This morning, Facebook announced a dramatic and long-awaited chance for business pages: the Timeline format. Social media marketers who are excited for the switch can jump to the new look right now, otherwise you'll be forced to change when Timeline becomes mandatory on March 30.
While the most obvious change is the sprawlingly wide new "cover photo," there's more to the media-rich pages than just a swank new header image. There are some exciting - and frustrating - details that Facebook admins need to keep in mind as they prepare for the switch.
Luckily, it's easy to get started by clicking the "Preview" button at the top of your page and setting up your Timeline in a private environment. Then you can simply hit "Publish now" whenever you're ready.
So why wait? We've been playing with it all day on our agency page, and we've put together this checklist to help your business embrace Timeline today:
1. You Now Get a Big New Cover Photo
The most obvious change for brand pages is definitely the cover photo. This 810-pixel-wide image across the top of your page lets you express your brand personality, priorities or products in a dramatic new way.
One great thing about this new dominant photo is that you can change it as often as you please without confusing your audience. Previously, a brand only had its vertical profile image, which also served as your avatar for daily posting. This new format sets brands free to experiment and have fun.
Change it as often as you'd like, show off your fan of the week - the possibilities are absolutely endless. Just make sure the photo you select is large enough to fit in your 810-pixel space.
2. You'll Need a Square Profile Pic
The profile photo is now nothing more than a square thumbnail that appears alongside your newsfeed posts and as a small inset in your cover photo. Use this space wisely. Keep the icon simple, hi-resolution, and easily recognizable.
3. Get to Know the Admin Panel
At the top right of your new page you'll see a button that says "Admin Panel" above the Timeline. Click it and a fancy, update-at-a-glance box drops down. This Admin Panel includes a quick view of basic insights, new Likes, notifications and (finally!) an inbox for your brand page (but more on that later). A lot of these items had been difficult to use or were difficult to find. Thanks to the panel, these important features are now front and center for admins. It's a breeze to use and a nice feature.
4. You Can Now Send and Receive Messages as Your Brand Page
You heard that right, the new Admin Panel features an inbox for your brand page. Apparently Facebook finally listened to us at The Social Path (and others, admittedly) and addressed the need to be able to communicate with fans privately as the brand. As simple as this change is, it's by far my favorite feature in the roll-out.
To send a message to a page, simply look for the "Message" button next to the Like button (if you're not already a fan). Don't see it on brand pages you like? That means those brands have likely deactivated messaging. If you feel the need to do the same, click "Edit Page," then look in the "Manage Permissions" tab for the option "Show 'Message' button." But you might as well try it for a while and see how it goes.
5. 'Tab Apps' Have a Whole New Look
If you have any additional tabs beyond the basic Facebook offerings such as the Wall, you'll want to spend some time formatting them before the March 30 deadline. The icons are very large now and only four can be featured at the top of your page. The rest will be hidden in a drop-down menu. You can customize which four tabs are featured by clicking the pencil (which we all know now as the editing tool) and choosing which application to "switch" places with. Before you do that, however, you'll want to make sure that you have a decent icon worth featuring. Some previous icons from third-party apps are now incredibly small because they were sized for the former left-hand tab navigation.
Worst of all...
6. Landing Tabs Are Dead
if you've been using a "Welcome Tab" or "Landing Tab" that introduced potential fans to your company, then you're pretty much out of luck. The era of the landing tab is over. Your brand page now will always (at least in this current setup) default to landing on your Timeline. The cover photo can replace the customized images and experience that you want fans to encounter when they visit to your page, but applications that scream to "Like Our Page!" are no longer the star of the show.
This could mean much less of an emphasis on customized, elaborate application and a much bigger emphasis on posts to engage fans and build an audience. One thing worth noting is that the tab area has increased from a measely width of 520 pixels to a whopping 810 pixels. That gives us more room to work with in applications and will make them more like microsites embedded into Facebook.
7. Oh, and Your Timeline Isn't Actually in Order
I like a tidy, chronological Timeline. Imagine my frustration with the fact that, as it appears, there is no way to organize our Timelines so every recent post shows up in order. The choices are Highlights, Friend Activity, Posts by Others, and Posts by Page - none of which pay any respect to timeliness.
On our agency page, a Luckie employee tested this theory by posting a comment, which was buried far below posts from the page, fans, and even tags - some of which were made months ago. While the notifications box in the Admin Panel should help us keep up with fan comments, a popular brand page could easily lose track.
I'm sure this will be widely lamented by brand pages and we'll see a chronological option soon enough.
8. But Hey, Album Descriptions Are Back
It's the little things in life, folks. With the last iteration of Facebook photo albums, we lost the ability to share album descriptions on the wall, which made it hard to give readers context about the photos. With the appearance of Timeline, they're back. What a user needs to know about an album can't always be conveyed in just a title. The return of these few lines of text make a big difference for administrators trying to draw fans in. We had whittled our descriptions down to the bare bones and we're excited about spreading our wings once again.
9. You Can Fill in Your Company History
Just like with personal profile Timelines, we have the opportunity to tell the story of our brands from conception. Luckie & Co. has a long history and a great story, making this an exciting prospect. Take some time to map out your story - founding date, major milestones, product launches and all applicable information that may show up on, say, the brand's Wikipedia page. Use this as an opportunity to make your Facebook brand page the official hub of information and activity for fans - draw people to this forum that you can control.
10. Important Posts Can Be 'Pinned' to the Top
Maybe there is a photo, status, announcement or story that is currently the most important for your brand. Or maybe you simply want to make sure brand posts are featured above all fan comments. Select the pencil on the stories in question and "Pin to Top." Only one item can be your featured pin, so choose wisely.
Hopefully these 10 tips will help you get started. So far, we're pretty happy with the opportunities the Timeline format presents. It is a bit messy, though, so get ready to get your hands dirty in the next month while you spruce up images, streamline applications, and fill out your Timelines.