Facebook has once again – ugh – significant changes to its pages, now called “Brand Timelines.” By March 31st all pages will be converted to the new format, and it will require that all of us figure out the implications. According to epolitics, the key change is that the new format is much more photo-centric. Here’s an edited list of the most significant changes and implications:
Good-bye Landing Page, Hello Cover Photo
Sophisticated facebook pages often use a custom “landing page.” When you go to their page, instead of seeing the list of posts on the page’s wall, you see a custom designed page. There are normally three calls to action: 1) To “like” the page 2) To donate and 3) to volunteer. Landing pages have been shown to be extremely effective in increasing the amount of user engagement on the page (liking, commenting, sharing, going to other pages, etc.) Oh well — under the new layout, landing pages will be no more.
Instead, as on personal profile pages, Facebook will let you chose your own “cover photo.” These are large photos that stretch across the page and are 850 pixels by 315 pixels. Facebook is pretty blunt that these photos should not be promotional in nature and recommend there be little to no text on them. President Obama has made the switch and is taking full advantage of his cover photo as you can see here. As the old saying goes, a picture tells a thousand words, and with cover photos, this could never be more true. Cover photos will be the first thing a user will be drawn to, so they really need to make a splash. Tip: you should change it on a regular basis to communicate more about your work, especially when new issues come up.
Timeline — Tell Your Story, All of It!
The format of actual posts has changed much like the format of the personal pages: they are now split into two columns in a timeline format. Crucially, they allow you to go back (all the way to 1800) and post milestones. The idea is that Facebook wants its users to be able to easily tell their story. In the Timeline, photos are now much bigger, giving you an opportunity to tell a more powerful and visual story than with the old pages. Before switching over to the Timeline format, you should update the timeline with all major events. You can always go in and add more photos or information later, but when it launches you want to give your supporters a complete story about your organization.
Reduced Tab Visibility – Major Format Changes
The “tabs” or “apps” that run down the side of the page in the current format are now moved to a row under the cover photo as rectangular panels or images. Before, you could have dozen of tabs visible on all pages. With Timeline there is only space for three custom tabs. For the rest of your tabs, the user will have to click a drop-down menu to see them all. You will then have to identify the top three apps you want to make visible — chances are users are NOT going to see the other tabs, so this VERY important. Depending on events, you may want to cycle some of your apps into the top spot to address current issues or events.
“Pinning” Content to the Top of the Page
Perhaps in exchange for taking away the landing page, Facebook will now let you “pin” posts to the top of the page. Once pinned, the content will stay at the top of the Timeline for seven days or until you pin something else. You can only have one item pinned at a time. The post will also remain in its place in chronological order in the Timeline. This is a great way to showcase new and interesting content or highlight an older post that has become relevant to a current issue. This is also a great place to put a call to action such as to donate or volunteer.
While a simple change, allowing private messaging between the page owner and the user is very powerful. Now we can engage in much more detailed conversations with the user. Conversations that might not interest all users (say, a precinct-wide issue) can now be addressed without filling up the content of the Timeline. This will reduce the amount of noise and make it easier for users to navigate the content.