The issue I have always had with using Facebook for business is its lack of customization. There is an overall “sameness” to the pages. Branding elements, product info, news and customer interactions all get pretty much the same treatment as vacation pictures and the ubiquitous adorable kitty videos.
Ironically, Facebook has done a great job of branding itself, and, unless you already have a recognizable identity, breaking through the “Facebook Brand” and establishing one of your own hasn’t been easy.
The recently implemented “Timeline” format takes several giant steps toward resolving those issues. As with all Facebook changes, this one has been greeted with the usual chorus of moans and groans, but the new format does provide users with opportunities for creating their own branding identity and experiences.
Start at the top
Timeline makes identity creation easier by providing a template with areas that users can customize in any number of ways:
The Cover — We start with a dramatic 849 x 312 pixel image area that spans the top of your profile. It provides a limitless number of creative possibilities since it can accommodate any image you can create. It’s perfect for a branding image, product shots or for featuring a specific promotion.
Profile Pix — The Profile Picture has been upgraded and relocated. Larger, 125 x 125 pixels, partially overlapping the Cover at the lower left hand side, it provides a creative counter point to the Cover as well as acting as your page’s “avatar” on other pages.
Improved Info section — A panel that runs just beneath the Cover. It features basic info as well as Tabs for Facebook Apps such as Photos, “Likes” and custom third party apps. Tabs are now larger, 112 x 74 pixels, and the name and image of each tab can be customized. Pages linked to tabs are also larger, spanning 800 pixels, so custom pages have an added impact.
Between the custom graphics and the ability to feature custom apps, the top area is now a very effective branding tool. (See sample pages at the end of this post)
Beneath the branding area is the Timeline area proper. This content area gives each post a large window or container, as opposed to the smaller box in the previous version. Photos, graphics and videos are bigger. You can also elect to highlight or “pin” any of the entries so that it’s window spans the full width of the page.
In addition to status updates you can also post Poll Questions and Company Milestones. The result is a running commentary, arranged chronologically that allows you to build the story of your brand.
Content and Conversation
With all these improvements, fan pages can now serve as a “brand blog” providing fans with frequent and engaging updates in a neatly packaged format.
With the focus shifting from building conversation to sharing content, the purpose of a Facebook page is more about creating an ongoing “Branding Narrative.” Businesses can express what makes them unique and build an emotional connection with fans through behind-the-scenes news and photos, advance notice of events, real-time mobile uploads, video press releases, and exclusive news and information.
Where applicable, a brand can utilize the Timeline to recount its past and appeal to any feelings of nostalgia fans might associate with it.
This focus on telling a brand story also lowers the barriers to entry, especially for small businesses and non-profits that don’t always have the budget, content or resources to sustain an ongoing community.
Prior to Timeline, businesses were often not sure how Facebook fit into their overall strategy, many relying on a gimmicky apps or promotions in order get fans to “Like” their pages. With Timeline, business can better build their brands on Facebook, the way they do everywhere else, by telling their story and engaging to their customers.