The new Facebook Timeline page format

So we all thought it was coming, but a week ago at Facebook’s fmc2012 event, they introduced Timeline format pages for Businesses.

Having had time to review the implications, it’s a MASSIVE change. In reality, probably the biggest change since business pages were introduced, and we’re really looking foward to working through the creative possibilities for our clients.

As there are lots of great in-depth guides out there, we decided to just provide a quick “highlights” run down for the time-poor, together with some links to the best of the indepth guides we’ve found so far.

What’s new with the Facebook Timeline?

As with personal profiles, the Business page timeline format radically changes what a visitor sees on arriving at your page. The first big change:

If you’ve got a landing tab installed, your visitors may not see it.

You can still install additional tabs (and indeed still have to do so if you want to run contest or promotions and stay within Facebook’s regulations), but we think Facebook have missed a trick by removing the ability to set one of them as the default view when a visitor arrives at your page.  However, we’ve already identified some workarounds using the new functionality that’s been introduced, so it’s not a showstopper. And…

Your additional Tabs and Apps are showcased through larger-than-previous images at the top of the page.

This is a plus and a minus; on the one hand, you can use larger and more eyecatching images which should be more effective than the small left-hand menu links on the old Pages. That said, you’re limited to four on view at any one time. So, businesses who run a lot of functions on their page, will have to prioritise ruthlessly.

Changes to the size and format of Posts

Facebook have introduced two big changes here: the ability to “Pin” a post (like a “sticky” post in forums) so that it stays at the top of the page, and Highlighted posts – a format which literally expands your post to run the full width of the page. This offers more flexibility in the way you interact with Likers, and will need to be integrated into most people’s editorial schedules so that the new post types aren’t getting used either constantly or not  at all!

Private Messaging to Page Admins

The start of serious use of Facebook as a customer service portal? Maybe. For the first time, users can send private messages to the owner of a Business page, rather than only being able to communicate via public Wall messages.

Cover Images

You can now upload  a full-width image to the top of your Business page. This provides the opportunity for some much more striking branding and imagery than was the case previously, although (perhaps surprisingly, and not for any obvious reason that we can fathom!) Facebook have placed a number of restrictions on what this image can include.  Full details of the Cover Image restrictions include no references to Liking the page, no financial offers or purchase information, and no calls to action.

It seems as though Facebook’s ambivalent attitude to commercialising the site continues (although presumably they’ll get over the pain if the predicted massive cheques appear from their IPO). They want to attract businesses to the site, but they don’t want them to overtly be seen to be there to do business – very strange!


Indepth guides

A couple of very thorough articles which appeared within what seemed like moments of the Timeline format being unveiled, and which can give you chapter and verse on the changes:

Hubspot’s Complete Guide to setting up the new Facebook Page Design

Social Media Examiners’ 7 Facebook changes impacting businesses

Econsultancy’s Further look into Facebook’s brand pages