Unless you spent last week in a coma, you know that Facebook Timeline for Brands is finally here. Already live on a number of leading brands (see Coca-ColaStarbucks, RedBull, X Box, Ford, Nike, Burberry and even President Obama for examples), everyone else has until March 30 to redesign and publish content on their pages.  Although you can go live today, we'd suggest you read about the impending changes before you press that publish button. You've seen what timeline does to your personal profiles; creating milestones in your Facebook history: the same will happen to brand pages, so be prepared to get busy over the next month, you have things to do. If you adopt and then publish in the preview period before March 30 universal adoption, the page cannot be reverted - there is no turning back.

 

Here are the highlights of the new features:

  • New cover photo
  • Sequential timeline of key events and posts including fan comments and ability to edit the content
  • No default landing pages
  • Only 4 visible tabs (and one of these has to include photos)
  • Admin section including direct messaging and activity log
  • Posts by others mentioning your brand may appear in your timeline

 

Improving content

With a number of new features being added, Community Managers are going to have to look at their content closely to make sure it encourages more interaction with their fans.

 

We all know that fans only really come to the brand page once - the first time they find you and like you. So, to interact with them we have been relying on our content appearing in their newsfeed. Users have always had the ability to hide stories but now this action will seriously hinder the visibility level of getting your content appearing in their feed. This means that over time if a fan continues to unmark your stories or fails to like, vote, comment on your content, you will disappear from their newsfeed altogether. Your content will continue to appear in their ticker but it will lose its viralability as their wider network won't will see it.

 

Once a day isn't enough

The old rule of only one posting once a day may now be defunct. Posting more frequently may previously have been spamming, but with the short time span available for people to see your post, you could look to increase the volume of updates. This isn't to say dramatically increase your posts round the clock, but think about the optimium times when the majority of your fans are around, which is unlikely to be 9-5. So if your fans are around at the weekends, include more posts then. Do some testing to identify what time your posts perform best. And if you haven't written an editorial calendar, make sure you do so now.

 

Telling your Brand Story

Viewers can choose to see Highlights / Friend activity / Posts by Page / Posts by others (on the drop down just above the timeline). As we have seen from our own personal timelines, the timeline will become a story to engage your fans. Page owners can now add milestones  around big events in the companies' history, and should really go back to fill in heritage moments prior to the start of the brand page, adding to the authenticity of the brand.  Here's what Red Bull has done:

 

Adding history

.. but be careful to do this gradually (see our list of to-do's, below)

 

You can showcase important posts by clicking on the star icon in the top right hand corner so the post will fill the whole page, and hide posts you don't want to feature without deleting them. The aim is to create a timeline telling users what your brand has been doing, using key dates/milestones and the most engaging posts.

Editing timeline


There is also the ability to Pin to top. Having watched the Facebook video the other day, Facebook is recommending that you post an important post each week while continuing to post other updates to keep your fans engaged. Your pinned post will sit at the top of your timeline across the entire width of the page and will stay there for 7 days, while other updates will then sit underneath it. This is worth remembering when putting your editorial calendar.

 

No more landing page

Facebook has done away with the default landing page: there will be no more welcome pages, campaign specific pages - your timeline is the first thing they see. So your daily task should be to check your timeline to ensure it represents your brand in the best light, so you can drive more awareness and  engagement from your audience. (See the Like gate impact in our Apps section below also)

 

Brand mentions in your timeline

This is really important and doesn't seem to have been picked up on much elsewhere. You're going to end up with visitors to your page seeing any recent mentions of your brand by their Facebook friends up at the top of your timeline. And you probably won't be able to see them yourself, as they will follow the privacy settings of the poster.   Let's be clear: these are not people posting on your wall, although it looks like it.  These are people idly mentioning your brand in a status update - look at our example below.  This seems to function in the same way that community pages pick up any mention of a topic.

 

Friend mentions Red Bull in a post - no, not THAT Red Bull!


This may very well be highly undesirable, since they may not either be relevant or complimentary. 

 

This seems to be a feature that Page Admins can't control.  Facebook say about this 'Friend Activity':

  

"When people visit a Facebook Page, they'll see what their friends and  people they subscribe to are saying about it. For example, if someone  tags a Page in one of their posts or checks in at a location, the people they originally shared with will see these stories highlighted for them on the Page's timeline. Friend activity is only visible to people  included in the post's audience, and the icon in the upper-right corner distinguishes these posts from posts by the Page."

 

 

However, as our 'Red Bull' example above shows, it's not only deliberate references to the brand which are picked up and seen by those who have permission to see them, but any mention of the brand's name at all.  We think you can tell the difference of intent by whether the brand's name is hyperlinked or not.

 

Meantime, we note that the option underneath has changed from 'Only show posts by [Page] .." to "Default visibility of posts by others on eModeration's timeline = Hidden from Page / Allowed on Page"  Choose "Allow on Timeline" if you want posts by others to appear on your timeline by default. Choose "Hide from Timeline" if you want admins to  approve all posts that appear on your timeline.

  




Transparent metrics
While some of you may not like this, everyone can now see how vibrant your community is. Viewers can still see the number of likes, who's talking about it and who checked in - but if you click on the likes in the view and apps area (the boxes underneath the cover photo, they can now see a lot more. It will show the most popular week, city and core age group, with a lovely graph tracking people talking about and new likes. (Did you know that most of Manchester United's fans come from Jakarta, Jakarta Raya?) 



Not everyone is going to appreciate this transparency but it will mean that you'll be able to benchmark yourself against your competitors.  There is the ability to move this box around within the views and apps area so it appears lower and people have to really search for it - but aren't we living in a world of transparency where community members should be able to see stats about their own community? The definition of community is an area for like-minded people, so they'll want to see if they are indeed similar to other people.


Revamped admin section
On the top right of the page is the button 'Admin Panel'. Clicking on this, you are taken to the admin area for page owners.

Revamped admin panel

This is definitely more appealing, with its instant snapshot of notifications, new likes and your insights, allowing for instant action if required.  You can also see a list of banned users at a glance - very helpful on accounts with multiple admins.



Real time Insights
Watch this space for more about analytics. According to Mashable, Facebook plans to roll out analytics that will for the first time give page administrators visibility about real-time activity on the site. This addition to Page Insights (which have previously run a mimimum of two days behind) is expected to roll out over the next few weeks.

Private Messaging
However, you'll notice that there's now a new (optional) section called 'Messages'. As we suspected they might, Facebook is finally allowing private messaging between fans and brands. This is a major change for Facebook as previously this was against their terms. Do we like this feature? Yes .. and no. If you are trying to resolve an issue for a fan and need to ask them more details, such as personal information, then this is going to be great. But it's a two way communication, and will it open up brands to receive more obscene, abusive, spam from people? Yes.  If they choose to leave it in place (and we note with interest that Obama's page has done so), brands can also expect a lot more genuine customer queries, so it's important to have the processes in place to deal with them swiftly. Having a set of standard responses you can tweak for individual situations is going to be vital. The default is 'on' but the message button can be turned off in the Admin panel > manage page.

Notification of messages

 

Allow direct messaging to admins

 

Admin can view messages



 Remember that pages cannot initiate direct messages with fans - however much we may sometime like to ...

Managing crises by premoderating posts
Not a week goes by without a major Facebook social media crisis. Facebook seems to have taken notice of this and has made it easier for brands to manage the flow of conversation during a crisis. You have the option to premoderate all posts before they appear on the timeline: a better option than being forced to turn off fan posts altogether.


Quality control / auditability
By accessing your brand's activity log, it allows you to see your timeline of activity on the page, showing items that admins have posted, who and what was posted on your wall. This will be a great administrative tool for Community Managers, as you can review these posts and decide what you want to do with them. You can highlight them on the page, allow them on the page or hide and delete it. And you can even change the date of the post - although we're not sure why you would want to do this - any ideas?

Apps
There has been concern raised about where apps sit in this whole timeline. The good news is that apps are still there - but you might want to rethink your app strategy. Previously you could get prospective fans to like something before you gave them access to it. This is no longer the case: welcome tab Like-gated apps are affected because they are not the first thing a users see when they arrive at the page. (However, because marketers can still point directly to an app via URL and like gates will still be effective there.*)  This means you will need to rethink your strategy for how you encourage people to like your page from your content strategy, promotion and current apps.

The apps will now sit in the View and Apps section - the four boxes that sit under the cover photo. You can move these boxes around to suit your preferences. When creating tabs you now have the option for two widths - the narrow width of 520px or the wider width of 810 pixels. If you need to create awareness around your app, then go for the wider option. Any other tabs will then appear in a drop down menu.

The more important thing is that any app activity will now appear in each user's ticker and also newsfeeds, depending on usage and settings. We've all seen updates when a friend plays a tune from Spotify or watches a movie on NetFlix ... with the new timelines, anything that a fan does using your app will appear in their timeline and potentially your timeline - increasing the potential for more people to use, talk and share your app with their friends.

*Although according to Pi portent, Facebook has removed the automatic page refresh function when a user clicks the “like” button, and so also the brand's ability to display custom content to people who like the Facebook page.  Facebook have confirmed that this is a bug which will be fixed soon, and Pi Portent have published a workaround for Facebook Content Developers until it is.
I use a Facebook management tool.  Will it still work?
Well, we're still waiting for the update from our various tool suppliers.  From those of our clients who've made the change so far, the APIs still appear to work - i.e. content is still coming in - but more than that we cannot say.  We advise everyone to keep a close eye on their front ends until the tool providers have had a chance to iron out any problems.
Facebook removed the automatic page refresh function when a user clicks the “like” button. Facebook basically took away the pixie dust that allows us the ability to display custom content to people who like the Facebook page. - Published at Portent, an internet marketing company.

To do list for your timeline

  • Choose whether you want to allow direct messages to admins
  • Choose a new cover photo for your page - it needs to be 851x351 pixels. But remember not to include any calls to action, pricing, like or share. It should not be an advert, but a picture that conveys your brand.
  • Decide your views and apps - the default view will only ever show four apps, and 'photos' is fixed. The other three can be moved around in any order. There is a drop-down menu of all other tabs or apps (but a maxium of 12), if you have more than three.
  • Edit your timeline - Go through your company’s history and mark milestones. Fans love to see businesses add a personal touch on a Facebook page, so use this to tell your story and how you got to where you are today. Highlight and feature posts across the width of your page, as well as cleaning and hiding any negative mentions you think advisable.
  • Add milestones - Add one or two a week to help establish your brand's heritage and purpose. And go back right to the beginning, not just when your brand joined Facebook. But don’t add them all at once because they will post updates to all your fans and will look like spam.  
  • Think about your apps - It might not be possible in the next month to recode your app but make sure future apps include the activities of the app (the verbs associated with it - enjoying, playing, dancing, etc), so your existing fans can start telling their friends via the ticker.
  • Preview your page - see how your page looks with all these change. If you need to make further changes, you can continue to tweak until 30 March.

Let me know what you think of the new changes to your pages. Are you in favour of these new timelines? Are everyone's brands suited to a timeline? We're going to spend the next few weeks playing with our own timeline for the eModeration Facebook page and will keep you updated on how we are getting on. We'd love to hear how what changes you are making to your timeline and how this impacts your Community Management practices.

Further reading
And here are some great resources we found when we were researching and playing around with the timeline:

AllFacebook offers a succinct overview to navigating the changes. Forbes would like to remind us that Facebook Timeline for Brands (FBTfB?) is all about story-telling. Adobe's Context Optional offers a blog on what the change means for Community Management. Internet Media and Facebook app maker Skandnet provides a handy infographic for FBTfB (!) page image sizes. App-makers rush to help us out with freebie timeline prettifiers.  Also:

 

If you've found other blogs or articles that can help Community Managers get their heads around this timeline for brands, post them in comments please: it would be great to have this as an ongoing resource.