31 March 2012. You may not have marked it in your calendar, but that was the date Facebook upgraded all brand profiles to the new Timeline layout.
What does this change mean for your business? Here are some of the important things you need to know.
Look and feel
The visual overhaul is quite significant. You now get a Cover Image at the top of your page which stretches right across the screen. You also get logo space in a square in front of the cover image, in the left hand corner.
The Cover Image is a great way to establish a connection with the users who visit your business page, so it is important to use a high quality image. Facebook has a number of rules in regards to what can be used as a cover photo – for example, no price discount announcements – so it is important to take these into consideration.
Your tabs, which previously appeared at the left hand side of the screen, are now arranged in a row beneath your Cover Image. Under the Cover Image and tabs area appears the Timeline, divided down the middle, with posts appearing on either side.
New approach to presenting content
With the introduction of Timeline, Facebook is introducing some new limitations but also a lot more opportunities for content presentation.
One of the key limitations is the number of tabs that appear under the Cover Image. Users will only see three of the tabs you have available (along with your ‘About’ and ‘Photos’ tabs), and will have to click on a small scroll-down arrow to see their full range of options. Essentially, custom pages and tabs are still and option, but they will be less relevant than in the past.
What’s great about the new layout is that you can now squeeze in more content into the same space. Importantly, you can highlight a post by ‘pinning’ it to the top of your stream, where it will stay for up to seven days. This is ideal for competitions or important announcements. You can also add company ‘milestones’ to your timeline, allowing customers to get a better understanding of your history.
You can play around to get a better understanding of many of the other changes, but they don’t change the key rule of Facebook use: If you have great content, users will engage with your brand irrespective of page layout.
Timeline as default landing page
Up until now you could select one of the custom pages/tabs you had created for your business profile as a landing page. Facebook took away this functionality with Timeline. When a user visits your business page, by default, they will visit your business ‘Timeline’.
Private messages between business and users
Brands can now communicate with users in private and not just on the ‘Wall’.
This is great news for customer service campaigns and complaints as businesses can now handle user queries in private. Along with allowing for a much more human touch, it also means that complaints can be solved in private and communication can be tailored to suit each user.
‘Like’ it or not, Timeline presents a host of opportunities for companies willing to invest the effort.