Avoid Facebook Timeline being a time bomb

Make the most out of the change by following these three steps

Lessons learned from observer or expert by Seth Lieberman
March 30, 2012
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Effective March 30, all Facebook Brand Pages will switch to the new Facebook Timeline layout. This change will have a huge impact on the way brands and companies market to their Facebook audience.  In particular, the new focus on engagement creates opportunities for brands to interact with and reach their audience in a more personal way.

However, to get the most out of this change (and avoid the threat of a time bomb!), companies need to make some short term updates to their page to “fit” the new layout and  they need to put some thought—and effort—into their long term Facebook strategy to ensure their page is engaging Facebook users.

Below is a quick overview of some of the things Facebook page administrators should do today to  prepare for and manage their Facebook Page with Timeline, but first, start with a quick “Are you ready for Timeline?” quiz to test how much you know about Timeline and what it means for your page.

1. Make it look good  

For most companies their existing Facebook images and apps are not going to look “good” in the new Timeline format:  sizing will be off,  items will be cropped, etc.  Therefore, businesses will need to invest in updating their images and apps to fit the new Facebook layout.    The good news is that this new layout creates new opportunities to highlight company personality as well as bring key Apps/ tabs to the forefront.  A few quick tips to upgrade your Facebook images:

  • Timeline allows businesses to add a cover photo to their Facebook Page. Unlike the old “profile photo” a cover photo provides an opportunity to showcase more of the mood and personality of the company.  Note: cover photos cannot include price or purchase information, contact information, references to other Facebook features, or calls to action.
  • While you are at it, don’t forget to update your profile photo
  • Finally, make sure your “about” section is current and consider embedding a link to your website where visitors can get more information. 

There are also a number of things you can do to highlight the posts/ content that you believe are most important.  Options include “Pinning” a post for up to a week at the top of your timeline or “Starring” posts (which spreads them out across two columns) for more visibility.

Good news!  While your page doesn’t go live until March 30th, you can set it up and preview it now.

2.      Figure out your Facebook Content “Strategy”

Once you have your basic images in place, it is time to make sure you have the supporting content you need to get the most out of your Facebook page.

Tabs (“Favorite Apps”) and Content

Tabs, also called “Favorite Apps,”  have a whole new look and prominence. No longer relegated to the side of your page, they are front and center in the new layout.  You can choose to highlight 12 of them at the top of your Timeline

Tabs are a great way to engage your Facebook audience—to show them your unique personality, share information about products and services, solicit feedback, promote specials and more.  Tabs also provide an opportunity to expand your marketing reach.

Why should you care more about Tabs with Timeline?  In addition to their visual prominence, it also has to do with Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm which is used to determine which items are featured at the top of user’s News Feeds.  No longer a pure listing of posts by chronological order, with Timeline those items which are most popular (in terms of likes, comments, app engagement, etc.) are most likely to rise to the top of News Feeds.  You’ve probably already seen this on your personal Facebook page, but have you considered what this means for how your brand will stay visible and engaged on Facebook? 

What does this mean for your company’s Facebook page?  Filling at least one half of your Favorite Apps slots in the short term, and more longer term is critical.  Importantly, however, you must fill them “well”—with engaging, interactive content.  By adding great content you stand to generate leads, expand your reach via viral marketing/sharing, and overall audience engagement.  .

What are some of the Favorite Apps or Tabs best practices that we have identified?

  • Create a catchy icon for your tab—something that will compel visitors to click through
  • Make your content interactive: videos, photos, quizzes, surveys, sweepstakes and coupons are among the most engaging and interactive apps
  • Incorporate sharing buttons in your apps whenever possible
  • Use tabs to offer additional welcome/ about us information (in a creative way), to share details about a special offer or promotion, or to solicit feedback
  • Remember to post links to your tabs in your Timeline!
  • Like-gating individual tabs is still an option or, if you are sending outside visitors to your Facebook page for the first time, you can send them directly to a Like-gated tab
  • Heads up!  Fans can now send private messages to a Facebook page--this is a great opportunity to interact directly with your target market, but make sure it does not become a customer service nightmare—figure out your response strategy NOW.

3.      Choose your weapon!

Ok, since I have (hopefully) diffused some of the Facebook Time bomb with the above, perhaps “weapon” is overkill. But the point remains: managing your Facebook  page for optimal results requires a plan- and resources-- to make your plan a reality.  In particular, lining up that compelling content, posting it regularly and responding to visitor inquiries, and making sure your Tabs are performing, requires time, effort and tools. 

Facebook offers some basic polling functionality, which is a good start, but to engage visitors with a trivia test about the history of your ad campaigns or match them with the perfect product with the help of a personality test, you probably need a third party solution provider.  Plus, Facebook requires that third party apps be used for sweepstakes.   Finally, there are the analytics—which apps are most shared, most tweeted, most likely to generate new Likes, etc.  Having this data accessible is critical for evaluating your Facebook strategy and determining where you should invest more, less or differently.

When considering solutions for creating, and maintaining your tabs, look for the following:

  • A one stop shop for all of your app creation needs: from landing pages to surveys, personality quizzes, to trivia tests and sweepstakes, you can streamline things (and undoubtedly reduce overall costs) with a single integrated platform
  • Consider the analytics… right now your primary interest might just be getting something “up” to fill out your page… but long term you will want to know what is working, how, why, etc.  Make sure your solution has robust analytics capabilities so you can make informed decisions
  • Think about how/ if you will want to repurpose your content or post to multiple places inside and outside of Facebook—a solution that allows you to create a trivia test and then post that to Facebook, your website, email and more allows you to get more out of your content.
  • Is it easy to use?  Any tool should simplify your life, not make it harder.  Choose a solution with an intuitive user interface, quick start kits like theme libraries and icon toolkits, and robust help offerings to make sure your apps come together quickly and look great when completed.  Of course, make sure that no coding is required.

These are just a few of the things you should be thinking about with the switch to Timeline.  For more details on the changes visit Facebook’s Timeline for Brand Pages .   

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