Facebook introduced the new Timeline layout for individual Facebook profile pages a few months ago, and now it is preparing to transform Facebook Business pages as well. There's a lot of potential for businesses to take advantage of the new layout to share information and engage customers, but there are a few caveats and pitfalls you should be aware of.
The Timeline layout will happen whether you like it or not. Facebook is set to push the new layout to all Facebook Business pages at the end of March. The result may be sloppy and unprofessional, though, if you don't invest some time to brand your site.
You can read A How-To Guide for New Facebook Business Pages to get a nice overview of the features of Timeline and the basic steps to customize your page. If you look at the recent PCWorld slideshow of 10 Facebook Timeline Business Pages That Rock, though, you will see that even some of the best sites have issues that need to be addressed.
1. Move the Likes
First of all, the Facebook Business Timeline displays icons beneath the cover art image. You can have a total of up to 12 apps linked, but only the first four are visible unless you click the arrow to expand and view the rest of them.
The first one is to Photos and can't be changed. The second one, however, defaults to Likes which displays the Facebook thumbs up icon along with the number of people who have "liked" your Facebook Page. This is a waste of icon real estate, though, because the number of page Likes is also displayed under the cover art directly beneath the name of the Facebook Page.
Besides, displaying the number of Likes is either a tad pretentious if it's a very large number, or it's a bit embarrassing if you're just starting out and only have a handful of Likes. Either way, you don't need to draw so much attention to that number.
You can't get rid of it entirely, but you can move it to the bottom row so it will only be displayed when someone clicks on the drop down arrow to expand the icons. Click on the arrow to expand the icons area, then hover over the Likes icon. A small pencil will appear in the upper right. Click it, and then select the icon that you'd like to have in this position to swap the two. This is prime real estate, so choose the app that you most want your visitors to see.
2. Re-Order Icons
As long as you're already in icon moving mode, go ahead and continue arranging the icons. Again, you can only see four of them by default, and one of those is going to be Photos whether you like it or not.
You can choose the other three, though, so select apps that you want to bring to your visitors attention. Many Facebook sites have some sort of Welcome tab that provides an overview of what the company is about. If you have a YouTube page, or other resource that you'd like to draw attention to, that is another good use of the top row of icons.
Follow the same steps as above. Click the arrow to expand the icons, then hover over the one you want to replace to click on the pencil. That will display a list of the other icons so you can choose which one you'd like to swap into this particular position. Just continue swapping the icons around until you find the order that works best for you.
3. Customize Icons
Still on the topic of the icons, you will notice that many default to some generic "iframe" image. Regardless of the brilliant information and eye-popping branding you might have going on underneath the icon, it doesn't make your page look very professional or appealing if you are displaying generic images on your icons.
Take some pride in your Facebook Business Timeline and customize the image used for the icons. Choose something that reflects the resources or information visitors will find when they click on that app, or use images that reflect your unique company brand.
With the icon area expanded, hover over the icon you want to change and click the pencil at the upper right. Select "Edit Settings" from the drop-down menu. Click the linked word "Change" next to Custom Tab Image. That will open a new tab where you have to click the word "Change" again. At that point you can browse to find the image you want to upload.
The process has some kinks to work out. Aside from having to redundantly tell Facebook twice that you'd like to change the image, I ran into issues where the image that was uploaded or displayed was not what I had selected. In fact, it was not an image I owned or had ever seen before--I have no idea from where Facebook was pulling these images. I just continued changing it to my own image until it eventually worked.
4. Pin to Top
One of the features of the Timeline layout is the ability to "feature" a post. Featured posts draw more attention because they are displayed as a larger frame that fills both columns.
Facebook Business Timeline pages offer another option as well: Pin to Top. As you continue to add new posts and updates, everything cycles down the screen and users have to scroll through the timeline to find it. But, you can take posts that you really want visitors to see, or that you want to draw special attention to, and pin them to the top so they will remain visible as new posts continue to cycle beneath them.
Apparently, you have to choose, though, between having a post be featured or pinned to the top. If you take a post that you have marked as a feature and pin it to the top, it will revert to a normal width post.
5. See What They See
To really see what your Facebook Business Timeline will look like to your visitors, you need to view the page as someone other than yourself. Try viewing the page without being logged in to Facebook at all, or view it while logged in as somebody else.
When you view it, you will see things like how many of your Facebook friends also Like the page, or information about your check-ins at the business. But, others won't see those things, but will see the websites associated with the Facebook Business page. Just take a moment to review the page without logging in to Facebook so you can see how it will look to the general public.
Invest some time to make sure your Facebook Business Timeline highlights the information and resources you want your visitors to see, and that it reflects your company branding. With a little effort, you can make your Facebook Business Timeline a site that your customers will continue to visit and share with their own network of Facebook friends.