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New Facebook Timeline Features for Pages

So by now you know that Facebook Pages are getting a new look and feel with Timeline and milestones.  According to Mashable “Our analyses of Page engagement have continually shown that brands posting content that depicts behind-the-scenes activities, exclusive updates or promotions encourages user interactions and promotes higher engagement rates.”  The new Facebook Timeline features seem to focus on this type of brand activity but there are much deeper implications.

Big Brands vs Small Business

These new Facebook timeline features are either a nice step forward or a huge step back depending on who you are.  Big business seems to like the new features.  A cover image is easily leverage to tell a visual story about what the brand is or at least what the brand’s marketing department wants users to feel when they see the brand in the digital space.

For small businesses, the new timeline and its related components are devastating.  Many of them cripple or at the very least severely hinder the ability for small business owners to compete against the big brands for Facebook user’s time and attention.  Here is a great post on Convince and Convert that highlights the dichotomy for businesses on either end of the spectrum.

So what changes will be ushered in with Timeline for Pages?

Cover Image

To start, brands will now have a masthead cover image at the top of their page which measures 850 x 315 pixels.  But it’s not all warm fuzzies here.

There is also a cautionary tale here too.  Facebook has made it very clear, though the information is hard to find unless you’re looking for it, that using the cover image to market or ask for a like is forbidden.  Here’s what they say in their policies:

Cover images must be at least 399 pixels wide and may not contain:

  • Price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it at our website”
  • Contact information, such as web address, email, mailing address or other information intended for your Page’s About section
  • References to user interface elements such as Like or Share, or any other Facebook site features
  • Calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends”

Best advice: use the cover photo to tell a visual story about your brand and its culture.  Try to give visitors a sense of who the brand is but be careful not to cross the line.

Tabs

Now only 3 tabs at a time will be seen under the cover photo.  This means analysis of the performance of active tabs is now more meaningful and should be used to determine which 3 tabs to show at any given time.

There will no longer be a default landing tab either.  Though a top feature for brands in the past, the default landing tab is no longer supported and visitors to a brand’s page will be greeted with the topline posts.  A supporting ad campaign and frequent posts will now be the only way to drive substantial traffic to the tabs created by a brand other than using links on an update or a third party site location like a blog or brand website.

Tab widths have been extended as well and now occupy 810 pixels from side to side rather than the legacy 520 pixels.  Existing tab content will be centered and not scaled automatically by Facebook.  Look for many brands to revisit their tabs to find creative ways to leverage the additional real estate.

Milestones

Another change that Timeline ushers in is the inclusion of milestones in a brand’s timeline.  Milestones highlight significant events in a company’s history and can be dated back to 1800.  It’s a great way to tell the story of where you’ve come from, how you got this point, and spark engagement with fans.

Milestones are displayed more prominently on the page with a full width format and provide viable content anchors on the timeline.

Pins and Highlights

Brand admins can pin posts in their timeline.  Any one post can be pinned to the top of the timeline for a period of time up to 7 days.  Pinning is reminiscent of “sticky posts” on a blog and should prove to be a very positive feature of Page timelines.  Admins can also highlight any given post to extend it to a full width post and draw added attention to it.  But you cannot pin and highlight a single post at the same time.  It’s one or the other.

Brands will need to think about how they want to leverage these two new tools to draw attention to important updates.  This will require more effort both in creating content that will be appealing in the timeline and also suitable for pinning and highlighting.

Private Messaging

Perhaps the most important of the new Facebook Timeline features for engagement is the ability for brands to private message users.  Brands have never had this ability before and it comes at a time where engagement is harder and harder to create in a sea of noise and distraction.  The down side is that users must initiate the messaging.  Brands are not able to start the direct messaging exchange.

The big value here is that it provides brands with a mechanism to move those customer service requests or complaints offline and prevent such exchanges from clouding the timeline for other users.

Conclusions

This new face for Pages on Facebook will be driven by cover photos, active page management for pins and app rotations, and most importantly by the success or failure of brands in driving engaging conversations to present a valuable timeline experience.

Small businesses may begin to look to other platforms for their go-to social exchange with customers.  Big brands will begin to see Facebook as more of an ad experience than a free social tool.

Brands that are over run by customer service requests and meaningless chatter will soon see their timelines as a detriment to engagement.  This means that brands, both large and small, will now need to devote greater time and resources to the management of their Facebook Pages if they intend to pursue the platform as a viable venue for customer engagement.

Take Action

  • Look through your photo archives and find a great cover photo
  • Start compiling your company’s milestones and enter them in your timeline
  • Revisit your social media plan, particularly the content strategy and management resources
  • Redesign your tabs to take advantage of the wider format and refine the message in the absence of a default landing tab

Need help getting up to speed with the new Facebook Timeline features?  We can help; just let us know what you need.

About Tim Miner

I'm the founder of Vestor Logic, the digital strategy and web design firm that created Trail Sherpa, ParksFolio, and Modern Steader. I'm a day hiker, top chef in camp, doting husband, and father to two headlamp wearing boys. My work in digital media brings those experiences to life.