This morning Facebook made the widely anticipated announcement that the Timeline layout they rolled out to individual profiles will now also be rolled out to brand pages.
Here’s their official announcement.
UPDATE: Facebook also has a pretty extensive FAQ on the changes right over here.
What Page Administrators Need To Know
Page administrators can view any of their pages in “preview” mode starting today.
They can then choose to publish them in the new layout at any time, but Facebook will force all pages over to the new layout on March 30.
Here are 5 initial things to think about as you digest these changes.
Note that these are just my initial observations. I’ll update this post as I dig deeper and will likely have one or more posts later this week that tackle some of this stuff in more depth.
1) Custom Tabs Are Now Pretty Much Invisible
Brands that have invested a lot in creating custom tabs and applications for their Facebook pages are going to be VERY unhappy with this change.
Instead of appearing along the left side of the page, your custom tabs are now hidden (or at least a click away) in the top section of a Timeline brand page. Incidentally, Facebook now calls these “views and apps” instead of tabs.
Four items are visible by default in this section but the first item is “fixed” and can not be moved. Page administrators are able to select the other three items that they would like to show and these can be your custom tabs or applications.
But beyond these 4 top items, any other views and apps you may have had before are now very well hidden and require a click on a dropdown to see.
This is not something that will be very intuitive for most users so page administrators should choose the three items they want to show by default very carefully.
Facebook has also removed the ability to send new visitors (people who have not yet liked your page) to a “landing tab” so there is now little reason for brands to keep this type of application around at all.
Because most of this content is now so thoroughly hidden from users and the ability to offer a welcome experience for new visitors, there seems now to be little reason to use tabs at all (in my opinion) unless you are driving traffic directly to the tab (you can still link directly to one of your views or apps as they each have a unique url).
Otherwise, it will just be very difficult for your fans to find this content and they will be far less likely to engage with it (admittedly, beyond welcome tabs, this has already kind of been the case for quite a long time).
This is just conjecture, but this is likely because Facebook is trying to push brands to develop custom social graph apps instead. Of course they would prefer that you use their platform to develop applications and integrate the things you build more tightly with Facebook’s native functionality.
Unfortunately this could prove to be really bad news for smaller organizations who don’t have the budget to invest in developing these new apps.
This also has some clear implications for contests and promotions because those are typically conducted within a custom tab. Not clear how this will work moving forward, but I would keep an eye on Facebook’s promotions guidelines for an update in the near future.
2) Individuals Can Now Private Message A Page
The ability for individuals to send private messages to page administrators now appears to be rolled out to all pages.
This feature had been available previously to some large pages in a limited test, but it is now prominently placed at the top of the page and does seem to be available to all pages.
This has a lot of potential for customer service applications and does appear to be activated by default. If you DON’T want it, however, you can turn it off in your page settings.
There will be much written about this feature in the coming days and weeks (I’ll probably write quite a bit more on this subject soon), but this is definitely a huge huge change and something a lot of brands have wanted for a long time.
What remains to be seen is what brands will choose to activate this feature (because it will take significant resources for some, especially large, brands to manage), how third party social media management apps choose to integrate this into their tools.
UPDATE (3/15): Facebook has added the ability for pages to respond to messages from the API so expect to see third party tools implement this functionality in the near future.
I’m also interested to see how fans choose to connect with pages through this new feature, because honestly I think a lot of fans really kind of relish the visibility of being able to post publicly and may choose to continue to do that instead of taking the conversation to private message…but we’ll see.
3) Posts By Fans Now Visible By Default
There are no longer a separate tabs to view “posts by page vs. posts by fans” and no ability to toggle this in your page settings. Posts by your fans now just appear as a box on your page’s Timeline.
In fact, the right column of the Timeline now contains a number of things that used to be elsewhere on the page (posts by fans, featured likes, etc.) and especially plays up any connection that I may have to a particular page either through my past activity with that page or through connections with my friends.
You do have the ability to hide this box in your page settings and there is also a setting to allow/disallow fans to post to your page and to enable the ability for admins to approve posts by fans before they appear on your Timeline.
4) Most Timeline Functionality For Profiles Now Available For Pages
As many individuals have already done, many brands will likely go back and “clean up” their Timeline or even add things like company history, other milestones, etc. to their Timeline.
I’ve seen a lot of excitement about this, but I would sound a note of caution.
Many (most?) companies have a “company history” page in the about section of their website already. Take a look at your analytics and check how often that page is actually viewed.
(go ahead, I’ll wait).
Right, so, the audience for that page is mostly you (and maybe a couple of senior executives, investors, etc.). Keep this in mind as you decide how much you really want to invest in adding a detailed history of your company to your Facebook Timeline.
In my opinion, you would be better served by creating more new, high-quality, original content and posting THAT instead of digging through your archive and uploading a bunch of older stuff that may not be that interesting to your following. New will almost always trump old (at least on Facebook).
That said, one already notable exception to this rule is the NY Times. They went back and added events to their Timeline all the way back to 1851.
This is awesome.
And something to consider if you’re, say, a news organization or a historical society. Otherwise…see my previous advice.
One other thing worth mentioning is that Timeline makes photos much more prominent so brands should consider that as well, especially if they do decide to go back and modify their timeline to highlight significant milestones.
Milestone photos display at 843 pixels wide and 403 pixels tall and you can add milestones as far back at January 1, 1800.
5) New Admin Panel
A lot of your admin setting have moved to their own panel:
I actually like this change quite a bit. It collects a number of things that were previously pretty far flung like notifications, insights and your page settings all in one place.
Make sure to explore the “Manage”, “Build Audience” and “Help” dropdown menus at the top right as they contain a number of the things you’re probably thinking: “where did that go?”
6) New Image Sizes
In addition to needing a square profile image (which is still at least 180 px square), brands will also now need to upload a “cover image”.
The cover image for brand pages is the same size as for individual profiles: 851 px wide by 315 px tall. Facebook does place some additional restrictions on cover images for brand pages including expressly forbidding the use of the cover image for “promotions, coupons, or advertisements” and discouraging the use of calls to action.
The canvas size for custom tabs/apps has also changed to 810 px wide, so you have more space to work with but, of course, the tradeoff is that if you use these apps within a “tab” they are, as noted above, far less visible to your fans and it will take more work to drive traffic to them.
You might also notice that the “image strip” that used to show 5 images at the top of your page has disappeared (much to the chagrin of pages that had done something really creative with that space).
And finally, if you have been using a third-party to host your existing custom tabs or apps it is often possible to change the image used to represent a custom tab or canvas app.
7) Ability To “Pin” Posts To The Top Of Your Timeline
Another change you might notice is that the page description that used to be in the left sidebar of your page has now moved off to the “about” section of your page.
If you were using this tab to link to your website, discussion guidelines or disclaimers, you’ll be pleased to know that it is now possible to “pin” an update to the top right corner of your Timeline.
You might use this to provide an easy link to your website, to feature an especially important announcement, to link to discussion guidelines or to provide information about your company or team. You could also use this creatively to post an introduction video about your brand or a larger photo that you want to highlight.
To pin an update, just hover over the top right corner of any post, click on the pencil icon (it will say “edit or remove”) and then click on “pin to top”. The post you selected will now appear at the top of your Timeline until you either “unpin” it or pin another post (Facebook only allows you to pin one post to the top of your Timeline).
What do you think of the new changes? Have you noticed anything else that page administrators need to consider right away?