Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mark your Calendar for March 30th: Timeline comes to Facebook Pages

By Krista Chapman

Big news from the Facebook front and this one is set to affect every single person and/or company that manages a business Facebook page.  Come March 30th, all pages on Facebook will shift to the Timeline format that was launched last fall for users.  While this creates some tremendous branding opportunities for pages, it also will be a big adjustment for many administrators.  Worry not... I have mapped all basics related to what has changed, what is staying the same and where you can get help to make the switch seamlessly. 

But first... why all the changes, Mark?

When Facebook first rolled out Timeline for users last fall, they alluded to the fact that this format would soon come to business pages as well.  Wanting to create a more connected, authentic, and transparent platform, the powers that be at Facebook decided that Timeline is the best design to do this... and I have to agree.  The timing was the real surprise as social media experts originally forecasted a switch to come late Summer or Fall of 2012.  I guess the decision to go public earlier this year pushed up the finish date... just a bit.

And as I always like to say, when the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company is still in his 20s, sweeping change seems a natural order to life.  If you plan to continue to use Facebook as a platform to connect with your customers, plan on it making major changes more often than you would like.  But also remember, the management of your social media does not need to fall on you as the business owner.  Ideally, you hire someone to manage your books so you can focus on what you love, right?  Do to same with social media if it's not your cup of tea.  Or look to other options to market your business and connect with customers.  Facebook may be the holy grail of social media marketing but will not work if the effort and resources are simply not there.  Now, back to the subject at hand...

How will Timeline change Facebook?
To be honest, there are simply too many to cover here.  While I have focused on a few of the biggest, do consider this to be a limited sample.  Look to the bottom of this post for additional resources on all the changes and new features.

New Cover Image on The Pink Bride Facebook Page
The Cover Image.  Perhaps most obvious, page admins will all need to create and upload a Cover Image.  Positioned 'above the fold' Facebook is encouraging businesses to use this as place to express your brand in image form.  It is important to point out that Facebook has been pretty clear about the do's and don'ts of the new cover images.  Turning this prime real estate into a coupon or call to action (ie: Like my page) is not allowed... read the full list of what you can and can't do with this space, here.  Additionally, the custom tabs that your have connected to your page (Twitter, Blog, etc) are much more prominently featured but you have the ability to change the associated pictures to better fit your company branding.  Be sure to take advantage of this!

The Admin Panel.  Brand-spanking new, the admin panel is position at the very top when an admin visits the page.  Note, the public does not see this, only page admins (regardless if they are using facebook as themselves or their page alias).  This is a nifty tool that combines all the business of managing a page, including fan engagement, page insights and making changes.  Consider this your page dashboard and spend some time exploring what buttons lead you where.  When you're done, the page can be hide from view using the button in the top right corner.    

 Facebook Ads:  Big changes have come to Facebook Ads, as well.  The term revolutionary is being throw around as they shift the basic structure of all ads, putting content as the central focus.  Pages wanting to place ads will now have the option of sponsoring a story that they recently posted (making the content you create all that more important).  Additionally, Facebook added new options to their bevy of Premium Ads, including ads in the news feed, mobile news feed and upon user logout.  While many of these features will only be available to the biggest accounts (think minimum ad buys of $25K), these new spots will compete with the content the average page is submitting for the average user's news feed.  It will become increasingly difficult to ensure your content is reaching your fans, unless you can keep engagement high.  Small business will need to augment with their own ad buys to have a better chance of being seen in all the Facebook noise.  I hate that I was right about this one but I have always said Facebook was incredibly savvy in their quest for world domination.  Offering an essentially free service until it become as necessary as electricity... and now, it's not so free anymore.

What's staying the same?
After all that talk of change, I do have some good news.  For the most part the way you use facebook will remain the same.  All the best practices, I have pointed out in the past are still valid.  Creating remarkable and engaging content is still of utmost importance as is striving for ways to connect with your audience.  You will still want to be mindful of not posting too much and hone in on times when your audience is most engaged.  Additionally, the news feed that most users interact with on their regular visits and see your posts in will remain the same (except for the addition of new sponsored stories).   The vehicle may be a newer and a different color but you are still just driving a car.  Just like as before, practice makes perfect with Timeline.

Want some help?  While Facebook offers a how-to manuals on Timeline for page admins, there are a lot of features and benefits not being covered by this basic overview.  The blogosphere is hard at work, documenting all the changes that come with Timeline as well as the related nuances that will impact how marketers use this platform.  Mashable is a good place to start... they have a section entirely dedicated to facebook and they're go-to when it comes to breaking news on the web.  Additionally,  I recommend checking out the blogs on Social Media Examiner, Mari Smith, and All Facebook.  A word of caution with those opting for self-study... plan on spending a decent bit of time researching.  Even for someone familiar with the language and content being taught, it has left my head spinning.
If you would rather save yourself the time and hassle of trying to figure out all these tricky details, considering outsourcing the task.  For the same reason you hire a CPA to do your taxes (no you don't have any interest in keeping up with ever-changing tax laws),  a social media expert may  be in order to keep related stress to a minimum.  I am more than happy to help with any concerns or questions you  have... feel free to shoot me an email at  I will happily answer basic questions about Timeline and if you need additional help, we can explore the available options I can offer.  I look forward to connecting!