As of March 30, 2012, all company Facebook pages are now Timelines. Of its roughly 37 million brand pages, Facebook says eight million upgraded to timelines within one week of their introduction. For other brands the transition may have come as a shock, but it’s not too late to get in gear.
With Facebook’s frequent redesigns, it’s easy to think of timelines as just another facelift, but doing so would mean missing a great opportunity. Timelines are an unprecedented chance for brands to actually connect with consumers. (Isn’t that why your company got a Facebook page in the first place?) Here’s how to get it right:
Tell Your Story
Timelines have their share of new elements and features, but most importantly they allow organizations to humanize their brands and generate interest through compelling stories and details. This is fantastic for start-ups – and any company with a unique story – because it lets brands share their achievements, what they’re working on, and where they’re going next in an attractive, easily digestible format.
–> Key Feature: Milestones
To highlight a significant event in your brand’s history, make it a “milestone” by clicking the book icon in the status box and adding a headline, location, date, 843×403 pixel photo and details. The event will be a permanent part of your profile, giving insight into your brand. Potential milestones include: date your business started; date your new store opened; date you signed a big client etc.
Remember to incorporate human interest whenever possible. A photo of your CEO in college when he first had the idea for your company will go a lot further than a photo of your office building.
Make it Pop
Central to the timeline interface is the sprawling cover photo. This 851 x 315 pixel image is what users will see first, and likely what they will remember most. The cover photo should be a high-quality, attention-grabbing image that conveys your brand message. Keep your page fresh by changing the cover photo periodically to coincide with seasons, events, marketing campaigns etc.
If you’re thinking the cover photo sounds like a perfect spot for an ad, think again. Facebook has wizened up to the amount of free advertising it was doling out, so timelines come with specific anti-marketing stipulations. Cover photos may not contain any kind of promotional messaging, including calls to action, discount offers, contact info or an invitation to “like” your page.
You’ll also need to update your profile picture, as timeline cuts profile images to just 180 x 180 pixels. In most cases, your logo is the best choice for this spot.
Starring allows you to highlight and enlarge important posts on your timeline; just hold your cursor above the post and click the star icon when it appears. Starred posts will expand to widescreen, allowing you to attract attention to key information and interesting photos.
Clean Up Your Act
Organizations should be sure to trim any less-than-favorable details lurking in their company past. Your brand’s entire Facebook history – from the first day you signed up to the embarrassing typo you made in a post to the angry rant a customer posted on your wall – will all be visible on your Timeline. Make sure to look closely through your history and delete anything you don’t want resurfacing.
Keep Up the Conversation
Timelines also allow organizations to receive and reply to messages from fans (a Facebook first). Admins for your brand’s page cannot proactively send messages, but will be able to continue user-initiated conversations and respond to questions, making users feel valued. Be prepared to deal with both positive and negative comments, and make sure to respond in a timely fashion.
–> Key Feature: Pinning
You can also “pin” any post to the top of your timeline by clicking on the pencil icon in the top right-hand corner of the update and choosing the pin option. You can pin content your brand has added, but also consider pinning comments from users. A compliment from a customer is as a free endorsement, and you can keep it pinned to the top of your page for up to seven days.
If you’re still uncertain about the transition, Facebook has you covered. Check out LearnFacebookPages.com and the Facebook Marketing Classroom, both of which Facebook created to help page owners with the technicalities.
Also take the time to peruse some existing brand timelines for ideas. Coca-Cola, Ford, Ben & Jerry’s and Doctors Without Borders are all gaining accolades for their initial timeline showings.