A Guide to Facebook Timeline for Small Business Brands

Facebook Timeline Guide

This week, Facebook announced a major change to how brands – including small businesses – can use Facebook to share their stories on the site. Facebook Timeline has been rolled out to individual user profiles, but now, businesses will also have the new look on their pages. As of this week, businesses can turn on Timeline; otherwise the changes will be automatically rolled out to all pages on March 30. But before you turn on Timeline, it’s important to understand all the changes that are coming.

So, what does Facebook Timeline for brand pages mean? We tuned into Facebook’s recent live marketing event on what’s new with Facebook for brands, so here’s a rundown of some of the major changes you’ll see.

Updated Layout, Experience, & Page Content Types

The first thing you’ll notice when visiting a business page using Timeline is the new look and feel, characterized by the use of two images featured prominently at the top of the page. There is also a new layout for business information and page apps, a new interface for content posted to the page, and new types of content that can appear on your business Timeline.

Here’s an overview of these elements.

Cover Image – This is a large, banner-style photo that is prominently featured at the top of your page. This 851 x 315 pixel image is intended to set the visual tone and identity of your page and should showcase the life of your brand. For example, a cupcake shop might show a colorful photo of a display of cakes or pastries in this image. One thing to keep in mind with the cover image is that you cannot add promotional text such as offer information, business hours or locations, or other calls to action. This type of content should be displayed in the “about” section of your page or in a status update.

Profile Photo – This image is a small, square image that is basically the profile photo for your page. This photo will show up as your business image when fans see content posted in their feeds. Facebook recommends to use your brand logo within the profile picture, and to keep it simple. This image will be displayed as small as 30×30 pixels in some portions of the site.

Updated About Section & Placement – The “About” section has a new placement below the cover image rather than in a sidebar. This will showcase a business description for brands or the address and contact information for local businesses. It links to a more in-depth About page containing more details about your business.

Page App Placement & Changes – Next to the “About” section is a place to feature different page apps your business may be using. This is also where the number of “likes” a page has is displayed. A local business can use page apps like maps, videos, events, and offer landing tabs to promote content that’s not displayed directly on the Timeline. Four app modules are featured on the page, along with a dropdown so users can easily navigate to other apps.

Another change related to apps is that you can no longer select a tab or app to be the default landing page whenever a Facebook user visits your page through the site. However, you can still link visitors to your apps or landing pages from places like your website, emails, or even from Facebook ads.

Timeline Content Layout – The content posted to your page also has a new look and feel that’s similar to the Timeline look that has rolled out to user profiles. The layout is two columns of content that are divided by a line, combined with the ability to outline historical content in the format of milestones, like company founding, product launches, and other interesting company information. A floating timeline shortcut allows users to navigate easily to prior years to learn more about your business and see old Facebook activity from your brand.

Content Types – Now, the content shown on your page Timeline will also be different from the previous iteration of a brand’s wall. The default setting for content shown on your Timeline includes your page’s posts as well as posts from page fans and random users (those who have not “liked” your page but mention your business in a post). Plus, your page will pull in content about your business that has been posted to user’s Timelines, not just posts added directly to your own Timeline. Brands do have the ability to adjust this default setting under the “manage permission” option and can select an option that only allows posts from the brand and its fans to show up on the Timeline until the post has been reviewed by an admin.

Friend Activity Feature – There’s a new place where “friend activity” is showcased on your page. Previously, this was a sub-tab, but it’s now front and center, just below the About section of your page. This feature will show visitors to your page the activity their Facebook friends have taken with your brand, such as likes, check-ins, and other brand-related content activities.

New Content Labeling & Feature Options

In addition to these look and feel changes, there are also some changes with how Facebook admins can interact with and feature content on their Timeline.

Pinned Content  – A page admin can now  pin a native post to the top of their page so that fans can see the featured content above the fold for up to seven days, or until new content is pinned. Only one post at a time can be pinned at the top of the page, and the pinned content is marked with an orange flag.

Allowed Content – Page admins will be able to mark content posted by users to the page as “allowed” content, allowing it to appear on the brand’s Timeline.

Starred Content – You’ll also be able to mark content as “starred,” which will feature that prominently on the page in a double-wide layout, bringingit more attention on your page Timeline.

Back-dated & Milestone Content – Now, brands will be able to back date content in order to post items to the history of your brand’s Timeline, along with the ability to designate some types of content as “milestones” which will be featured prominently in the Timeline interface.

New Private Messaging Option Between Fans and Brands

Another new feature Facebook is launching with Timeline is the ability for fans to reach out to your business privately through a message that your brand can respond to privately. This enables a user to initiate a private exchange with a brand for a variety of purposes. Messages may only be initiated by users or fans, not from the business; however, this opens up a new opportunity for customer help, inquiry, and support.

New Admin Panel & Reports

In addition to these changes, the admin panel and reports for Facebook page administrators is also changing. This feature will aggregate all the data about your page and its performance together and is also where you will be able to access messages from your fans. This panel will feature details about users who like or tag your brand in a post in addition to the new “likes” your page has received so you can easily look at who your new users are. Also, the Facebook Insights information will all be available from this admin panel.

With one month to get ready for these changes, now is the time to be start thinking about how to get your business page ready for the March 30th automatic rollout of Timeline. It’s more than a matter of simply enabling Timeline and updating your business images. It’s important to understand what all these changes mean for your business, from customer service to page management to overall strategy.

Has your business switched to Timeline? What are you looking forward to with the new changes, and what are your concerns? Share your thoughts in a comment, and stay tuned for more information on Facebook Timeline for small business brands.

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