Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Facebook Timeline for Brands: Overview & Five Suggestions

As the March 30th deadline approaches for businesses to update their Facebook brand pages to the new Facebook Timeline, marketers are busy trying to figure out how to best utilize the new layout of their profile pages to advance their social media marketing campaigns. I’ve already helped two organizations in the conceptual redesign of their profile pages and I thought I’d write a blog post to list some of the take-aways from our brainstorming sessions. Hopefully these suggestions can alleviate some of the pain points for businesses that are distressed over this transition.

1. The Cover Photo:

The Timeline based Facebook profile features a landscape oriented cover photo (suggested size is 851 x 315 pixels). For businesses, the cover photo provides an opportunity to express the tone and mood of their brand and their timeline profile page. While businesses can customize the cover photo to their liking, Facebook has prohibited specific promotional tactics such as calls to action for their customers (e.g. you can't ask followers to "like" or to click on certain tabs).

Brand managers should use the cover photo as a dynamic space to set first impressions for their products and services, and facilitate the right tone for an opening conversation with their future customer.

Example: I really like how Nissan has incorporated a really simple but powerful branding message “Our Most Innovative Year”. It gets people wanting to come back for the "reveal".

2. Milestones on the Timeline:

Since the Facebook Timeline changes the default profile page from a list of the most recent updates to a complete summary of an organization’s growth or its brand’s evolution, businesses should include events and achievements that symbolize various chapters in their development. This is especially important for what Facebook terms “Legacy Brands”, i.e. those brands that have decades of historical data that can be featured on the timeline.

In formulating the motif for a timeline, businesses should attempt to engage users through interactive rich media. The timeline should feature more than just status updates, and include photos, videos and location information where relevant.

If done right, the timeline should improve the stickiness for the profile page by allowing current and potential followers to scroll easily through the high points of a business – eventually creating more brand affinity.

Example: Check out Subway’s Timeline starting in the 1960s with the first use of the name ‘Subway’. 

3. Custom Tabs

Facebook’s older interface for business pages featured default landing pages that were invariably used for marketing campaigns and sales promotions. As a major change for many brands, the new Facebook Timeline will no longer allow directing visitors to custom landing tabs.

That being said, businesses can now select which of their tabs (icons) are displayed under the cover photo. These tabs provide the opportunity for businesses to feature the strongest aspects of their Facebook presence – whether it is stories or pictures from their customers, other content pages, or business-specific apps.

Brand managers should customize this space rather than accepting the default order of the tabs/icons along with the default fill images for these tabs. Positioning the tabs and using custom images should be considered to improve the look and feel of the timeline.

Example: Custom app images such as those created by Fanta offer a rich visual interface for the timeline.

4. Pinned Posts

To improve the visibility of selected content, brand page administrators can “pin” a post to the top of their Timeline. Pinned posts can remain at the top of a timeline for up to seven days. They can offer a useful means to broadcast critical information to followers as well as a mechanism to direct fans to contests and other promotions.

Example: Check out Starbucks’ pinned post publicizing its “Global Month of Service”.

5. Highlighted Posts

In addition to pinned posts described above, brands also have the opportunity to highlight important posts from their timeline. Clicking the star at the top right side of the post will increase the size of the post and make it span the width of the timeline, rather than just one column. This will garner more attention and make it very hard for followers to miss. Along with pinned posts, this feature allows brands to position their marketing and social campaigns front & center... literally :-)

Example: Oxfam USA uses a highlighted timeline post featuring a video that introduces the charity to its Facebook page visitors:

Hopefully this quick introduction to the Facebook Timeline for businesses will help you with your own transition to the new profile layout. While change is always painful, it is also inevitable, and there are benefits to be gained through new features and functions that weren’t available earlier. Some businesses have already started reporting improvements in their brand page engagement.

Have you already made the change-over? What are your thoughts? Please let me know in the comments section below, or fire me a tweet with your feedback on this article.


  1. Perhaps a naive question but I don´t know much about it - how can I extend the timeline deeper into the history? As my starts with "Joined FB" and I don´t seem to be able to go farther than that...

  2. In my case, I suspect mine goes further back because my full date of birth is included in my profile. This is just a guess though.


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