Facebook Timeline

Understanding the Facebook Timeline for Brands

Facebook Timeline

(please note: this article was first published in 2012 and may now contain out of date information)

Previously everything on Facebook happened just through the newsfeed for the most part. And by large, we’re still going to be marketing through our feeds. But right now, Facebook has made a very significant shift over to the Timeline. What this means is that your brand, your business, and your clients are going to be front and center of your approach.

What are the Changes and Requirements for Business?

Cover Photo

This is the big striking image that redefines the look and feel of Facebook. A lot of people refer to it like a website header. With cover images you can clearly create a strong brand impression. Some of the key aspects of this is that you want to create something that’s visually striking and you also want to be careful not to violate Facebook’s Terms of Service.

One of the big changes that people need to be really want to focus on is that it’s very tempting to utilize this space for a specific call to action or to point an arrow down to the Like button and say “click the Like”. Facebook is specifically prohibiting that kind of activity with the cover photo.

They have not restricted you from using text. You can certainly use text as part of your branding in getting your message out there, kind of like identifying who you are, but you certainly don’t want to do a specific call of action. Telephone numbers and websites are also considered as a call to action so those things are not permitted in the cover photo as well. Everyone is encouraged to review those Terms of Service to make sure that you are in alignment to the rules.

Picking the right cover photo is going to be very important. It’s going to be the first impression when people visit your site. It’s important that you get the right dimensions too. There is a minimum dimension that you can use that’s running around 400 pixels. But you can make a specific image with dimensions which are 851×315.

Take your time and design something that works for your brand. Incorporating user contents is a really cool idea and you can change it as much as you want. But it is important that you realize that his is the first impression that you’re going to make when people search for your business and come to your page.

Fan Gating

For those who are already involved in social media, there is the controversy of fan gating and welcome pages.

If you’re not familiar with the Fan Gate, it’s pretty simple. You might have a contest that’s being offered and it’s going to have a “Click Like Here” with an arrow to the Like button. They are a very popular way to build a fan base.

Now, here’s the thing that a lot of people don’t understand. Each Facebook App has it’s own dedicated landing page at 810 pixels wide. So if you are running Facebook Pay Per Click advertising you can still send those prospects to a Fan Gate and give them additional incentives to click “Like”.

Profile Picture

Profile pictures have changed dramatically. Previously you would include contact information, websites and as much information as you could to make an impact on people who come to your page. These profile images sat in the wide space provided in the left hand side of the page.

Now a profile picture is just a thumbnail. It replaces the old thumbnail to your post or any activity that you do on Facebook. Facebook definitely encourage us to use logos or something that is clear, or a badge for your site.

The dimensions for the images are 180×180 and make sure that you have something that looks good in there. Make sure that it does not only look good on the full resolution but also when it shrunk down into your post and things like that, something that’s visually striking.

About Section

All that information that we used to try and squeeze into the profile picture is now in the About section which actually looks much better. You can edit and utilize the space. You’ve got a few sentences there to work with and you can encourage people, define what you are all about, and make sure it’s a good fit for them.

It’s important to add very targeted fans to Facebook. And so when people land on your page, you want to make sure they are the right fans which could potentially turn into customers.

The About section is going to allow us to have something that above the fold, something that’s prominent which the people will actually read. This is a great opportunity to sell your business with some quick information.

App Section

We’ve still got Apps. The first App will always be the photos app. The Photos link is basically locked in there and you cannot remove it. Everything else you can change and put in your own custom apps. Things like events, listings, and links to your videos, and location maps which will be valuable for some businesses. You can really customize this and the really cool thing is this is much more prominent than the old tabs down the left.

The fact that you can put it in a prominent position, you can put a nice image, like for example a photo contest, we can switch that up as much as we want and really take advantage of the apps new location.

Other Changes

Pinned Post

As we move down the page to the actual posting, we now have the ability to pin a post. Pinning a post shows a little yellow ribbon on the post and what it basically means is that it moves the post to the top and keeps it there for a week. So if there’s a specific thing that you want users to see right when they come to the page, you have the ability to make sure that you have it up there. This feature was made to make sure that brands can show people what they want them to see.

Another thing nice about pinning is that it’s going to keep those contests fresh. If you are doing a contest and people are coming into your main wall, you’ve got to keep on posting and what that end up doing is junking up your newsfeed when you want to be talking about something else. Pinning is going to be nice to keep those contests and your most important news fresh.

Friends Front and Center

Facebook want to push friend activity front and center on the brand’s page. You can see the friends, who liked the page, the recent posts by other people related to the brand. This is a bit of concern to a lot of brands because you’re definitely going to have a lot of activity that you don’t control. It was there before if your previously allowed people to post on your wall. But now your social intelligence, monitoring what people are saying about you, is going to become more important than ever.

This is also going to help tremendously with growing your fan base. People are going to see if their friends have already liked it. This will give a little boost in viral growth which is great.

Friend Activity – Good and Bad

Friend Activity can be a good thing or a bad thing. You’ve got to make sure that you’ve got to get your settings correct so that you control what your potential audience sees when they arrive at your Brand Page as much as you possibly can.

These settings are in the Edit page section. Go into the Manage Permissions. The Posting Ability there hasn’t really changed other than using the timeline instead of the Wall. What has changed is the Post Visibility. Whether or not you want to show recent post by others or if want to do some moderation which is a definitely new feature that nobody is talking about.

If you’re doing a lot of campaigns maybe this isn’t so important to you but if you do a lot of community management this is a big deal. And you have to make sure you have the settings that you are comfortable with.

If your a large brand you can literally have a ton of posts in minutes. In ten minutes you have hundreds and hundreds of comments on your page. In this case you really need to make your own evaluation about the value of your friend comments versus the potential negatives in blocking them. The fact that we have control and the fact that we can tweak these options are something that everybody needs to be paying attention to.

Double-width Highlighted Posts

The other thing that’s out there is the ability to double-width highlighted posts. You would use this feature if you have nice photo album or a nice striking visual image that will make someone click on it. It is great for anything with photos and videos. This is also great for posts that didn’t start off as highlighted posts but you’re seeing high likes, high comments, high shares and you want to put a little extra emphasis on that one. You can go back and do this anytime. You can turn it on, turn it off. All you’re going to do is to customize the look and feel of your timeline basically on the things that are working or visually striking. Taking advantage of that is something that you can definitely do to make more impact.

Facebook Application Changes

The Default Landing Page selection option is gone!

When people search for your brand and type in a web address, a QR code, a PPC ad or a more organic way of getting them other than ads, they’re going to come into your Timeline. So your Timeline needs to be ship-shape, it needs to look good and make a good impression because you can’t send people to a default landing tab anymore.

Width Change 520px to 810px

This is the biggest change that’s happened and this is the biggest game changer as far as the effectiveness of Facebook applications because there was very little space to work with in the old version. You need to have as much information presented in an effective way without people having to scroll if you want to get conversions and you want to get activity.

This new width is a hundred percent improvement. It’s going to allow you to make a website style presentation for applications, less clutter, and there’s nothing going on in the left, nothing’s going on in the right, you have your customers full attention.

You can have nice big buttons and a high impact lay out, it’s easy to navigate, and there’s s many opportunities for an application designer to take things on the next level as far as the experience inside of Facebook.

Facebook has given us the ability of a blank canvas to work with.

Consistent and less cluttered

The consistent part is very good for application developers, the Like button stays in the same place. We’ve definitely seen from all the apps that we do that when you give people a call to action to click the Like button with an arrow, you get more likes. Now, the button is in the same spot every single time. From the templating stand point, it makes it much easier for us.

Website-like Navigation

Users can now have quick access to all the applications available on a page. They can jump around form app to app much quicker. Once people get used to it and start using it realizing that it will give a lot of opportunities, there are more applications and more specific applications for different things that you’re doing out there.

In your application you can build links out to other websites. Applications, and some other places including posts, other images, and you can definitely advertise your website.

Like button “bug” that impact for Gates: Fixed!

Fan Gate is something that was used on a lot of pages where code identifies someone as a fan or a non-fan and the based on their fan, they’ll get one page and if they’re a non-fan they’ll get a different page. This is a way to hide exclusive content and encourage people to click the “Like” button.

That’s something that people have been utilizing for a while now to help drive their likes and help drive their click to connections percentage on their advertising. There was a problem that when Facebook first launched timelines that when you clicked the Like button, it did not refresh the page. So that you would get the fan content you would still get the non-fan content unless you actually refresh the page on the later time. That was fixed. That was a big deal. Now it frees everyone up to start developing new widescreen applications without worrying about the impact of low conversions.

New Ad Options

There are a lot of factors involving your users and how much you pay for Facebook ads.

Offer Posts

This is one is something everybody can use. This is paid advertising through the Facebook network but they have given everyone the ability to do free offer posts. It’s a quick and easy way to make a Facebook coupon that everyone has access to and a lot of companies use this for their clients. It’s a tremendous opportunity because it’s free and it’s just built in to the newsfeed. This is a new tool that is not specific to the Timeline but this is a very important one that no one’s talking about.

Premium Ads & Reach Generator

Those premium ads include the Reach Generator. Whenever you do a post it’s not guaranteed that it will show up to all of your fans. This method will keep trying to send your posts out to your fans until 75 percent have received that message.

It’s a great way to advertise back to your fans. It’s a great way to guarantee that you get the message that you want to get out there. If you have a page that’s not super engaged and super active, and you want to make sure at least that you have your message out there then this is the perfect tool.

Premium Ad Placement

There are also a lot of new options as far as placement of ads. There is the right hand side with rich content like videos. You can advertise in to the sponsored section. You can drop ads directly in the newsfeed. You can drop ads in newsfeed on mobile, you can also advertise on the wall.

Although there are some blogs that’s says this Premium ads are going to wreck Facebook and people are going to leave Facebook, that’s not going to happen. Number one, because we’ve seen Google Plus who’ve put up a nice looking platform and a lot of unique features and it got a lot of people signed up but nobody uses it because all their friends are already on Facebook. The limitation to certain brands is a big thing. There is a bigger risk for the big brands who only realize these options to get unsubscribes and unlikes and so they have to be careful about being the company who are the most annoying. But overall you’re still going to see the majority of your content coming from those people you interact with. Edgerank does not go away. Engagement does not go away.

Capturing likes more critical for premium advertisers

If you’re an advertiser, capturing likes is even more critical than it was before. Because to utilize a lot of these options you need to have fans because you can’t advertise on their newsfeed if they’re not your fan. The first option you can certainly advertise to anybody but these other options, you’ve got to have the fan first before you can reach out and engage them.

What still needs to be a part of your role strategy is growing your fan base and then using these other tools to advertise back to them. You should definitely keep in mind that you need a fan base to utilize all these techniques.

What It All Means

What all these changes mean is going to vary based on who you are, what you’re doing on Facebook, and how much you’re spending.

An increase in advertising supply

The first thing to happen is an increase in advertising supply. There are more options for advertising and with the big boys leaving, there’s more ads and then lower costs on the right hand column ads.

We’ve seen a dramatic impact already. There are some premium ads and everything isn’t simply concentrated on the old type of advertising campaigns. It’s been every good for small businesses and their is a huge opportunity.

Over the last year ad prices have gone up because more and more people are utilizing the network. The fact that there’s more supply out there prices will drop. If you want to do Facebook advertising, the time is now.

More businesses moving their website activities to Facebook

The whole point of facebook is to reach people in the newsfeed and that’s still the case. But the new features are going to change the game a little bit. The newsfeed is still dominant. More than 90 percent of people are reaching your business through the newsfeeda nd that’s why engagement is so important.

The thing which Facebook has done that was very smart was they moved to widescreen formats. That has made it easier to leverage what you are already doing in your existing website on Facebook. More to the point your ads may be cheaper if you link to your widescreen apps. Most of you who have been doing Facebook advertising know that Facebook charges much less for links that point back to Facebook than links that point to your external website. We will see a lot of work and new creative ideas around this new opportunity.

The News feed is still King

The News feed is still King. The news feed is where your customers are hanging out. This is where they spend 95 percent of their time in Facebook. People look at what’s posted on their news feed, the brands they like, as well as who their friends like. Ads still appear on the right hand side, and that’s still going to be the large majority of your customers Facebook experience.

9 out of 10 people will only visit your page once. It’s a very important point. It doesn’t mean Facebook isn’t valuable. It’s not to de-emphasize the value of Facebook. It’s only to emphasize the importance of posts and how you interact with people really drives your success in Facebook. And so good community management is just as important as it ever was if not more important because now you also should be driving what posts are pinned, what posts are highlighted and monitoring the new direct messaging feature. Direct messaging is now available to fans to directly message your business instead of posting on your wall. News feed is still super important.

What You Should Do Next

1. Take your time.
Once you make the change, that’s it. This is even more important than the Like button. At Digital Organics we are in full force making the change. A month is not a whole lot of time if you’re dealing with a lot of pages. But when you’re with one or two pages, just take your time. Make sure it’s going to be striking cover image, make sure you get button images on your app buttons, and reformat your applications to the right fit. Take your time with it. Make sure that when you show it to the world, it’s what you want the world to see.

This means that when you publish to the Timeline Format you cannot unpublish it. That is a stepping stone and that means that you are already a part of Timeline. And you have until the end of march to do that and literally it is encouraged that you not publish until you have everything ready to go so that you’re not going to lose conversion and the good work that you’ve been doing.

Add a cover photo, new profile pic, ad app buttons at the right dimensions (851×315, 180×180, 111×74).

The preview button is there and make sure you have it previewed before you hit Publish so that you have the chance to get the feel for it and try different designs. There is no rush. There’s a deadline though. By March 30 you’re going to get automatically converted. And for people who don’t have a cover photo, it’s going to be blank. Use all the time you need to get it right and make sure everything you do is in the right dimensions as well.

2. Focus on two key apps that drive fan growth and/or sales
3. Evaluate the potential of integrating your website content on Facebook