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Making the Most of Facebook's New Timeline Format

Facebook has switched to Timeline for its 'fan' and 'brand' pages. Here's how to make that format a boon to your small business.

By Damon Brown and John Wayne Zimmerman | May 29, 2012

If you were an entrepreneur five years ago, having a presence on Facebook was a novelty. Today, it's a necessity.
           
But here’s a newsflash: Facebook just switched all of its “fan” and “brand” pages to Timeline, a new format that gives you more control over the user’s experience — and more opportunities to promote and showcase your business’s brand. (Here are some examples of how well-known brands are doing it.)
 
So the big question for you is: How can I use Timeline to make my Facebook page more compelling?
 
The Timeline format launched just as we were wrapping up our new book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Facebook Marketing, challenging us to quickly answer that question. Here’s our advice:
 
Timeline Pages Aim to Grab Attention
 
First, a brief rundown of what the new Timeline pages look like:
 
Each page now has a “cover” — a large, horizontal photo spread across the top of the site. It has to be at least 720 pixels wide and, ideally, in high resolution. The cover is like billboard space, designed to draw your users’ attention immediately.
 
Timeline shows the history of your business, breaking down events by year and, if applicable, month. You can include events that occurred before you joined Facebook or even before Facebook began. For instance, enter that your company was founded in 1968, and this will show up in Timeline.
 
Any of your Facebook posts can now appear as what Facebook calls Milestones — special dates in your company’s history. If your business was founded by your grandfather in 1958, grew into a larger shop in 1971, and acquired a competing company in 1982, those highlights will shine in Timeline.
 
Make the Most of Your Timeline Cover
 
The right Timeline cover on your Facebook page can tell the story of your company quickly and efficiently. Yet if you visit Facebook and peruse company pages at random, as we did, you’ll find many with no cover art. Instead, an odd, blank rectangle sits atop these Timeline pages, representing a wasted opportunity to boost a brand.
 
To make the most of that opportunity, find a simple but compelling cover image that’s emblematic of your company. Users should understand instantly what the image means and why it represents your brand.
 
Just be aware that Timeline cuts out the lower-left-hand corner of the image, so the image you choose shouldn't have anything critical in that area.
 
For Timeline, Remember the Basics
 
When creating your Facebook Timeline, start small, but think long term. Be sure to include these basics at the very least, but try to go beyond them if you can:
  • An appropriate image, like your logo, for the profile picture.
  • A larger, high-resolution image for your Timeline cover.
  • A clear, concise company description in the Bio section.
  • An active, accurate link to your business website, if you have a separate site (more on this shortly).

Your Facebook Site and Postings
 
Two critical parts of your Facebook brand page are the website and the postings.
 
Small businesses often have a primary website and a secondary Facebook site, but Facebook has become so robust that you can use it as your only website if you like. For our book, we purchased the domain www.facebookmarketingidiot.com, which goes to our Facebook page. That way, people don’t have to remember a separate Facebook Web address.
 
You should also make a commitment to post a new item on your Facebook page at least once a week. It’s essential to post regularly on your Facebook site to get people to visit it. Naturally, the items you post should be interesting, engaging and appropriate for your brand.
 
Part of the beauty of Facebook is that your content doesn’t have to be wholly original. For instance, if you run a locksmith company, and find an online study connecting bike theft to poorly made locks, just copy the link, post it to your company’s Facebook wall, and add commentary about the quality of your product.
 
To engage the audience further, you should periodically pose a question that promotes discussion. The more you can facilitate conversation, the more potential customers will come to your page.
 
Give Your Facebook Page a Hard Look
 
You probably already have a Facebook presence, but consider the Timeline format the rebirth of your online brand. Look at your Facebook page as intently as you did when you initially created it, and follow these three steps:
  1. Be sure everything is accurate and up to date.
  2. Invite co-workers, friends and family to check your page to be sure it’s clear to them.
  3. Make sure the page conveys the image you want for your business.

Get People to 'Like' You
 
Once your page is up to snuff, encourage everyone you know to “Like” it through Facebook.
 
"Likes" serve two purposes: They appear on people’s Facebook walls, which means their friends will learn about your brand. And any posts you make on your Facebook brand page will automatically appear on the Facebook News Feed of people who have previously clicked that they Like it. That will help generate more business for your company, which is the whole point.