It’s that time again, folks! Time for Facebook to roll out massive changes that have everyone split into two camps: the “I love everything Facebook does” camp and the “Are you, like, for real?” camp. Maybe there’s a middle camp but it’s hard to tell.
Facebook is pretty polarizing that way. I fall into the latter camp (evidenced by my last Facebook lashing) and the only thing that’s different this time is that I’m sort of resigned to Facebook doing what it wants as the rest of us scurry to keep up.
So here’s the deal. As of March 30th, Facebook will be rolling out Timeline for Business pages. No choice, no kidding. If you don’t upgrade before then, you’re going to end up with a sad, cover-photo-less page. And even if you do upgrade you might not know what all the new rules are or quite what to do with them.
Good news: I’m about to tell you, not only what the new rules are but how you can effectively work around with them. And at the end I’ve got a little bonus for you: a free Photoshop template and instructional video that will help you create a killer cover.
Facebook Cover Photos: New Dimensions
There are some pretty precise dimensions for the new Timeline photos and the consequence of adding or omitting one little pixel can mean the difference between a great cover photo and a hot mess. Trust me, I’ve tried.
Facebook compresses your already-compressed graphics anyway so be exact if you want the best possible results. These are the new dimensions, at least as of today and until Facebook changes its mind again:
Total bonus: if you use my template you don’t need to worry about dimensions. They are already blocked off precisely for you.
Here’s a quick tip when it comes to cover photos and compression: choose a photo with texture and color variations. If your photo has too much of a solid color then it’s going to show the pixelation a whole lot more.
Important note on dimensions: Although the profile image is 135 x 135, Facebook appears to require that you upload it at 180 x 180. That means you will need to design your icon to fit in the 135 space but resize it to 180 for upload. Strange but true.
Facebook Timeline: New Features
We need to start with some Facebook lingo here, because what we used to know as a status update or a post is now a “story” in Facebook-ese. Qualitatively that means nothing, but in Facebook-speak it means “we can charge you a bunch for promoting your story because it’s super special”.
The stated intention behind the whole shift to Timeline is to allow brands to “tell their story”. Facebook is encouraging us to engage, share, and become faces behind the logos.
On the back end, I suspect it has more to do with devising new sources of advertising revenue, but practically speaking, the fundamentals of good Facebook marketing remain.
Now that you are going to tell your story, you have a few new options.
- You can pin a story. If you roll over the pencil icon, you get the option to “pin to top”. It does just what it sounds like. A pinned story will stay in the top left corner for 7 days. That’s right – it unpins itself after 7 days, so be mindful that this is not permanent.
- You can highlight a story. Click the star icon and your story will take up the full width of the page. You can keep a story highlighted forever.
- When you add a story you can set it as a Milestone. Milestones will also show up full width and can be used to mark important dates like “made my first million”.
Important note: a story cannot be pinned and highlighted at the same time. It must be one or the other.
Facebook Apps: The Same But Different
Remember your Facebook “tabs” that showed up on the left side under your profile image for a while? They are now being relocated under the cover photo and are no longer called tabs, but “apps”. But you should be aware that they will still need some fixing because the dimensions are changing on app pages, too.
Apps will now run full width, and that’s a whopping 810 pixels. If you don’t convert your apps to the new format, you’ll end up with a lot of whitespace.
Only four are visible at one time and even though you can have up to 12 apps, someone would need to be motivated enough to click the little arrow to see what else you’ve got.
The first app is always photos and you cannot move it, nor can you choose the photo you want to show there. It defaults to the last photo you uploaded, so if you don’t like it, you may want to upload one you do. So really, you have three visible spaces to fill with an app of your choice.
Finally, landing pages are now merely a fond memory. You cannot make an app your default landing page as you could in the past. When people visit your page, it’s all Timeline, all the time. You can, however, link people directly to your app pages.
So if you’re running an email campaign for example, and want to direct people to a promotion you’re running on Facebook, you can provide the link to that promotion page specifically.
And since I know you’re wondering, fan-gating still exists but it’s pretty buggy. I’ve tried it, with limitations and workarounds. Whether it will be improved or removed remains to be seen. So try it but be mindful of how it actually works. Don’t just assume it does.
Facebook Marketing: New Rules
I’ve given you the quick summary of the technical changes and new features, so let’s get into the real head-scratchers. Facebook is remaking marketing in its image. Now, at the behest of Facebook, we tell stories. And we tell them without doing any actual marketing.
New rules for the cover photo include the following:
- You cannot include any price or purchase information.
- You cannot include contact information, your web address or email. In fact, you are admonished not to create a cover that is too text-heavy at all.
- You cannot ask people to Like or Share your page nor can you reference or point to (goodbye arrows) any Facebook interface element.
- You cannot include a call to action.
I was teetering on the edge of my chair as I read those rules for the first time and the last one knocked me clear off. What has become standard Facebook practice (big arrow, click here to Like, tell your friends, sign up) is now no longer allowed. Someone up at FBHQ clearly missed Marketing 101.
But you don’t have to be as cynical as I am to see where this could mean revenue streams for Facebook. Combine these un-marketing guidelines with the fact that Facebook has stated that it only shows your content to a fraction of your audience and it’s clear that Facebook has thrown up some obstacles to the whole illusion of “free” marketing.
Thanks to EdgeRank, Facebook decides when and to how many people your content will be shown. The number 16% has been floated around, but the bottom line is that if you have 100 fans, your content is most certainly not being seen by 100 of them.
Let me rephrase, repeat and make that very clear: your content is not being shown to 100 of them. Or any number close to that. (Can anyone say “buy an ad”?)
In tandem with this, “sponsored stories” have emerged which is Facebook-speak for “pay us and we’ll show your post to up to 75% of your fans.” The takeaway here is that your content will never be shown to your entire fan base. And if you want it shown to more than 16%, it’s time to start thinking ads and sponsored stories.
PS: You can and should read the new Facebook guidelines on Timeline, Pages, Promotions and other details in their entirety.
Facebook Marketing For Smart People: Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way
And so we come to the crux of the matter. Now that we’ve all got photos and icons and apps and pins and milestones and stories and a headache… what can we do to make it all work for us?
I’m going to give you some simple, basic tips and workarounds to get you started, and then it’s going to be up to you to do your own magic.
In the end, it doesn’t matter whether Facebook calls it an update or a post or a story or a teapot, you’ve got to make it engaging. And only time will tell whether cover photos make it more likely that people will visit our pages (another stat for you to ponder: fewer than 1% of fans ever revisit a brand page once they’ve Liked it… put that in your story and chew it.)
Marketing Tip: Pizza Hut Style
Think beyond “cover photo” to the total picture. Your profile image can be part of your cover photo if you design it well. Look at how Pizza Hut uses its profile image to cleverly add a pizza box to the big picture. Remember that your profile image (here, the pizza box) is what will appear as the icon beside your posts in your Timeline and in other people’s news feeds.
Make sure that whatever you put in that little square can double as part of your cover and as the icon representing your brand.
Marketing Tip: The Livestrong Way
Use design to create a visual call-to-action. You may not be able to put “Sign up for my newsletter” in your cover photo but with a little design finesse you can draw someone’s eye right where you want it. Where does your eye travel when you look at the Livestrong page?
Marketing Tip: From The Horse’s Mouth
You may be prohibited from putting a call-to-action in your cover photo but there is no rule that says you can’t put one in your apps. Do it! Sign up. Buy now. Read more. In fact, if you can coordinate your design to draw someone’s eye to your apps, and then put a call to action there… well, that’s got “winning” written all over it.
We’ve done both on our Facebook page – with a graphic pointing down plus “sign up” in the graphic representing the app and in the title beneath it. You have complete editorial control over what appears in your custom apps so use it wisely. Keep character limits in mind so your sentence isn’t trailing off at the end. And remember that you can’t change or move the Photo app.
Marketing Tip: What NOT To Do
Can someone please tell me what the heck is happening here? Planes and skies and clouds and skies… I guess phone signals come out of the sky because I’m not sure what else this quilt is supposed to mean.
Plus I’m pretty clueless about those apps. They range from some basketball/technology mashup to American Idol to something that doesn’t make any sense at all. Maybe fans “get it”. But how will this ever convert a non-fan like me?
Focus! Make sure your photos and apps are visually appealing but also speak to your brand.
And remember, it’s all about the people. You need to give people something they want – whether it’s information, entertainment, a diversion or some combination. Try not to get so focused on your photo that you forget there are people waiting to talk to you!
- Be interesting. The more engagement you get, the better your EdgeRank will be, and the more likely your post will be shown to more of your audience.
- Be visual. Photos and videos tend to get more engagement.
- Be varied. If you post a photo in the morning, post a question in the afternoon. Mix it up if you want to keep people’s attention.
- Check out my last Facebook article for some easy engagement tips.
And for those of you who stuck around to the end of this post, the bonus I promised. Visit our Facebook page, admire it for a while, do say hi or leave us a comment, then click on the “Free Template” icon. There’s a link to the Photoshop document plus a video (thank you, Ralph!) that shows you how to use it.
I’d love your feedback, so if you have any questions or thoughts, please let me know. And of course, when you’ve got your Timeline all set up, send me a link. I’d love to check it out and Like your page, too!
Join the discussion 18 Comments
Great, GREAT insight here. I know many companies are dreading “another round of unnecessary FB changes”, but this round will actually HELP brands to build awareness, engagement, and connectivity with consumers, prospects, employees, etc.
I never understand the hesitancy towards change, but I ensure you I will be looking forward to maximizing every option to promote my company, brand, and offerings.
Good for you! And there lies the secret; use all the tools at your disposal to market, communicate, engage and sell.
You hit the nail on the head, James. Maximize every opportunity. Facebook is going to change again, no doubt. We have to be smart enough to use it as it is and get the most out of it.
As the social networking platform it provides both people and companies the best advantages and lots of stuff to do in the timeline. It is good to make more business spreads.
Thanks for the helpful tips. Sounds like it’s time for someone to create a facebook biz site “like it used to be”! I don’t yet have a fan page but have been considering its benefits. If people don’t go back to the page once they’ve like it, will they at least see the posts you’re making on the page?
Good question… currently, the stats are low on return visitors but that could change once Timeline takes effect and people have something visually interesting to see, plus all the new apps. We’ll have to wait and see on that. As for people seeing your posts, Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm decides how many people see your posts. Currently that number is lower than most of us would like it to be. So the answer is yes, people will still see your posts in the news feed even if they do not go to your page, BUT only some of the people will see them, some of the time, depending on how Facebook shows them. If someone wanted to see ALL your posts, they would have to revisit your page.
Thanks Carol Lynn for the great tutorial on the new FB page. I’m going over to see the template. The more I read about it the more confused I get. But that happened before, with the previous changes. Bottom line, as long as we are using it correctly, we will be fine. Thanks again
Yell if you need help 🙂
Carol Lynn, this was so excellent!
I have been collecting data from different places in order to do one of these for my own readers. I wonder if I can even touch the subject now because there are some AWESOME posts like this to compete with now! lol
Thanks for putting this together. I may be reflecting to this as a resource to put together my own version! If you’re cool with it, I’d love to link back here. 😉
Keep on rocking the great content, amiga!
Thanks Cat!! You are certainly welcome to use any info you find here or link directly and share the template as well. Let me know if you have any questions. I’m working on these for clients as well and there always seems to be something new to discover!
Great post Carol for what’s to come “whether we like it or not”… Yep, I’ve been taking notes too. I just haven’t had time to deal with it yet. Way too much going on but the ideas have been swimming around in my head about what I want to possibly do. So many directions to go…
I do like the cool apps I must admit, that will be something I believe can help our pages stand out a little more.
Oh yeah, I’m taking notes and this ones goes on my list so thanks…
Enjoy your day Carol…
Glad to help, this is a big change with a lot of new rules so it’s really important to be on top of this one. The last thing anyone wants is their page taken down because they inadvertently missed the memo on “no call to action”. we’ll see how it all plays out, hopefully the new apps and layout will be good for businesses.
Carol, I have been drooling over your site every since. I am having mine done now, but what I liked is the consistency throughout. You have thoroughly branded that well and I have been envious ever since. This was a great post and much needed so I make sure that I stay in line with the rules of engagement.
Thanks for the compliment 🙂 If you want any input on your site just let me know!
I just came across this article and it does a GREAT job explaining the changes clearly. So many articles dance around actually giving the plain, simple facts, but this article is really helpful. Thank you!
Thanks! I’m really glad to hear that and glad to help. Have you switched to Timeline? Would love to see your page!
This is a super post Carol – I stored it with a couple of others as I was not ready to do my FB timeline and then at short notice had to take some time out last week so only just getting round to my timeline now! Better late than never.
Very interesting bio you have too Carol!
Glad to hear! I would love to check out your page, let me know when you get it up and running. As for interesting… isn’t a that a curse 🙂