you forget why a particular post is wide on your Page, you can tell that it has been highlighted by the star icon in the top right corner.
I suggest highlighting a post with a great image or video, rather than a post with text only, because it is more visually pleasing to the user. There is no limit as to how many posts you can highlight on your Page, though if you start highlighting all of them, your Page may start to look really cluttered with no clear focal point.
Adding milestones to your Timeline allows you to go back in time to add something to your Page, even if it happened before you had Facebook. This is great for businesses with a long and rich history.
To add a milestone, click the blue line between the columns on your Page (your actual time LINE) and you will be given the option to add a status, a photo or video, or a milestone about your business. For example, you can add when your business was founded – even if it wasn’t in this century! Milestones are marked with a flag icon at the top of each post.
So, even though you were probably very comfortable with your old Facebook Page layout, it’s time to “bite the bullet” and start taking advantage of all the new tools that are available to you; and remember, it’s not rocket science and experimenting is encouraged! What has been your personal experience with the mandatory switch to using Facebook Timeline for your business? We’d love to know! Leave us a comment below.