There’s no way around it: Zuckerberg and the gang are making Timeline obligatory for all Facebook brand pages. But that doesn’t mean you are completely out of options. As I see it, you have two choices:
1. Do nothing. Allow your page to automatically migrate to Timeline on March 30th. Leave your page the way it is and keep doing things the way you’ve always done them.
2. Capitalize on the opportunity (just because it’s mandatory doesn’t make it any less an open door) to leverage the strengths available in the new format.
If you choose to “stay the course” in spite of the immanent changes, Timeline will seriously decrease your ability to effectively engage and grow your audience. This is true no matter how great your Facebook marketing results have been in the past.
The infographic below, designed by Integricity, lays out 10 things you need to know about Facebook’s revamped pages. I cut the graphic up so it would be easier to digest. Keep in mind that if you do nothing at all, the switch will take place anyway. However, if you’d like to get the most out of Timeline, these 10 tips should get you on the road to facebook happiness.
Vanishing Landing Pages
Most brand pages rely heavily on their default landing pages to guide the user experience for fans and non-fans alike. Companies know exactly what they want visitors to see when they first arrive on their page. They’ve probably spent a good amount of time and effort putting together the perfect page.
Timeline does not have a default landing page option. Creating the perfect initial visitor experience for the new page layout will not happen by default; it will not carry over from your landing page. Prepare to invest more time and effort into getting the new page to be professional-looking and engaging.
The photo strip that sits at the top of brand pages will be replaced by a single cover photo which is much larger than any image you’ve seen on Facebook previously (officially 851×315 pixels).
The column on the left side of the screen where Tabs (Photos, Friend Activity, etc.) are currently located will also disappear. Four apps (which all tabs are now called) will be visible directly beneath the cover photo. Administrators will have to select which apps are visible, and they will have to choose thumbnail images for them.
I could go on, but hopefully you’re starting to get the idea. If you haven’t planned how you want your page to look, it will get pretty messy when the transition takes place.
When visitors see poorly-thought out pages (the ones that decided to “migrate” instead of actively adapt to Timeline), it might be a bit of a shock for them. Contrasted with pages like those of Starbucks http://www.facebook.com/Starbucks or Lexus http://www.facebook.com/lexus, passive brands will look unprofessional with the look.
Putting “Story” in Your Company History
The Timeline format is designed to give your brand page a narrative element that has been lacking on Facebook. Up until now, pages aren’t much more than somewhat random-looking status updates which fade away over time. With Timeline, you are free to tell your whole story, in the way that’s easy to consume at a glance.
Friends and fans are very interested in the behind the scenes stories and “once upon a times.” It’s just our nature. Timeline lends itself to this concept beautifully and intuitively.
Every post you’ve ever published on your page will appear on your timeline. Brands are encouraged to add in important milestones from their past, all the way back to when the company was just a concept.
As is the case with page format, it will take some work to add in these major events and to make the story more than just a series of disjointed statements from days gone by. Brands like Fanta http://www.facebook.com/fanta have done a fantastic job of creating a full-orbed, meaningful company history.
Posts and comments you don’t like can be hidden, and ones you want to emphasize can be starred. This calls extra attention by doubling the size of the post.
It will be worth the effort to comb through old content to make your brand narrative as compelling as possible.
In addition, any post that you want to make sure gets the immediate attention of your visitors can be “pinned” to the top of your timeline for seven days (or until another item is pinned). When done thoughtfully, this could take place of the default landing page that’s no longer available.
Content’s Everlasting Reign
More than ever before, brands will have to incorporate visual media into their Facebook posts. You can tell that Timeline’s designers had this in mind. The structure of the page almost begs for brands to include photos and videos into a high percentage of their posts. Studies also show that these are the items that drive the greatest amount of interaction visitor interaction. (Hey – pictures and videos go viral way more frequently than text content).
Timeline calls for businesses to rethink their Facebook marketing strategy. The content that was successful up to this point will not necessarily work as well going forward. But investing in finding out what makes for the best user experience is the best investment you can make.
Don’t bury your head in the sand; Timeline is here, and it will have a massive impact on how your brand fares on the world’s largest social network. As we noted earlier, you have two choices: ignore the reality or embrace the change. What do you think is the smarter decision?
Donnie Bryant is a direct response copywriter and marketing consultant. He specializes in radically improving businesses with Stealth Salesmanship and Strategic Marketing. Find out more at http://donnie-bryant.com/.