My Goodness. There have been LOTS and LOTS of blog posts on Facebook and the impending Timeline for Pages changes. For those that are looking for a quick checklist and summary, here you go. This list is a mashup of my favorite posts on the topic.
1. Cover Photo – You now have an 851 x 315 pixel palette to convey your brand visually. “The cover photo is the first thing people will notice when visiting your Page, which is why it’s recommended to select a unique image that accurately represents your brand — this doesn’t have to be a logo.” – Sprout Social Blog. Here are 20 great cover photos to give you some ideas.
2. Direct Messages – Facebook has added an optional feature that allows users to send a direct message via the brand page. This will likely be used as a customer support feature for most brands. However, it could also be a great way to gain feedback on new or existing products. If you’ve had customer service PR nightmares, this could be a good feature to activate: it sends a message that you’re more readily available, but it also hides the conversation from other users. A win win if your product or service is not as popular as you’d like. “ This allows brands to take care of customer service issues in a more intimate and less public space.” - Location 3 Blog
3. No More “Like-Gating”. Brands used to be able to gate content to only those who “liked” your page. Facebook didn’t think this was good practice so they stopped it. I support their decision. Facebook users should be able to “browse before they buy”. From TechCrunch: “Previously, Pages could set a default landing tab that all non-fans would first see instead of the wall when they visited a Page. This is no longer allowed. Instead, users always see the main Timeline view and have to actively click through to custom apps. This means custom apps for your contests, promotions, games, media, coupons, and signup widgets may receive much less engagement from users who find their way to your Page.”
4. Milestones – As part of the new Timeline layout, your page can include Milestones. This allows users to scan your timeline and quickly find important events, such as the day your company launched, or when new products were released. “When was your company founded? When did you file for an IPO? When did you sign your major clients? When were you recognized for industry awards? Think about these bits of your history as ways to bring human elements to your brand’s personality.” - HyperText
5. Pin/Highlight Stories – The stories you post can now be elevated to two new states: Pinned or highlighted (aka starred). Pinning puts the story at the top of you page and keeps it there for up to 7 days. If you elect to highlight your story, it gains twice the real estate in your timeline, taking up both sides of the center line. Unfortunately, you can’t both pin and highlight your piece. “Every post—now called a “Story”—on the Timeline has a chance to shine. With larger photos, videos, and posts, stories can be curated, with Page Admins choosing to either “Feature” or “Pin” them.” - Magnet Media Blog
6. The Navigation Bar – The layout of the navigation bar has undergone some huge changes. The tabbed navigation you used to see on the left has moved to the top, front-and-center, just below your cover photo. You can re-arrange the tabs, and choose your own image for each custom tab. You’re allowed up to 12 apps, however only 1 will display in the navigation bar (the remainder will be available via a drop down). “With Timeline for Facebook Pages you can create a custom image — 111 x 74px — for all tabs EXCEPT Facebook’s own apps (Photos, Notes, Events, Videos, Links), and you can have a maximum of 4 (including the Photos tab) displayed, with the rest hidden.” – HyperArts Blog
7. The About Section – Don’t overlook your existing “About” section. The layout has changed, and the section’s boundaries have grown, giving you more real estate to tell your story. The About section is also featured more prominently on your page. “Now at the top of your timeline, there are two different versions available so you may need to update soon. These versions depend on if your business is listed as having a physical location or not having a physical location.” – Buffer Blog
How Will This Impact Your Facebook Strategy?
So what is your Facebook strategy now, considering these changes? Most think these are valuable changes to the platform, providing new (and more visual) ways to engage your customers. But don’t get too excited about Facebook. Whatever your strategy is, be sure that you’re not putting all your community building effort into this one behemoth of a platform. Here are a few reasons why. While Facebook is huge and cannot be ignored, it is limited; it doesn’t allow for really deep levels of engagement. It also changes too frequently, as many will see again come March 30 2012 when the official switch to the timeline format is made. Lastly and most importantly, the platform isn’t yours. You have no true control when it comes to outreach, communication, and engagement tactics. Remember that your “fans” are more Facebook’s members than yours.
Furthermore, Facebook is a huge community divvied up into smaller interest or affinity groups based on those ubiquitous “likes”. So do you know how engaged those fans really are? Some studies show that only 1% of your “fans” ever return to your page. Let’s be clear, Facebook is a revenue-generating media machine. They’re looking for ways to get you to PAY for engagement. Kris Duggan of Badgeville summed it up nicely in a recent Forbes article: “Sure, page content may show up in a users’ stream if Facebook’s algorithm determines it relevant to the user and they happen to be watching their stream at the right time, but ultimately Facebook’s entire business model is built around you having to advertise to adequately reach your audience.”
Comscore and others have pointed out that your stories may only show up in 16% of your fan’s streams. If you want more reach than that, Facebook now offers a “reach generator” service, wherein you simply pay for more exposure. The point here is that you should look for more sustainable ways to keep your fans engaged. Don’t put all your community eggs in the Facebook basket.