Time’s On Our Side: How To Make The Most of Facebook’s New Timeline

By | March 9, 2012

Last week saw Facebook announce the launch of Timeline for brand pages, highlighting key changes to the layout, visuals and navigation of Facebook pages for brands. As well as the huge emphasis now placed on visuals, with the introduction of a large cover photo, one of the major changes businesses will see is the impact the new layout will have on tabs, and in particular, landing/welcome tabs. For companies who have invested time and budget towards the creation and development of a welcome tab for their Facebook pages, this will no doubt come as a disappointment, as Facebook no longer enables users to set a pre-determined landing page. Instead, all visitors will now arrive on the default brand Timeline page.

The effect on tabs is of course a significant one, with the overall design of the user journey now changing focus away from tabs and more upon the brand’s main Timeline page. The solution many have suggested, is to utilise the space from the cover photo which now presents pages with a much larger header visual upon which they can integrate the latest promotions and brand messaging. Additionally, the introduction of the ‘pinning’ feature also enables brands to ‘pin’ a post to the top of their Timeline. Essentially, this keeps the ‘pinned’ post as being the first post visitors see when arriving on the page. That is, until a new post is ‘pinned’ in its place. Interestingly, the combination of the cover photo, profile image and ‘pinned’ post now offers brands the perfect opportunity to present visitors with a much more visual experience. In many ways, this space can even replicate that of the landing tab, bringing current promotions, products, competitions and campaign content to the forefront without the need for users to navigate away from the wall towards a separate tab.

With Facebook announcing the 30th March as the date when all pages will automatically switch over to Timeline, there’s still plenty of time for businesses to get to grips with the changes and take the right steps to put everything into place ready for changeover.  One of the first things businesses should take the time to do is to brainstorm around the examples of early adopters of Timeline and the innovations already out there by companies such as Coca Cola and Ben & Jerry’s. For example, already businesses can gather inspiration from the way in which other brands are using the cover image, milestone features and pinned posts in unique and creative ways, mapping out ways in which these ideas can be transferred onto their own pages.

Interestingly, Facebook has also included a ‘preview’ feature for page admins in the admin area of pages, which enables companies to experiment with different page layouts, cover images and visuals and preview how these might look once the page goes live. This is a great way for brands to tweak their approach and ensure they make the most of the new opportunities the Timeline layout presents. This way, on switching over to Timeline towards the end of the month, businesses will be in a good position to be able present users with a new and exciting social media experience that has been carefully tailored and optimised towards representing the brand identity even better than before.

One of the great examples of looking towards other brands for inspiration is that of the new Red Bull page. Switching its Timeline live alongside a competition pinned to the top of its page, Red Bull encouraged users to explore different areas of its Timeline for information needed to enter the competition, such as when the company was founded, or key company milestones. An approach which puts the navigation of Timeline itself at the heart of fan engagement and a fantastic way to get fans to interact with the new layout from the get-go.

A key consideration when switching over to Timeline will be for companies to increase their emphasis upon weekly reporting. With changes in layout, new features and functions, brands will need to be able to identify the impact this will have on their current content and outreach. Has Timeline affected engagement? Are posts with visuals generating more conversations and reach? What types of interactions are we getting from fans? How is acquisition affected? These are just some of the questions page admins will need to be ready to answer around the performance and activities of the page pre and post-Timeline.

One of the key misconceptions is that changing over to the new Timeline layout is simply a case of uploading a new cover photo image and pinning a new post; continuing with current approaches to outreach the same way as life pre-Timeline. However, this approach overlooks the fact that Facebook, in introducing Timeline, has actually changed the way the social network will live and breathe for both brands and users alike. Not only in terms of the visual and aesthetic changes, but in the way users will interact with content and navigate pages. In fact, the whole social media user journey on Facebook has now changed. As a result, brands and social media agencies will need to be ready to be flexible in their approach, strategies and content features, placing emphasis on once again discovering the best ways in which to utilise Facebook to reach and engage with their target audience. In many ways, it’s back to the drawing board and with three weeks left to go, time is still very much on our side… For now!

About the Guest Post Author

George Guildford is an Account Manager at digital PR agency Punch Communications, utilising over 7 years marketing, PR and social media experience working across a wide range of clients from the music, gaming, tech and smartphone industries.