March 30 is like Tax Day for those Facebook page managers who have waited for the forced switch-over to Facebook's new Timeline format to actually do something about optimizing it. And while Facebook, unlike the IRS, will not hunt you down for ignoring the deadline, visitors to brand pages with vacant cover photos and unrefined layouts will be sure to notice, and likely leave.
Brands and individuals have had a month to curate their page in a preview mode or to convert in advance before the new design became mandatory. Overall, the Timeline should serve as an interactive chronicle of a brand's history. The key, however, is populating the page with a range of content, including photos, videos, stories and polls, that engages fans. For those who haven't done anything yet to make the adjustment to Timeline, here are four quick tips to make your profile look its best.
Pick a Cover and Profile Photo: Brand pages now display a high-resolution cover photo at the top of the page. The new cover photo has a different optimal dimension size compared to the older brand profile pictures, so be sure to select an image that won't appear distorted. Then, pick a smaller profile picture, which represents the page in other areas on Facebook, like in the news feed. While the cover image should be a dynamic photo that captures the entire brand, the profile picture can be a more simplified logo.
Pick Milestones to Highlight: It’s important for brands to figure out a strategy for which posts they want to feature—and fast. Timeline allows you to highlight events, or milestones, from the very beginning of a brand’s story. “Let’s imagine you are a consumer packaged goods brand and you have been on the shelves for 50 years. Timeline presents a unique way to access your archives and share them dynamically,” says Robert Ricci, group senior VP, social media at Marina Maher Communications.
Page managers can expand certain photos and milestones to nearly double their size by hovering over a story and clicking on the star icon, or on the pencil icon to pin it to the top of the page (or hide or delete it entirely). In general, high-engagement content such as photos and videos should occupy more real estate than plain-text posts.
Explore the New Admin Panel: All from one place, page managers can respond when people write on their Timeline, as well as view their latest data and insights in real time.
Make a Plan for Public vs. Private Responses: For brands that worry about negative posts on their Timeline, Facebook is now also offering direct messaging for more privatized customer relations. However, don't expect this new feature to stop someone from voicing their displeasure on a brand's Timeline. And while private messaging may be a good option for posts that are extreme in nature, don't miss out on any opportunity to publicly acknowledge a complaint or criticism of your brand. After all, that's the type of engagement users have come to expect on Facebook.
The new Timeline should serve as a welcome change for brands with bold visuals and multimedia content—just don't keep visitors waiting.
Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg