Today Facebook announced to brand marketers the world over that, within the month, everything they knew about fan Pages on Facebook would be overturned. While you get your brand ready for the new Timeline format, here are six important changes to keep top-of-mind.
1. Updated Look and Feel
What’s new: The format of Timeline for brands is quite similar to Timeline for personal profiles. It employs a cover photo at the top of the Page, and the Page is separated into two main columns by a dividing line, which represents the passage of time. This format provides brands with new options for self-expression: They can outline their corporate history with milestones (such as product launches, store openings, etc.) to construct a narrative for their audience.
Recommendation: Milestones present an important and dramatic opportunity to educate the public, humanize the brand and remove a perception of corporate anonymity. Our analyses of Page engagement have continually shown that brands posting content that depicts behind-the-scenes activities, exclusive updates or promotions encourages user interactions and promotes higher engagement rates. Using interesting milestones to craft the story of the brand over time (and updating the Timeline with new milestones as they happen) can help to stimulate conversations around major achievements.
2. Reduced Tab Visibility
What’s new: The new Timeline format does not have the left-side panel of links, which could include hundreds of different tabs. While applications still exist, they’ll display differently, in rectangular panels underneath the cover photo. The width of the Timeline and the space allocated for native apps like Photos means that only three tab panels are viewable at any given time. To see more, users must expand the tab panel by clicking a drop-down box.
Recommendation: For marketers, this major change means that the three above-fold tab apps need to be considered carefully — this will be one of the first things users see when interacting with your brand on Facebook. Brands will want to switch up which tabs are visible “above the fold,” according to current company objectives or project popularity. A good Page analytics tool will be useful for determining which tab to promote on a day-to-day basis.
3. No Default Landing Page
What’s new: With the new Timeline Page format, you will no longer be able to set a default landing Page, a favored feature for many savvy brands. The option was one of the primary ways to control the first (branded) impression a user encountered. Since there are no more tab Pages, there is no way to set one as a default. This will drastically change user impressions when they first visit a brand’s Timeline Page.
Recommendation: You will need to apply new and careful attention to all the top messages in the Timeline, as they will be the first objects seen by visiting users. Likewise, Facebook ads for brands will become ever important, as ads will be one of the major ways brands on Facebook can control a user’s experience. Setting up an advertising campaign for a Facebook promotion or new application will be the only way to guide new and clicking users directly to that application (as landing on this Page cannot be achieved by default).
4. New Way to Feature Content
What’s new: One major new feature that marketers will love is the ability to “pin” certain posts to the top of the Timeline. Similar to marking a blog post “sticky,” so that it remains at the top of a blog for a specified period of time, pinning a post to the top of Timeline allows it to precede any other content. A pinned post is distinguished by a small, orange flag. Brands can pin only one item at a time, and the pinned item then exists in two locations — as the top item on the Timeline itself, as well as within its chronological place. Once unpinned (which happens automatically when a new item gets pinned, or the item has been pinned for more than seven days), the post remains in the chronology of Timeline posts, but there is no visual history that it was pinned in the past.
Recommendation: Since you can no longer create a default landing Page, pinning items to the top of the Timeline will become every marketer’s go-to strategy for highlighting new and interesting content. We will begin to see savvy brands design posts specifically to be pinned, whether images, a well-designed call-to-action, a statement about brand value, or a message calling for the user to click one of the tab panels under the cover photo.
5. Current Tab Content and Applications Become Outdated
What’s new: The new Timeline layout displaces Facebook’s existing Page tab configuration (including a tab’s 520-pixel width), and replaces it with a new 810-pixel layout. As a result, existing Page tab content will look centered in the middle of the 810-pixel layout without any adjustments. All applications that remain on a brand’s Page will need new application icons (the new dimensions are 111×74).
Recommendation: The most pressing updates for brands will be to update the images and tab functionality of the above-fold two apps. As these are the first tabs users will see, they will likely be the first to be interacted with, or entirely ignored if not optimized for the new experience.
6. Private Messages Between Brands and Users
What’s new: Finally, brands will be able to send and receive private messages with users. This allows for much deeper consumer interaction, and will also enable Page managers to take extended customer inquiries off the Timeline and into a private message.
Recommendation: Be mindful of noise in the Timeline. Since the real estate allocated to each post depends on how engaging it is or how much interaction it has received, it can be easy to clutter your Timeline with customer inquiries. When these inquiries can be better serviced in a more one-on-one manner, reach out to the consumer with a private message and resolve her question. It’s a good opportunity to yield both a happy user and a clean Timeline.
Timeline for brands will certainly shake things up for social media marketers who seek to make an impact on Facebook. One thing is for sure though: The way content is shared and viewed within a Timeline Page is incredibly important. Brands that constantly create engaging updates and share important milestones will stay at the forefront of users’ attention. Create and rotate new apps for engagement, pin relevant and timely content, and update the feed with user-friendly dialogues to stay relevant in this new space.
Will you or your company do anything differently, right off the bat? Share your thoughts in the comments below.