Ready or not, here comes Facebook Timeline for brand pages! On March 30, you’ll automatically be switched over to this new design, but you can already start tweaking the layout of your brand pages and testing out some of the new features so that the pages you manage will be ready when the switch is flipped.

While users and brands have long complained (and sometimes rightly so) every time Facebook changes its policies or functionality, you’ve got to hand it to Facebook with its latest set of updates for brands. The site will be adding a handful of robust features for helping your brand interact with fans, manage the community, reach more of your fans (for a price) and hopefully tell a more compelling story.

Eye Candy

Timeline is going to force brands to focus more than ever on how they are visually represented, and more importantly, put an emphasis on quality content creation and curation over quantity. When Timeline was introduced for users, Zuck kept coming back to the idea that Timeline is a digital representation of your life —how you tell your own story. This is also the direction towards which Facebook is pushing brands. The addition of the large Cover Photo (which, by the way, cannot contain price/purchase information or calls to action), as well as how Timeline will visually represent photos and videos, will change the Wall from simply a list of posts to a more curated experience for the user.

Facebook has added the ability to “pin” your most important story to the top of your Timeline for up to seven days, which will hopefully decrease the need for many duplicate posts related to promotions and special offers. I’m also anticipating that the “hide” function for posts with lower engagement will be used much more frequently by community managers, in an effort to keep the Timeline tidy and put the most engaging content front and center.

Interaction

Even with all the visual changes, let’s face it: Most of your brand’s content and interactions with fans will take place in the context of THEIR news feed, not the brand’s Timeline (at least after that first or second visit). But the way fans can interact with brands will also be changing. Fan posts will be relegated to a “Sandbox” instead of mixed into the wall posts by the brand, and unless the user switches his or her view, the user will only see posts by the brand on the Timeline.

Fans can also now private message brands, which is good news if you’re dealing with a lot of support issues on your wall, but bad news if you like to publicly demonstrate how you’re handling those issues and showcase kick-ass customer service.

Community managers can rejoice! All your interactions, including messages, comments, notifications and even analytics will be accessible in one place — the Admin Panel. Administrators should have an easier time managing responses and monitoring engagement in real-time with this tool.

Reach

One of the most frustrating things for brands on Facebook is that their content typically reaches only 16 percent of their fans. Why? Engagement counts. You need likes and comments to remain relevant and show up in more of your fans’ news feeds. In many cases, this can be good for users who only want relevant content, but bad for brands who don’t focus on interaction and quality content.

Enter the Reach Generator. Facebook will now allow brands to pay for some extended reach. Posts can essentially become ad units that are placed within your fans’ news feeds and sidebars with a guaranteed reach of 75% of that page’s fans over a given month. At this point though, Reach Generator will only be available as part of Facebook’s premium managed ad accounts, which means that most of us won’t have access.

What you lost

The two main things that brands are losing are Landing Tabs and the ability to “like-gate,” where brands would set a default landing tab asking new users to “like” the page before continuing on to the wall. The old tab format has been replaced by Apps. Below the cover photo, a brand can have up to four (customizable) tab icons that will still link to the Facebook apps utilized for your page. The good and bad news here is that instead of a 520 pixel canvas, apps will have a full 800 pixels with which to play. Again, this opens up an enormous amount of possibility for creating a more visual experience, but it also means that your agency’s art and production department may have a whole lot of redesigning to do.

When all the dust settles, the move towards a consistent user experience, whether you’re viewing a user or brand page, is going to be a good thing, and forcing brands to focus more on compelling storytelling rather than simply broadcasting messages is ultimately a boon for users. Let’s not forget though, that once a user “likes” your page, most of those interactions and touch points will occur via the user’s newsfeed rather than the brand’s timeline page. While it’s going to be important to have a visually engaging page, it’s ultimately a first impression. The real work is (and has always been) creating awesome content that users want to share, and balancing that with Facebook’s advertising opportunities to make sure that your client’s content and message can spread.

Image courtesy of Tom K! / Shutterstock.com

Originally published Mar 8, 2012 1:00:01 AM, updated July 28 2017

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