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Features That Define the Facebook Timeline for Business

Washington Women in Public Relations, April 4, 2012

By Kati Rutherford

On March 30th, every Facebook page was converted to the timeline layout. Is your brand and/or organization prepared? Here are the five most exciting changes to take advantage of to make sure your page gains distinction right off the bat.

1. Friend interaction with brand pages

Facebook has always shown you which of your friends “like” a brand or organization’s page, but now they’ve gone one step further in customizing the page content. Now featured prominently on your timeline is your friends’ discussion of the brand, so you can see involvement from your connections.

On the right hand side of a page timeline users now see likes as well as interactions. Facebook knows that out of The Office’s 10 million likes and 64,000 people talking about the show, users care most about their friends and what they think. And that information should come first to my line of sight. So any viral buzz you generate can live longer than in previous formats.

2. Location-focus

Facebook is an online community meant to enhance existing communities. Facebook had already embraced the check-in feature so that users can share with their friends where they’ve been. Timeline combines the foundation ideas of Foursquare and Yelp, so now users can check in to several places but now also recommend a place and/or page to friends.

People who wish to share their thoughts more than just pressing the like button can register their comments in a page’s recommendation box. The National Restaurant Association receives recommendations on their page, showing user-generated information as well alongside the associations’ provided content.

So instead of people’s comments peppering your feed, they exist in a one-stop shop on your timeline for people that are most interested in seeing feedback on your brand or organization.

3. Cover photo

With the profile picture taking a backseat, this is a way for brands or organizations to really make a statement with a visual. The cover photo is an image splash, a visual the eye can’t avoid when visiting a timeline. It reminds me of CD cover art, the iconic image that was then associated with that particular album of music. For organizations, it is safe to assume that your logo or brand image should remain the profile picture, and then your cover photo is an additional visual to highlight what you do.

The cover photo shouldn’t be an advertisement (Facebook’s guidelines spell that out in detail), but rather a convincing, enticing tease to draw users to scroll down for more. For the page of an environmental advocacy group, it’s where they could provide a recent image of an important restoration initiative. For the page of a community service group like Habitat for Humanity, you could showcase the latest service project. The dynamic and changing nature of this cover photo is up to the organization, but to continue to get page visits, it should change frequently. The best ones I’ve seen so far are ones from interesting angles and views, as if viewing their page is like going behind-the-scenes of an organization or brand. That distinguishes the page from visiting a typical corporate web site.

4. Make milestones

The company I work for launched August 2, 2011. To make that mark on our page timeline, Facebook has created milestones. For people’s individual pages, milestones are the typical variety: the day you were born, the day you joined Facebook, the day you graduated college, your wedding day, etc. For brand or organization pages, these milestones are similar lifetime developments. When the company expands to a different city, it should be documented on the timeline. When a new product line is launched, its photo should be featured as a monumental event. When a company goes public, that is definitely a date worth special attention on the timeline. Companies have growth and movements in their life cycle also, and fans should get to be a part of that history and information.

5. Extending the permanence of a post

Ever obsess over the exact right moment to post something so that more people see it present in their newsfeed before it enters the loading black hole? You can now pin or highlight a post you make to Facebook, in order to ensure that more of your fans see it. By clicking “pin to top” in the drop down menu to the right-hand side of the post, you can pin that post to the top for seven days. Another option is to highlight a post, making it larger and more encompassing in its position on your timeline. But beware, you can’t overdo it by pinning AND highlighting, so choose your promotion choice wisely.

Looking ahead, it will be exciting to see what pages do with these new features, and how the overall transition goes. For awhile, lots of brands and organizations will need to set aside time to assemble their timeline, like an online scrapbook, but then moving forward they will be prepared to maximize content and document it to the best format for timeline. So far, it seems like the brands and organizations have found some cool ways to adjust to the design changes, and I’m excited to see more innovation as the full transition gets underway.

Read full article: Washington Women in Public Relations, April 4, 2012