Just when we thought we could exhale, it’s time once again for another seismic shift in Facebook marketing. Timeline, the social network’s redesigned profile page, was rolled out to personal users late last year, and while there has been no official announcement, the buzz is that brands may have access to Timeline as early as the end of this month. Ad Age reported that Facebook will use its February 29 marketing conference to announce the initiative, starting in beta with a ‘handful of brands’.
While some postulate that it may be several months before Timeline is available to all brands, it could happen sooner. That means you need to start planning on how you will take advantage of biggest revamp of Facebook brand pages since their inception – and start by looking at these areas.
It really is a timeline.
Profile pages in Timeline are organized around chronological storytelling. That mean brands need to determine what milestone events to highlight – and other ways to use the temporal functionality of Timeline creatively. In a recent article, The Washington Post suggested that Coca-Cola, for example, could ask for fans to submit nostalgic photos of themselves or family members enjoying the product in days gone by. In the same article, Bonneville’s Noah Sacksteder, states that “The Timeline brand page can give those users who really want to get to know a brand a chance to dig deeper into finding out what that brand is all about.” (A dream scenario for any brand, to be sure.) That naturally means placing the brand in some type of historical context – and inviting your customers to help create that picture is a good tactic.
The biggest visual change will be the very large canvas for a ‘Cover Photo’. In September last year, Mashable invited agencies to re-imagine Facebook brand pages under the Timeline format and it’s clear that there is enormous opportunity to create more appeal and personal interaction with the new design.
Your current profile photo/image had a maximum size of 180 x 540 pixels. It will be dwarfed by your new ‘Cover Photo’ that can be a full 850 x 315 pixels. With all that real estate, it’s going to be hard to avoid the temptation to make this a loud billboard -rather than a visually compelling invitation. Which is why it’s wise to start thinking about exactly what image you’ll want to use here.
Directions may be required.
Standard Facebook ‘tab’ links (Info, Photos, etc.) will move to a more visible spot on the top right of the page. It would be wise to consider a ‘spring cleaning’ here, since it’s quite possible photos and videos may get renewed attention, as will other content that sat in the left hand column.
Timeline will likely impact other ways fans interact with your page content. Fans are not yet accustomed to how their own personal Timeline pages work may find navigating brand pages equally confusing. It would be wise to be prepared to create messages that direct fans to important content that may be harder to find when it’s in an unfamiliar place on your profile.
Since Timeline also allows for much more control over how posts are displayed, it’s also going to require renewed focus on who is managing content and how it’s being curated. That suggests that anyone that’s a page administrator may need new guidance.
What about apps?
Perhaps the biggest unanswered question for brand profile page owners is ‘What happens to our custom apps?’. While it’s unlikely that Facebook will allow Timeline to render your current apps unusable, it’s very possible that adjustments will be required. If it’s been some time since you’ve had contact with your app developer, it’s prudent to make sure they’re online to monitor and make changes as needed.
With so many unknowns, and the fact that Timeline for brands is a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’, the best advice is this: study up, stay tuned and focus on the ‘devil that you know’. In other words, plan now to address everything that you know will change – and flex those agility muscles to be ready for everything else.