My Thoughts on Facebook’s Timeline for Brands

My Thoughts on Facebook’s Timeline for Brands

As you know I am a hopeless social media addict… It’s because of social media that I’ve been able to have the success that I’ve had the past few years. True, my audience is not huge, but they’re loyal and very engaging… Especially those on Facebook and Twitter. In late 2011 I gave a presentation on CreativeLIVE called “Designing for the Social Web” which discussed ways to cultivate your brand through social media, and how to design your various profile pages. The good news is that about 90% of it is still completely relevant. However, as many of you know, Facebook made a HUGE change recently to their “fan pages” and it has a lot of folks running for the hills. In this article I will attempt to dispel the notion that the new Facebook Timeline is a bad thing and show you why (and how) you should embrace it.

First things first, let’s discuss what exactly has happened on Facebook. In the past, brand pages (or fan pages) have been much like the old profile setup on Facebook. You had a wall where people could post things or you could update your fans, and you could post videos and photos there as well. Now, they’ve rolled out the Facebook Timeline for pages… So, what does it mean for you? Well, basically you still have the same capabilities as you did before, but the design is a little different. Your wall has now become your timeline, which is a chronological display of all of your (or your brand’s) posts or interactions. Many users are resistant to this switch. Many of whom rejected it when it was rolled out to user profiles as well. Unfortunately, there is no way to get around it… it’s happening. Period.

What they got right…

The best part about the new timeline feature is the cover photo. This allows you or your brand to display a large (850px wide) image at the top of your page which allows for more elaborate branding and makes it easy for users to make their page unique. You’ll also notice that there are some improved analytics in the new admin panel (see below) as well as the ability to send/receive messages with your fans… I LOVE that new feature!

What they got wrong…

As I see it, there is only one real drawback to the new Facebook timeline feature for brand pages, and it’s a BIG one. In the previous incarnation of pages you were able to create a custom landing tab for your brand. This meant when people accessed your page they were brought to a special landing page that you designed and had full control over. This was a huge feature that allowed brands to publish more rich & interactive content for their users as well as drive “likes” by offering fan-only incentives via these custom landing tabs. Now (it seems) you are still able to create a custom tab/page for your brand, but you are unable to set that tab as the default landing location for users. They’ve also buried the custom tabs into the navigation at the top of the page making it confusing (and difficult) for users to find it.

Many people, including some high-powered brands, are upset about this feature being removed, so we might see it back in action later on down the road… but for now, we just have to take what they give us. In any case, it’s best to embrace the change and make the most of it. Start off by customizing your cover photo. This should be a big, bold image that represents you or your brand in a unique way. Try to incorporate your branding into it and make sure to keep it consistent with your message and overall online presence… Consistency creates awareness. Next you’ll want to encourage your fans to message you via your page. This is a great way to interact with your users without having to give out an email address or direct them away from Facebook to fill out a contact form. I’m using it like crazy to take tutorial requests, answer questions, and just to say thanks!

By using these tools to stay connected and engaged with your audience, you allow your community to grow organically. Always remember to worry about the relationships vs the numbers when dealing with social media. I don’t care how many likes, followers, or circlers you have… None of it means a damn thing if you’re not connecting with people and cultivating relationships. Relationships build trust, and trust creates loyalty. I’ll take 5 loyal and engaging users over 5 million empty faces any day of the week!

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5 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “My Thoughts on Facebook’s Timeline for Brands”

  1. Hi Justin!

    I’m completely in agreement with you! That lack of a custom landing page is throwing a lot of Page admins and business owners for a loop.

    My video “Creating your own iFrame app to customize your Page” is one of the most popular videos in my title at Lynda.com (Social Media Marketing with Facebook and Twitter). I’m recording all-new videos in the Facebook Page chapters in the next couple weeks to cover the Timeline design. (It’s crazy because I *just* updated those chapters in February! The vids had 2 weeks of shelf life before FB announced the new FB Page Timelines.)

    Three other very cool features of Timeline for Pages are:
    — The ability to Pin a post to the top of the Timeline, like making a blog post “sticky” on the home page (they can be pinned for up to a week);
    — the ability to go back and add Milestone posts in your history; like when a product was launched or a publication started, etc. Milestone posts take up the entire width of the page (851 pixels)
    — the ability to Highlight a post; like Milestone posts these take up the full width of the page.

    I personally was never a fan of the Timeline layout; I think the alternating left and right squares are difficult to follow. But I’ve already seen some very clever ways early-adopter Page admins are using the new features to more fully engage with their fans. I’ll be showing some of these in the updated Lynda.com title.

    I have a Facebook Page that’s a companion to the Lynda.com title where I post new tips and links (and where Lynda.com viewers add their own tips and ask questions); I encourage you to stop by and visit: http://facebook.com/SocialMediaMktg

    Anne-Marie Concepcion

  2. Tim says:

    Good post.. Is there a way to create hotspot links in your timeline photo? I know Fw has the ability. Not sure if this is possible.

    • Justin Seeley says:

      Not currently, no. Hopefully they’ll add some more interactive features to timeline in the future, but until then we’re stuck with static jpegs!

  3. Ian Spiers says:

    Great post, as always, Justin. Yeah, that landing page issue really misses the mark. Anyway, thanks for helping us keep up to speed!

  4. Tiana Star says:

    I agree with you 100% about it providing some GREAT and awesome new tools like the banner at the top and the new analytics are awesome! I also love the messaging! I think if we’re working in this social media and always changing internet world, it’s just best to acknowledge things will be constantly changing and willing to adapt and work it out! Thanks for sharing!- FireflyMediaServices.com

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