Facebook Timeline

Facebook changed its business pages over to the new Timeline format on March 30th. Although some businesses grumbled and whined that they “hate the change,” some of us mature marketers simply accepted the fact that change can equal innovation, jumped quickly on the news and asked ourselves “How can I make Facebook work for me to build my brand?”

Remember, social media is all about engaging customers and prospective customers, building awareness of your products/business, and making them feel positive about your brand so they’ll continue to buy and engage! Big brands that have made the change are already reporting a 46% increase in engagement and we are seeing similar trends for small businesses. What are you waiting for?

Although the new format, at first glance, lacks some of the intimacy and conversational qualities of the original pages, it presents some terrific opportunities for business, bringing together the best aspects throughout the ages of marketing and communications.

Stop reading this article for a minute, look at your business page, and take note of how many “LIKES” you have right now. Then make some of these simple edits and adopt some new posting practices. Track your performance over time (using Facebook insights, web traffic reports, and other measures of customer engagement) and fine-tune your strategy accordingly. We have seen phenomenal growth in traffic within a few days of the changeover.

Think of the cover photo as your billboard. It presents a large canvas for you to showcase a big brand message. If someone gave you enough real estate to hang a sign on a major highway, what would you display? You can use it for one big image or a composite image that represents your product, service, or happy customers. Your logo and tagline can fit neatly in the smaller image position. Remember that Facebook prohibits using this space as a real “billboard,” so avoid hype and ad copy.

The four main tabs are, much like website buttons, the navigation devices that direct viewers to your “best content.” The Photo tab is a fixed position, so make sure you have the best possible photos in your album; those that convey what your business is all about. The others can be customized and can lead customers and prospects to e-newsletter sign-ups, promotions, compelling videos, events and speaking appearances, and even pages on your website. Think of your new page as a mini website and approach the development of these tabs strategically. Unless you are in a business where you have thousands of fans (“LIKES”) you may be better off putting that tab on the second row – a place that people will only go to if they are very interested in your business.

Now is a great time to reflect on your company’s history. Look at the posts that are appearing along your timeline and make sure they adequately reflect the milestones and other moments you want your customers and prospects to see, like product launches, press announcements, and other interesting facts/insights. Hide those that appear “ho-hum.”

Look ahead, not just backwards. Create a strategic plan for how you’re going to use your new timeline going forward. As you put up posts, you can flag them as “milestones,” change their size to give them more prominence, and make sure that they include enough of a mix of photos, links, polls, press announcements (and links to published articles) and valuable content to keep your fans (old and new) coming back for more. Much as you would develop a marketing communications plan, create an editorial calendar and calibrate your posts, promotions and news to the season.

Use Facebook insights and experiment with advertising. Facebook offers some great analytical and targeting tools, providing the ability to better understand precisely who you are engaging and what they’re sharing. Rather than bemoaning the fact that not enough Facebook users “LIKE” you, study who is LIKING you already (and why) and use that data to develop engaging new messages and targeted advertising.

Remember to social-ize! Alas, too many brands and businesses fall prey to the “Me-me-me” and “We-we-we” syndrome in marketing.  One marketing principle that hasn’t changed along with the timeline format is that your focus should always be about your customer, prospect, or fan.  If you see the world through your viewer’s eyes you can never be wrong. Are you entertaining, informative, helpful, collaborative, caring, giving, and timeless? Are you sharing great posts from other brands and business leaders you respect? Are you responding to fan questions quickly and directly? If you’re not interesting and sociable, why will anyone want to hang out on your Facebook page – now or any time?

And, if you don’t have the time, resources, and marketing savvy to do this all yourself, do not be ashamed to outsource or learn from what other brands are doing.

What’s next for Facebook for business? We can’t be 100% sure. But one thing that every business should know by now is that time changes everything, so stop grumbling and use time(line) to your advantage!