Paul Fairburn set up Aimiable Consulting to bring quality Social Media Marketing & Search Engine Optimisation to small and medium sized businesses.
Paul has worked in digital media and radio for a number of years, and blogs about digital marketing. I have know Paul for years and there is no one more technically able for this sort of stuff, plus he is a really nice guy. As ever I’d like to stress I, nor the blog, have any commercial relationship with Paul. I’ll also admit that most of this stuff is beyond me! So don’t be afraid to talk to him directly. Or leave a comment below and I’ll make sure he gets it!
You can consider Paul your Personal Digital Assistant…Keep calm and update Facebook!Your Facebook Page is about to change – like it or not! There’s work to do. But do it well and your brand will stand out from the crowd.

Timelines have been a feature of personal Facebook profiles four months – but by March 30 they’ll be compulsory on brand pages too.

The Timeline becomes your brand’s home page on Facebook. You can’t choose another default page for visitors to see first.

Play around now with your Timeline formatting in private but beware; once you publish your Timeline you can’t go back to the old format.

BRANDING FACEBOOK TIMELINES

Your cover photo is the first thing visitors see, and it works just like personal ones. Here’s Coca-Cola’s.

Coke's Facebook Timeline

Facebook does not want commercial cover photos, so aim for something creative and engaging and remember the cover pictures are not clickable.

Facebook says cover images may not contain:

  • Price or purchase information, such as 40% off or Download it at our website
  • Contact information, such as web address, email, mailing address or other information intended for your Page’s About section.
  • References to user interface elements, such as Like or Share, or any other Facebook site features.
  • Calls to action, such as ‘Get it now’ or ‘Tell your friends’.

Also ‘You may not encourage or incentivise people to upload your cover image to their personal Timelines’

Get an image 850 pixels wide by 315 pixels tall. However if you upload something that is not in the right aspect ratio, you are able to choose which 850 x 315 portion of your uploaded image you wish to display.

Keep your page fresh by updating images often, if you can.

Don’t have any graphic design skills in-house? Just get an attractive relevant photo and crop it to size using a program like Paint (much improved in Windows 7).

Don’t copy pictures from the Internet, unless you’re sure the owner permits it.

SCROLLING

Until now your branding was always visible, but now your cover photo disappears once a visitor scrolls down your Timeline!

Coca cola's profile picture

So – make sure your ‘profile picture’ the little thumbnail that appears next to your posts, is clear and well branded. It’s all people see most of the time. Here’s Coke’s.

Don’t be confused. Facebook have changed their terminology.

Your thumbnail used to be extracted from your profile picture.

Facebook now calls the thumbnail your ‘profile picture’, and you can upload any square image you like. Make it at least 180 pixels across.

Some brands have chosen to make the profile picture seem part of the cover picture, and others havenít.Cover photos and profile pictures can fit together as one

BRAND TIMELINES AREN’T THE SAME AS PERSONAL ONES

There are a few subtle differences between personal and brand Timelines and I’ll cover each of these in turn.

  • Top Right-hand Panels, Friends, Posts by Friends, Recent Posts By Others, Likes
  • Fangating
  • Apps
  • Insights
  • Admin Panel
  • Direct Messaging
  • Pinning

TOP RIGHT-HAND PANELS

The right hand side of your Timeline can be filled with the following panels: Friends, Posts by Friends, Recent Posts By Others, Likes (the pages your Brand has Liked)

For example hereís the right-hand side of the Manchester United Page Timeline.Facebook Timeline - right hand side

THE FRIENDS PANEL

The Friends Panel at the top right of the Timeline, doesn’t show everyone who is a fan of the page, just fans who are friends of the visitor.

POSTS BY FRIENDS

On some popular timelines you will see posts from your own friends about the brand. So far I haven’t found anywhere I can turn this off!

RECENT POSTS BY OTHERS PANEL

The most recent posts by other people can be displayed just below the Friends panel. You decide whether to show this. Obviously it can’t appear if your Page does not allow fans to post.

You are able to moderate incoming posts, so displaying this panel is worth considering. There isn’t one correct decision, it depends on how many posts you receive and how open and welcoming you want to be. Displaying this panel does mean that visitor comments are not mixed in with your own on the Timeline.

Visitors can choose to click on the ‘See All’ text, which then opens a window containing all the recent posts by others.

LIKES

If your brand has ‘Liked’ another Page- this panel will appear too.Facebook Timeline can show a brand's Likes

FANGATING

Fangating describes a custom App, in which you hide certain content until a visitor becomes a fan (by clicking the Like button). Fangating is still possible, It’s just that these fangates can no longer be landing pages.

If you haven’t investigated Custom Apps yet, it’s certainly worth considering because your page is going to display four Apps. There are apps for videos, maps, etc.

APPS AND CUSTOM TABS

Apps are now more prominent, but only four of them are initially visible. The first of these is always the Photos app, which can’t be moved. The other three represent a further opportunity for branding. I’ve numbered the key app positions on this Dove example.Facebook timeline Pages show 4 appsHere, all four apps are attractive – because they have uploaded custom thumbnails for each of them. Photos is always imposition 1.

Next they have the YouTube App, and then positions three and four contain apps called Dove and Skin.

There’s the opportunity to click a drop-down box (labelled ‘5’) to show up to 8 additional apps. Beware: Page admins will see all of their tabs when clicking the arrow. Visitors will see a maximum of 12 tabs; 4 displayed and 8 hidden.

To change which tabs are your top 4, click the arrow to the right of the top 4 tabs, then mouse over the tab in the top 4 you want to replace.

Click the ‘pencil’ icon and select the app you want to appear in your top 4. Done!

In the Dove example above the app number three, called simply Dove, takes you to a fan gate. Beware the position of the like button is now on the right, so images from old fan gates now point to the wrong place!The Dove fangate in the new Facebook Timeline format

Dove of also made the ‘Skin’ app exactly the same. Both Dove and Skin, present a fan gate. You might want to consider doing the same, if you don’t have many apps to feature.

All pages have the ‘Likes’ app, which shows how many people have liked the page.

For brands with an associated Facebook Place, a Facebook app called Map becomes available.

CUSTOM APPS

All custom apps will all work as before. However the new maximum width for apps is 810 pixels – significantly more than the old 520 pixel maximum.

Existing apps simply occupy the middle 520 pixels, as in the Dove example above.

It’s a good idea to upload a custom thumbnail for each app. This can be done through the admin panel. Click the Manage drop-down button, then Edit Page, and then click on the Apps link.

Make your App thumbnail images 110 x 74 pixels.

INSIGHTS ARE MORE VISIBLE

Facebook is exposing a little more information to every visitor about that page’s Insights. When a visitor clicks on the ‘Likes’ app, they see a graph of activity over time.Now anyone can see detailed insights about your Facebook Page

This is really interesting. At gives us a chance to look at competitors’ Timelines to see which content was most effective!

This detail can be seen by everyone. You don’t even have to like the page!

THE ADMIN PANEL

The admin panel appears at the top of your Timeline if you’re a Page Admin. It’s a single click to Hide it, another to bring it back.

Most options are under Manage > Edit Page

Here are some key options you should consider carefully.Settings for your Facebook Timeline

The new Timeline carries over some permissions from before. But now there’s a new option to show the box ‘Recent Posts by Others’ on the right-hand side of the Timeline.

There’s also a moderation option. The wording next to this box isn’t very clear. Tick this box if you don’t want posts by others to be publicly visible on your Page until you “Allow on Timeline” from the Activity Log.

DIRECT MESSAGES

Facebook users can send a brand a direct private message, if the brand decides to allow it. It could be a great opportunity to connect directly with your audience or it could be a huge burden. You decide!

Youíre not allowed to initiate a conversation, you can only respond to messages from others.

It’s also worth noting that with the messaging option turned on, any Facebook user can send a message. It’s not just for fans.

CURATING YOUR TIMELINE

The Timeline is a great opportunity to tell your brand’s story.

You can add Milestones, as they’re known, from any time in your history. Look for the Milestones button which appears right at the top of your Page as you navigate the Timeline.

Highlight important posts in the Timeline, by clicking on the post’s Star icon to make it fill the full width of the Timeline.The Controls on a post in your Facebook Timeline

To undo this – just click on the Star again.

You can back-date your posts by clicking on the ‘change date’ icon under the ‘pencil’ icon menu on the post itself.

PINNING

Any item on your Timeline can be pinned to the top. Just click on the pencil icon and then select ‘Pin to Top’.

This is ideal if you have a major event to promote, but also want to continue posting to your Timeline below this.

Pinning only lasts for seven days. After this the item falls back to its natural place on the Timeline, but you can re-pin it again.

Oh! and you can’t highlight a story AND pin it. It’s one or the other.

LANDING TAB CHANGES

Facebook wants everyone to have the same experience when visiting a brand page, so everyone is taken to the Timeline. From now on you can’t send visitors to a landing page/tab.

Note that every app has its own URL, so you can link to Apps from online advertising and websites. This is my YouTube app, for example.

OTHER BRANDING

Your brand gets 150 characters to describe itself. The content of the ‘About’ section does vary depending on the business category.

Here’s where you ARE allowed to ask people to ‘Like’ your Page!

If your Facebook Page is a Place Page (you’ve specified an address in your settings), the ‘About’ content for your Timeline is the category, address, phone number, and opening hours are auto-generated.

So now you know, let’s get to work!

Paul Fairburn March 2012

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5 thoughts on “Guest Post: Facebook Page Timelines – what you need to know

  1. Very helpful – nearly had a new cover picture commissioned today with ALL the things I am not allowed to have, according to the new facebook rules. Saved me some money so thanks!

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