After what felt like a year of speculation, Facebook finally unveiled its new Timeline for Pages last week — much to the excitement of marketers worldwide. There are some surprises and a few disappointments (people are still mourning the end of default landing tabs), but overall, the new design is a step in the right direction for improving the Facebook experience for businesses.
Below you’ll learn what to do to your Page before March 30th to take full advantage of all the new features. The goal is to put brands and Page Admins in the best possible position going forward.
- Design a Cover Photo or Two. The focus of the new Timeline design is all around the 851 x 315 pixel cover photo. Facebook has very strict guidelines around what can be featured in this spot. Currently, you’re not permitted to display promotions, price points, or calls to action, so the emphasis is more on creativity than advertising. Since it is now the introduction to your Page, keep it fresh by hanging up your Cover Photo every month or so.
- Pick a Profile Image That Scales. The 180 x 180 pixel profile image sits nicely as an inset in the lower left of the cover photo. This is the avatar image that accompanies all your posts, so be sure to choose something that clearly identifies your brand, both at its normal size and scaled down to 32 x 32 pixels for the News Feed.
- Properly Fill Out Your “About” Section. The About section isn’t new, but it’s certainly more prominent in Timeline. Only the first three lines of text are visible before a user has to click to view more, translating into about 120 to 180 characters. Clickable URLs can also be included in your About section. I recommend putting a one-sentence summary of your business with a link to your website.
- Design Custom Images for Your Apps. One of the best new features of the Timeline layout is the ability to showcase your apps with a custom 111 x 74 pixel image. The images help you easily display apps and are more eye-catching than the tiny thumbnails that used to identify apps. For your apps showcase, design something that stands out but also communicates the purpose of the app in a way the user can quickly see and understand.
- Take Advantage of the Extra Space in Apps. Your Page’s app width can now be set to either Narrow at 520 pixels or Wide at 810 pixels. Why leave extra space if it’s available? Make sure all your old apps are now updated to 810 pixels, and take advantage of the extra real estate moving forward.
- Properly Order Your Views & Apps. You can now have just 12 custom apps, and only 3 will be displayed nicely on your Page before a user has to click to see more. Since the Photos section can’t be changed, you’ll want to make the most of the other 3 spots that will be showcased. The Like total should definitely be relegated to the “View More” section.
- Pin a Post to the Top of Your Page. While default landing Tabs are now extinct, Page admins do have the ability to pin a post to the top of the Page for up to seven days. While not as impactful as a custom Tab, you can at least control the main post you are featuring on a weekly basis. Therefore, try to always feature a post with a nice visual to really stand out. This is also a great opportunity to direct users to custom apps or promote your current contests or sweepstakes.
- Go Back in Time to Add Milestones & Backdated Posts. Admins can now go back and add Milestones to the brand’s Timeline. These are useful for highlighting the brand’s history or accomplishments through the years. Milestones span both columns of the Timeline layout and can have an 843 x 403 pixel image to accompany the post. If you want to highlight something in the past that is less prestigious, you can also backdate posts. This will give you the freedom to post text, links, videos, single photos, or albums.
- Review Old Posts, and Highlight, Hide, or Delete as Necessary. Since the Timeline design makes it easier for users to browse all your old posts, admins should go through and decide what posts to highlight, hide from the Timeline, or delete completely. Highlighting a post makes it take up both columns. This is especially great for successful past image posts, but make sure the picture scales right when you expand it in the highlighted view. By hovering over a post and clicking the pencil, you can reposition a photo so it fits properly in the larger, highlighted format.
- Closely Monitor Your Competitors’ New Public Page Stats. One new rarely talked about feature allows you to see important stats on your competitors’ Pages. Now you can view their Total Likes and People Talking About This, as well as the Most Popular Week, Most Popular City, and Most Popular Age Group. You can see these by clicking on the Likes box in the Views & Apps section. Some marketers may cringe at the fact that competitors can now see these stats, but it’s nice to see where you stack up against the competition. Make it a priority to check these stats monthly to track how they change over time.
- Evaluate Page Settings & Admins. With the new design comes a revamped Page Settings area that I recommend spending some time on before setting your Timeline live. The Post Visibility section is especially important because it determines how posts from users will show up on your Timeline (previously these were Wall posts). Page admins now have the option to review every post and approve it before it’s visible on the Timeline. Remember, this wasn’t an option before, and most Page admins were perfectly fine with that. I suggest fighting the urge to go “Big Brother” unless your industry is highly regulated and you need the extra approval. This is also a great time to reevaluate who has admin access to your Page.
- Determine How To Handle Private Messages. Any brand using Facebook for customer service will be happy to see the ability for users to send Pages private messages. The new messages will show up in the Admin Panel. Hopefully, with this feature, users will be more likely to take some of the messy customer service problems private instead of posting directly to the Page. You can turn this feature off, but I don’t think any brand should limit users on how they can contact them. It warrants an internal discussion on which employees will handle responses to the private messages.
- Change the Way You Think About Your Editorial Calendar. The new features create a few more things to consider as you create your Facebook editorial calendar. It should be no secret that image posts are better at generating engagement, but the visually dominated Timeline design now makes them even more important. Make sure you are including images with posts wherever you can. Also, create a new column in your calendar that shows which posts you are pinning to the top on a weekly basis and which posts you will want to highlight with the two-column view.
- Get Acquainted with the Admin Panel and Activity Log. The Admin Panel is now your command center for managing your Page directly on Facebook. In this area you will see notifications, private messages, and a high-level look at your Page Insights. The Admin Panel also includes an Activity Log, located under the “Manage” drop-down menu. This is where you can easily see all the posts users put on your Timeline and either allow, hide, highlight, or delete them. Filtering the Activity Log to just show “Spam” will take the place of the old “Hidden Posts” in the old Page layout.
The new design layout and ability to customize the Facebook Page experience create great opportunities for marketers, but it’s still important to remember your overall Facebook strategy. The News Feed is still your main touch point with users and the place where the vast majority of brand interactions are going to take place. If you aren’t posting engaging and valuable content, users might not give your Page a chance and bypass your beautifully designed Page altogether.