Facebook Timeline: what it means for your business

From 30 March, Facebook business Pages will be changing.

The new layout will convert the existing Pages to the Timeline format, which is already used on most users’ personal profiles.

Facebook is famous (or infamous) for constantly tweaking its design – but Timeline is more than a tweak. Rather, it is a wholesale rethink of the way in which businesses interact with their customers on the platform.

What is changing?

The new Page layout is significantly different. You will be able to get an idea of the changes by looking at your Facebook friends’ Timeline profiles; the design is very similar.

The most striking change is the addition of a large space for a banner photograph at the top of the Page. This gives brands the opportunity to insert an eye-catching picture, in addition to your profile picture.

The new Pages will also have an added space below the profile picture providing an overview of the company. This will match the text that you currently have inserted in your ‘Info’ box, so you should consider whether or not you want to tweak this given that it will now be amongst the first things a visitor sees.

You will also notice that posts are displayed in a different way. In the new design, posts ‘hang’ off a central stem, and are displayed chronologically. However, you have the option to ‘promote’ specific stories, meaning that they will remain at the top of your Timeline for up to seven days. Additionally, if friends of visitors have also interacted with your Page, the visitor will see those interactions near the top of the Timeline – a quirk that we will return to shortly.

What should I do?

There are a few things you can do in the month before Timeline goes live. The first and most important is to go and have a look at the new design. Although the changes won’t take effect until 30 March, you can preview the new version now.

You should also give some thought to the potential impact on your social media strategy. While a new design might not sound particularly important, it may well change quite significantly the way in which brands interact with their customers on Facebook. The most significant change is the focus given to the interactions of your users’ friends. If users have had a bad experience then it is inevitably these interactions that will become most prominent on your Page. This means that you need to be even more acutely aware of the way in which you deal with customers online. You should take every possible step to ensure that customer questions are dealt with satisfactorily – but you should also understand that social media crisis management will become increasingly important. This seemingly small feature of Timeline could actually have a significant impact on your interactions, and could tilt the social media balance more firmly in favour of the customer.

You should also note that it is now possible to add events from your company’s history – even, in fact, from before Facebook even existed. This is a great way of developing a sense of heritage, and of providing a personal touch to your Facebook Page. Think about big events that you might add, such as your formation, your first product launch, or moving into your first office.

Finally, if you are feeling creative you might like to start choosing an image for your header. You can crop the image to the correct size using the Aviary Facebook app.

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