That’s how big these changes will be for people managing Facebook Pages. Change is scary, but don’t panic quite yet. Wait at least 90 seconds. That is all the longer I think it will take for you to see that these changes will help you turn your pages into what you have always wanted them to be.
You’re in the drivers seat now. According to Facebook, these changes are all designed to make it easier to “express your identity and tell your unique story.” Facebook outlines the rollout in the Product Guide it released for its new Facebook Pages. Where as previously, brands trying to convey a consistent message may have felt like they were fighting a disconnected series profile pictures, landing pages, and wild-west, forum-like Walls, the new Pages allow you to present a more cohesive, curated presence to the world.
Now, tell your story. Put yourself in the role of author, curator, and content creator. No longer must you–or can you, for that matter–act like a shepherd trying to guide your fans in the general direction of your goal, or the guy in the tire costume waiving people into the auto shop for a $29 oil change. These changes allow you to tell your story, but force you to be the one writing it. That will take work, but Facebook has given you some effective new tools to do it with. Below, I will outline a few of the most important ones, and give you some best practices as you start your career as a curator.
1) Meet Your New Timeline!
Yes, just like Facebook’s recent Profile changes, the new Pages do away with the old “Walls” in favor of a Timeline. This switch to a timeline is the primary factor in allowing you to take control of your image and your story. This is where using thought-out, engaging, and eye-catching content will make the difference between brands that capture the hearts and imaginations of their audience and brands that, well… don’t. Here are some of the features that your Page’s new Timeline has to help:
- Pinned Posts: If you have managed an active Facebook Page or use your Page to keep fans and customers informed, at some point you have probably wished you could make a post “stick” to the top of the Wall. Now you can. A post can be “pinned” to the top of your Timeline for up to seven days. This is a key feature to take advantage of. This will be the primary place on your Page to highlight important messages, encourage fans to visit your promotions or custom tabs, and include calls to action.
- Milestones: Facebook is really pushing the “story” angle of the Timeline for Pages. Hence, one of the post-types now available to you is the “Milestone”. According to Facebook, Milestones should be used to “define your key moments over time.” Because Facebook feels that these are key parts of your “story”, Milestones will be favored by Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, which decides what stories appear in your fan’s News Feeds and for how long. That makes these very valuable posts.
- Highlight Stories: Every story on your Timeline has a selector tool in the top right corner. Stories that you want to stand out visually can be “starred”, and made to stretch across the width of the Timeline. This is another big tool to take advantage of in creating the narrative of your brand’s story.
- Fan Engagement: Your Wall used to be the Wild West. Fans (which is using the word politely, at times) could post anything they wanted, and it would be as visually important as the most carefully-crafted content you created. The new Pages shifts that balance to be more in your favor. Fans can still comment on your Page, but the new Pages concentrate interactions in two new sections contained in the top right of your Timeline (Interactions by Friends, and “Recent Posts By Others”). Some have been saying that this will kill fan engagement with Pages as we know it, but I feel quite the opposite. There are a lot of people out there who may want to compliment or thank a business or ask a question, but hesitate to do it on “center stage” as Wall-posts are now presented. I think this change will bring about a lot more genuine and meaningful fan interactions, and cut down on grandstanding. Also, Page administrators have the option to set their favorite posts by others to “Allow on Timeline”, which allows Pages to more easily curate how fan’s affect the brand’s image. One area of the Timeline that administrators have no control over is the “Friends’ Activity” area uniquely displayed to visitors. Sure, you may have chosen not to include that vitriolic post on your Timeline, but that person’s friends may still see it if they visit your page.
2) Create Your Visual Brand!
With the old Pages, brands had very little control over the visual presentation of their Pages. Really, it was limited to just a Profile Picture. There was very little room to express who you are and what makes you stand out from the crowd. For this reason, things like custom landing tabs became an almost universal feature for brands trying to express themselves. The new Pages make it much easier to visually define yourself.
- Cover Photo (851 x 315 pixels): Just like the new Timeline Profiles, Pages get to have a Cover Photo at the top. Many Pages have already been using custom landing tabs to provide first time visitors with a sense of who they are and what they do. Think of your Cover Photo as the new place to do that. In fact, Facebook has not left you with much of a choice in that area, as landing tabs have gotten the ax. All visitors are now unconditionally directed to a Page’s Timeline view. Facebook has also placed strict limits on what cannot be included in Cover Photos:
- Price or purchase information. Examples include discounts or purchasing instructions.
- Contact information. No websites, phone numbers, or addresses.
- References to Facebook features. Don’t say “Like Us”, or put an arrow to the Like or Share buttons.
- Calls to action. No sales pitches or promotional copy.
- These are strict limits, but are there to encourage Page Managers to use the space available to help give visitors an idea of who you are, what you stand for, and what makes you stand out.
- Profile Picture (180 x 180 / 32 x 32 pixels): This is the picture we are all familiar with, which is used all over Facebook to identify your Page. It should be quickly and easily identifiable as being your brand’s visual identity.
3) Pick Your Apps!
You used to be able to have quite a bit of space to list out all the different apps that your viewers could pick from, though having more than 6 tended to make viewers tune out. The new Pages limit that number to four, but allow you a much larger space to catch your viewer’s eye. Again, a tab can no longer be a default landing page, so your icons will have to be eye-catching and intriguing to get much traffic.
Facebook users can now send private messages to Pages, and Pages can privately respond to those messages.
Wow. This is huge. So huge that I will need another post just to address this, but I can’t let you go without at least a fundamental understanding of this major change.
This could very well change the face of customer service. Imagine getting a private message from a customer with a problem. You know all the information that person has made public, and if your website’s login system uses Facebook Connect, you can also pull up the full purchase/interaction history of that person on your site. This is a game changer, so for now I’ll leave it at that and let your imagination run wild. Stay tuned for more on the subject though.
Whew! That’s a lot of information. Quite enough for now, as a matter of fact. There is more to the changes, and you can find Facebook’s full breakdown here, but for now, focus on creating that visually stunning representation of your brand, and on creating and curating your brand’s “story”. Stay tuned for more info on the “back end” changes Facebook made, and if you have any questions feel free to send them my way on DoVoCo’s Facebook Page (I’m still setting up my own Timeline) or email email@example.com. And hey, now that you’re in the drivers seat, enjoy the ride.