Note from Lee: Please welcome this guest post from Sara Duane-Gladden, of TopRank Online Marketing’s copywriting team.
Facebook is changing again. That never happens, right? For regular users like me, it seems as if there is something new happening at the social network every day. Facebook Timeline is probably one of the most significant, though, and it’s coming to a brand page near you soon. Very soon.
Timeline is the newest change from Facebook, a social media network renowned for making “enhancements” to its much-beloved product that result in mixed criticism and compliments from users. Timeline is no different, as it has been both praised and panned in the blogosphere. There doesn’t appear to be a consensus on Timeline, which is typical of Facebook changes. Love It or hate it, users and brands alike will adjust to Timeline in order to continue participating in the Facebook community – just like they have in the past.
Every one and every brand on Facebook will be adjusting to Timeline soon, too. Any profiles or pages that have not already been converted to Facebook Timeline by this weekend will automatically transform. According to messages displayed at the top of pages and profiles that have not implemented Timeline, brand and business pages will convert on March 30th, 2012, while personal profile pages will switch over on April 1, 2012.
If you’ve been avoiding making the switch, now is the time to accept the change and take control of how your Facebook Timeline appears by previewing it now. Until this weekend, you still have a chance to preview your business page or pages, make edits, then publish it on your own terms. Making the changes yourself instead of allowing Facebook’s automated process to publish your new page for you will ensure that it truly reflects your brands standards and messaging. These changes can be initiated by visiting the Page while logged in as an admin and finding the instructions near the top to preview Timeline.
Perhaps you’ve already seen Timeline in action and are not quite sure what to think of it. What can you actually expect to see when your Facebook Page or Profile is converted over to Timeline?
Cover Photo. A large banner image prominently displays at the top of a Timeline profile. There are some requirements and restrictions for the images: They must be at least 399 pixels wide and may not include price or purchase information, contact information, calls to action or even references to Facebook site features such as “Like” or “Share.” Covers also cannot be deceptive, misleading, or infringe on other copyrights. Wider images work better than narrow.
The cover photo feature is great because it offers the chance to customize the top of a Facebook page like never before. Prominently display a new product. Show a picture of your service in action. Splash your brand colors across it with a compelling image that makes Fans want to scroll down to see more. Within the restrictions listed above, there are vast opportunities for filling this newly available space.
Profile Picture. While the Cover Photo display is rectangular in shape, the profile picture is changing to square. The acceptable size range for them is 180×180 to 32×32 pixels. That’s significantly smaller than the 4 MB photos allowed previously, but the cover photo size more than makes up for this change.
With the way they are arranged, the profile photo can be nicely coordinated to compliment the cover photo. The cover photo splashes across the top while the profile photo is an inset located on the left side. Some creative design here could tie the two images together for maximum visual effect.
Navigation and Applications. Directly below these two features is a navigation bar and section for apps. On the left side directly below the profile picture is the section for your profile or page that contains location, contact and other information. To the right of this section one can choose other data to display, such as photos, events, Likes or custom applications.
Photos are automatically displayed in this bar and cannot be removed. In addition to the usual Facebook features of photos, events and Likes, applications can be displayed in this area. This can include weekly ads, charitable apps, geo-location apps and more.
Public Page Insights. One of the features on the Navigation Bar is “Likes,” which displays more than just the people who are Fans of the page. With the old layout, users were able to get a glimpse at how many people liked the page and how many were talking about it. Now they can see more, such as insights into what geographic areas most fans reside, the most popular age groups, and what week was the most popular for activity.
One advantage for brands is that you can visit the page of a competitor, view its analytic insights, and use the information gleaned to make the most of your own Facebook social media marketing plan. The flip-side of the coin is that your competitors can also see your insights. What value it provides for fans is unclear and remains to be seen. This Facebook Timeline feature is something that we’ll all be learning about together!
The Timeline. Ah, the main feature for which all these changes receives its name, the Timeline. Status updates, Likes, shares and other posts are now displayed in a visual aggregation on the Timeline. The Timeline will extend all the way to the first day a brand page was established. Milestones in your brand’s history can also be added as well to extend the Timeline, all the way to when a business was founded.
Unlike the old Pages, Admins can highlight specific posts by starring them or pinning them to be more prominently displayed. Images also appear much larger with the new update. Furthermore, new apps are being created every day for use with Timeline to enhance its usefulness, with more than 3,000 available to users already.
Timeline and all of the new features that surround it is one of the biggest new changes Facebook has ever undertaken. Since it began rolling out to users at the end of last year, there have been many conversations on the topic – more than a few probably bordering on arguments. Some people and brands really like the new Timeline, while others are concerned that it will negatively affect the way users interact with their Pages. So far, though, that doesn’t seem to be the case, as one recently released study shows Timeline can drastically increase fan engagement an average of 46% and as much as 161% for Toyota.
So what are you waiting for? If you’ve been avoiding Facebook’s Timeline feature, the end is near and the change is inevitable. Make the necessary adjustments now to make certain that your Timeline looks the way you want it to when other people view it after April – not how Facebook makes it look with its automatic conversion. Grab the bull by the horns and make the change on your terms today!
If you’ve made the switch to Facebook Timeline, what has your experience been so far? If not, what is holding you back? Share your story in the comments!