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New Timeline for Facebook Pages

Image © Facebook 2012

There has been a lot of Facebook news this past week, from reports on their premium plan for advertisers to an announcement that ESPN plans to stream NCAA basketball games live on the social network this spring.

Probably the biggest news, however, was Facebook’s announcement on leap day that it was unveiling its Timeline feature, previously only available to profiles and groups, for businesses.  Back in October when we first wrote about the Facebook Timeline, we, along with many industry experts, had predicted that Facebook would eventually make the Timeline feature available for businesses.

In an interesting twist, unlike the process when Timeline was offered to profiles, the change for business pages becomes automatic at the end of March.  So, business owners with business pages have 30 days to figure out how to make the changes they want.  While we can assume that most people who are managing business pages also have their own personal profiles on Facebook and therefore have seen the Timeline before, it’s still a good idea to review what will change.

There’s a great article over at Inside Facebook that breaks down the changes, and of course Mashable is in on the act as well.  Both articles do an excellent job of walking through what’s different with Timeline for business pages, namely:

  • Cover Photo
    • Pages will no longer have a unique landing tab and will now instead use a cover photo.  Note that the article on Inside Facebook lists the incorrect dimensions – it’s actually 851 x 315 (not 851 x 351).
    • Your cover photo image cannot include pricing, purchase or contact information, any type of call-to-action, or references to Facebook features such as “Like” or “Share” – in short, it can’t be the equivalent of a banner ad

  • Timeline
    • Timeline adds the functionality to allow you to “pin” an important post to the top of your page, where it will stay for seven days
    • As a page owner, you can now choose to make certain posts larger than others to make them stand out
    • You may also choose to hide individual posts without actually deleting them, enabling you to focus only on your most engaging posts but still retain your data

  • Admin Panel
    • The new admin panel tool provides a quick glimpse at insights, people who have recently Liked your page, fan activity notifications, and a message inbox
      • The message inbox is tied to another new feature which now allows direct messages from users, which could be used for customer service issues
      • Pages cannot initiate direct messaging with fans
    • Also included is a Help Center for page administrators

  • Activity Log
    • Similar to its use for personal profiles, the activity log enables you to find and edit older posts, with sorting features by year or by type of content

  • Applications
    • Page tab apps will now be listed on the right, under the cover photo, rather than down the left side of the page, and all apps will now have larger thumbnails (111 x 74 pixels, versus the 16 x 16 size used previously)
    • Default landing tabs are no longer allowed, so Facebook recommends that pages pin a post that links to a specific tab.  As a reminder, Facebook guidelines do not allow you to put a “call to action” in your cover photo to direct people to visit a particular tab, so don’t try to get around the restriction by using this technique.

That’s a great summary of the changes, but it ignores really what the changes mean – what are the pros and cons?  Over on Entrepreneur’s website, author Mikal Belicove has covered this for us.  His pros and cons break down into three main categories:

  • Cover Photo
    • Pro: Simple – you can use this to help develop your brand’s personality and avoid appearing so corporate.
    • Con: Since the cover photo is so large, it by necessity bumps all of the more “useful” content that you want visitors to see down “below the fold” where they have to search for it.

  • Pinning Posts
    • Pro: Obviously this is very useful for important information that you want to make sure your site’s fans see.  Examples could be as mundane as reminding people that your office is going to be closed for the holidays.
    • Con: Belicove mentions that consumers won’t be as likely to continue visiting a site that always has the same content pinned to the top of the page.  But, he does note that, as we know, most people get their Facebook news from their News Feed, not from specific pages.

  • Direct Messaging
    • Pro: The main advantage of allowing consumers to direct message business pages is that it could be a way for someone who wants to write an angry rant to avoid posting it on the page itself and instead direct it privately to the page owner via a direct message
    • Con: The con, of course, is that, depending on the popularity of your business page on Facebook, there is the potential for you to start receiving dozens, if not hundreds, of direct messages, which can be a drain on resources as you would need to find people in your organization to be able to answer each message

These are all good things to be aware of when updating (or creating) your business page for Facebook.  It’s also important to note, as Sam Laird from Mashable writes, that businesses that are not used to creating their own content, or businesses with segmented operations, may find the switch to Timeline more difficult. There is a lot of help out there available – seek out social media professionals to assist you, particularly in terms of the type of content you should be posting.

Over the coming week, we’ll be updating our Facebook page to the new Timeline, so you can see the changes we’ve made.

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