Facebook’s ‘Timeline’ feature
The introduction of Google Plus has produced additional pressure on Facebook for more innovation and an ultimately more valuable user-experience. While the ‘Timeline’ feature has been on the back-burner for a number of months now (active on a majority of user’s profiles), the introduction of the feature to Facebook Pages is relatively new.
Currently, the owners of ‘Pages’ maintain dull, standardized, wordy pages. With ‘Timeline’ the elements of customization, individuality and engagement are significantly improved. Users without ‘Timeline’ implemented currently have the option to plan, design and customize before going live with the feature. So unlike a number of Facebook updates, businesses are not being caught off-guard by privacy or display alterations. As of 31 March 2012, all Facebook ‘Pages’ will be set live, so it’s important to get prepared earlier, rather than later. To have a look at how your Facebook ‘Page’ will look, head there now and you should be greeted with a ‘Coming Soon: New Facebook Pages’ notification. Click the preview button and you get a greater understanding of how your ‘Timeline’ is going to look.
The Benefits of Facebook’s ‘Timeline’
By now I can assume you’re asking ‘What do these changes mean for my business’ Facebook Page?’, and that’s a fair question. Facebook is notorious for it’s purely cosmetic updates in the name of privacy — but ‘Timeline’ is anything but.
The new ‘Timeline’ feature for ‘Pages’ will enable better communication of your business activities, history and branding. So lets take a look at each of those business elements, and see just how ‘Timeline’ can effectively communicate them;
Better communication of business activity
With better communication comes better engagement. The ‘Timeline’ feature places a focus on the quality of ‘Page’ posts rather than the quantity. Business ‘Page’ posts no longer disappear to below the fold, which should encourage you to produce more authentic and relevant updates. While the ‘Timeline’ update initially raises some concerns regarding content control (we will get to that later), the overall easy of content administration proves a significant benefit.
One of the most notable changes that arises with the introduction of ‘Timeline’ is the removal of customized default landing pages. Rather than the users who are not yet fans of your business being directed to a custom landing page, they will be pointed to your Facebook ‘Timeline’. This will significantly alter the way a number of businesses promote their business on Facebook. The ‘Timeline’ feature allows ‘Page’ owners to nominate content they consider a priority, pinning it to the top of the ‘Timeline’ for a period of seven days. This allows for easy manipulation and communication of business activities. For pinning, the content must already be published — simply select the pencil (top right corner) and choose the ‘Pin to Top’ option.
Facebook ‘Timeline’ has also seen the introduction of a private messaging system between a ‘Page’ and it’s users. This allows for a significantly deeper level of customer integration, with the ability to take negative or extended customer enquiries off the ‘Timeline’ and respond with a private message. The ‘Timeline’ feature should initially be approached with caution, your ‘Wall’ is now your landing page, so stay mindful of the clutter that could be taking up prime real estate. If an enquiry can be serviced better in a one-on-one manner, hide the post from ‘Timeline’ and contact the user directly. Maintain satisfactory customers with a clean, visually appealing ‘Timeline’.
The standard ‘Timeline’ layout consists of a two-column format, however, user’s have the ability to make posts ‘Starred’, expanding them into a full page display. This feature is ideal for images in which the higher resolution compliments the post, developing the visual appeal of both the post and your ‘Timeline’. While the Facebook ‘Timeline’ feature allows for more engaging future updates, it also enables the posting of engaging historical status updates.
Better communication of business history
‘Historical status updates?’ you ask? That’s right, ‘Page’ owners have the ability to develop content on their ‘Timeline’ since their listed year of establishment. Simply fill out a status update as per usual, and then select the clock icon (lower left corner). After selecting this option you have the ability to choose the month and year appropriate for the status.
‘Page’ owners also have the option of adding a ‘Milestone’; essentially a back-dated status update with a unique on-page display. ‘Milestones’ are an effective method of noting important dates in your business’ history (e.g. birthdays, new employees, new offices) and allow better communication of your business’ history and heritage. ‘Milestones’ allow you to tell your business’ story to potential employees, potential customers and the general community.
Think of the new ‘Timeline’ feature as an aesthetically pleasing scrapbook of your business’ life. With the addition of pictures, stories and videos from the past, you present a better representation of your business, and users can gain a better understanding. Truth and transparency are vital elements within social media, and the addition of history to your business’ ‘Page’ should make a huge difference.
Better communication of business branding
So you want to communicate what your business is about a bit more effectively? Communicate it with the Facebook ‘Timeline’ and you’re sure to grab your fans attention. Arguably the most noticeable aspect of the ‘Timeline’ feature is the introduction of the cover photo element.
‘Timeline’ comes in the era of rapidly digested information and entertainment. With the rise in photo sharing applications (e.g. Instagram, Flickr), visual ‘blogging’ platforms (e.g. Tumblr, WeHeartIt) or even the excessive popularity of simply info graphics. The need for content that is both informative and visually appealing has never been so high, the consumption of information is definitely changing platforms. But who knows, perhaps the introduction of the new ‘Timeline’ has also seen the death of the ever popular ‘Fangate’.
The cover photo element is approximately 850 by 315 pixels, and spans the entire width of the header. Noted as the boldest design change to the Facebook ‘Pages’, the cover photo is the new prime real-estate on your ‘Page’. It is important to note that under Facebook Terms & Conditions, the cover photo area may not be used to communicate promotions, contact information, elements related to Facebook (e.g. Like, Share), or a call-to-action. While these restrictions may cause frustration among ‘Page’ owners, it is easy to understand Facebook’s motive. An abundance of classified banner-style advertisements throughout the website is less than desirable.
Facebook’s product director (Gokul Rajaram) recently stated that the overall goal with Facebook ‘Timeline’ and businesses was to make ‘Pages’ more engaging and more social. The profile picture now acts as more of an avatar than a true profile picture. While previous dimensions were 600 by 200 pixels, the new dimensions are a simple 32 by 32 pixel square. Your profile picture should be clean and simple, something that is easily identifiable and brand oriented. Think of something closer to your business’ Twitter logo!
The implementation of the ‘Timeline’ feature has raised alarm bells. Some are concerned that the feature was purely developed and implemented to encourage users to input more content; essentially more data for Facebook to entice potential advertisers with. A fair point, but more of a business strategy than a violation of privacy rights. Other concerns refer to the easier access of personal details and information ‘Timeline’ creates, however this debate is a little closer to ‘Timeline’ for individual profiles.
Overall the introduction of ‘Timeline’ has developed a more engaging and inviting atmosphere on Facebook ‘Pages’. With the forced implementation of the ‘Timeline’ feature in upcoming weeks we are likely to see some new creative designs and fresh social media strategies. What do you think? Have you implemented your Facebook ‘Timeline’? Let us know your thoughts and opinions with the section below!