If you have spent any time on Facebook in the past two months, you may have seen Facebook’s new profile and page layout that they are calling Timeline. The new layout is one of the largest changes to the social network in several years and will affect how you use Facebook to engage with your audience and promote your business. Timeline places emphasis on visual elements (pictures, video, etc) and allows users to more easily access older archived information on a Facebook profile/page in a simple vertical timeline, with most recent activity at the top of the page.

At the end of this month, March 30, 2012, every page on Facebook with undergo a MANDATORY transition to the new Timeline layout (you can switch to Timeline before the end of the month if you wish). You cannot avoid it!

In addition to a new navigation, there are a few key changes that Facebook is making to the company pages that you should be aware of in preparation for the transition:

Cover Photo

One of the biggest visual changes with the new pages, is the addition of the cover photo. A cover photo is different than your profile picture. The cover photo is a large 851 x 315 pixel photo that sits at the very top of your page. This is the first thing that visitors to your page will notice, so be sure to select a cover photo that is eye-catching and a strong visual representation of your brand. You can change cover photos as often as you would like, with old photos archived in an album, but there are a few things that Facebook’s policies will NOT let you have in your cover photo:

  • NO price, purchase, direct sales information (calls to action)
  • NO Facebook Action such as “Like this page …”
  • NO Specific Company Info

Profile Picture

Your profile picture remains the icon that appears throughout Facebook as you post articles, videos, and comment on other content. On the new business pages, the profile picture appears in the top left corner of the page next to the cover photo. If possible, the best option here is to put a company logo as the profile picture.

Apps

In the old format, Facebook Apps appeared along the left side of the page underneath the profile picture. In the Timeline format these apps have now been moved directly underneath the cover photo/profile picture. The former “Info” section is now listed as “About.” The other Apps for your page have been moved to a series of small boxes that run across the page. The order of these boxes can be rearranged, with the exception of the “Photos” box, so be sure to arrange your Apps in order of importance.

Content

The way to post content to your Facebook page has not changed. A text box to add a status, link, video, photo, or important company milestone is always located at the top left section of the Timeline. Once content is posted, it is added to the timeline chronologically.

There are options to highlight certain posts or events more than others. Starring a post makes the content of your post much larger and remains on your Timeline longer than less important updates. You can also pin a particular post to the very top of your Timeline for up to a week. This feature would be used if you wanted to emphasize a particular message while continuing to update your Facebook page.

Admin Panel

Admins of a Facebook page will see a new button located at the top right of their Facebook page labeled “Admin Panel.” Selecting this button will open up a small panel at the top of the page where admins can quickly view current activity on the page, notifications, insights, and most importantly Messages. This is a new feature Facebook is adding to company pages. Users can now personally message pages, instead of clogging up the Wall/Timeline with a personal question. Paying attention to your messages, and responding in a timely manner, is an important customer service tool to utilize. This is not a two-way feature, however. You cannot personally message a user, they must be the one to initiate contact.

Sponsored Stories

One Facebook feature that is no longer available to Company Pages, is the ability to add a “like-gate,” locking specific content on your Facebook page until the user “Likes” your page. This was a simple, free way to get new users to “Like” your page. No more. Instead, to gain a larger presence, Facebook is encouraging businesses to take advantage of their paid advertising options. Facebook’s major advertising focus is the use of Sponsored Stories. These are paid advertisements that appear on users’ Facebook feeds and other pages that highlight their friends’ activity with your business page (or highlighting a specific post on a Facebook page).

The picture above is a Sponsored Story that was in the middle of my Facebook feed I saw after our own Keith Mayer “Liked” Subaru of America’s Facebook page. This same ad, which appears more like an endorsement from Keith than a direct ad from Subaru, may be visible to ALL of Keith’s friends. Sponsored Stories, like regular Facebook ads can be highly targeted to specific demographics or interests and may charge on a cost-per-click basis.

These will not be the final changes Facebook makes to their site, and there will continue to be more and more changes as social media continues to evolve. In order to get the most out of your social marketing efforts, it is important to evolve along with the social networks and understand how these changes can improve your social marketing strategies. Don’t be scared of Facebook Timeline and paid advertising, dive in and get started! If you have any questions, we are always here to help. Feel free to contact me at 216-292-4410, ray@dynamicsus.com, message us on our Facebook page, or simply check my calendar to see when I am available to meet.