The Top Changes to Facebook Timeline for Brand Pages - and How They Affect You

March 2, 2012 Jared Shusterman

Yesterday, Facebook unveiled their new timeline product for Brand pages - all current Facebook Pages will be converted to the new format by the end of March. The new changes provide for additional ways to engage the Facebook User community, but also mean that distributed marketers have to take notice to these new features to support local initiatives - this means work, as well as changes (new requirements) for any technology supporting the facebook platform.

The Cover - The Most Visual Change The Timeline cover displays a giant 851 x 315 pixel banner across the top of a Brand Page. This takes the place of the previous iconic picture styling to the left of every page. For those distributed brands that have gone through great lengths to standardize the look and feel of their local pages, this means a new initiative is in order (manually or through technology) to get the new timeline covers in sync and localized. However, keep in mind this is a great opportunity to localize your brand. Per Facebook’s Product Director of Ads Gokul Rajaram, the “goal is to symbolize what an organization is all about. For a restaurant it could be a popular menu item, a band could display album cover art, and a business could show a picture of their customers using their product.” In other words, localizing your brand in the context of the region, favorite product and/or weather patterns is a good way to give a strong visual impression for local brand relevance. You should drive changes of this photo often - particularly as a way to highlight new local events and/or promotions.

Redesign of App Placement - The Biggest Disadvantage The redesign of Apps within Pages is the primary disadvantage of the new timeline layout. Pages could previously set a default landing tab that all non-fans (and fans) would first see when they visited a Page. This is no longer an option. Instead, users always see the main Timeline view with the Cover first and have to actively search for the custom app and then click it to engage with it. The click-through pushes the user to a different landing page as well - which takes the user more out of context of the overall Page and the Brand. Before, the left-side of the page stayed in-tact allow the users to move through different Apps more freely (with less friction).

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. Brands that currently have Apps installed on their pages, or distributed local pages, may have to rethink their strategy of the App itself. And potentially more problematic, how Apps are discovered. Apps have been relocated from the left navigation sidebar to the right side of the About section. The new icons visually highlight the Apps better than the previous text links. Yet they are now trumped by the cover image above. There are four App tiles which immediately show, and the first is permanently occupied by Photos. The rest can include a Page’s custom Apps, or any other default application in Facebook including Likes, Videos, Events, Map, etc. Also ensure that your local marketers are educated on ordering the Apps that are most important as the App order now has a fundamental importance on visibility to the user (given only four live above the fold until the user chooses to see more). Live offers, and other local promotions, needs to stay extremely visible.

The power of "Like-gates", often used to require users to Like a Page to view the content or gain the ability to use an App, is also tempered. While still permitted, they won't be as powerful given they can no longer be the first thing a user sees when they visit a page. Be sure to test that all Apps are working given the new layout - especially those driven by third-party technologies.

Direct Messages - A New Support Medium Users can now directly message a Facebook Page and allow the page Administrator to response. For all businesses that use a third-party app to manage their content on pages, this now introduces a new business requirement to handle customer service and community feedback requests through a new medium. For distributed marketers managing potentially thousands of local brand pages, or managing a network of brand pages, look for technology to make the roll-up of direct messages, and its necessary management, a dream instead of a nightmare. Look for the introduction of direct messages to turn into a fundamental customer service medium to support. And although mid-to-large businesses will be first adopters, it will eventually be an expectation of all customers - forcing small business into the fold.

So will you wait for March 30th, or will you take the leap and implement timeline now?  

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About the Author

Jared Shusterman

Jared is the Founder and Managing Partner of SproutLoud. Since 2005, he has been primarily responsible for strategic direction of the Company, as well as the oversight of SproutLoud's Partner ecosystem. Prior to SproutLoud, Jared worked in Thomas Weisel Partner’s internet and online advertising investment banking practice in San Francisco. He served as the lead analyst on a number of Corporate Finance and M&A deals including Newscorps’ buyout of Intermix Media ( Jared graduated with a B.A. in Finance and Marketing from the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia. Jared has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and is a member of the Young President's Organization (YPO). Jared has been honored as one of the Top 40 under 40 entrepreneurs by South Florida Business Journal and a Top 50 Entrepreneur by Business Leader Magazine. Jared lives in South Florida with his wife and two sons.

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