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  • How to Engage Your Audience with the New Facebook Timeline for Pages

    “The new Pages helps businesses and organizations express their identity through features like cover photo and Page timeline.” -Facebook Pages

    A whole new world: Facebook Timeline

    Along with the launch of Timeline for Facebook Pages yesterday (February 29, 2012) came a whole new landscape for Page admins to navigate.

    People have a lot of questions about this new layout:

    • How can I utilize new design space?
    • What will happen to custom tabs?
    • Can I still drive non-fans to fan-gated tabs?

    The list goes on. Which is why Tim wrote this great Timeline for Pages FAQ post that is a must-read for all Page admins.

    Timeline’s New Features — Better Fan Engagement

    While the new design elements are important, and seem to be the center of attention for now, I think it’s important to also think about the new features that come along with Timeline, the ones that have more to do with fan engagement.

    Facebook has rolled out several new tools that allow admins to better engage with their audience, and to customize messaging on the Wall (and we might as well start calling it Timeline).

    Admins can no longer control where new visitors land when they come to their Facebook Page — the “default landing tab” option is gone. Because Timeline is the first thing that a user will see, it better be good.

    Curating Your Content Spatially AND Temporally

    Admins can now “pin” posts to the top of the Wall (for up to a week) in order to highlight specific content. But, in my opinion, the most important thing that has changed for Pages is the ability to curate content both spatially and temporally in the Timeline.



    Your Timeline is now a place for users to explore, to discover, and to really engage. Before I go into why this is true, let’s quickly review how the old Wall worked…

    How the Wall used  to work

    On the old Wall, Page Admins and Fans could post text, images, videos and links, which appeared in reverse chronological order. Admins could moderate content, but when you posted a new status update it could only go to one place: the top of the Wall. Anyone visiting a Page could scroll down to see older posts, but at a point you would have to click “More posts” to see the next batch of old posts.

    And all posts were stacked one on top of the other, creating a really long page. If you wanted to go back in time, say to a previous year, on the Wall, you were in for a looooong search.

    Why Timeline is better for engagement

    Now, with the introduction of Timeline, posts on the Wall are organized in a way that promotes historical exploration. And stories, or posts, are staggered to the right and left of a centered time-line (hence the name!)

    This staggered layout means that you can see more stories at once, saving loading and viewing time. This is nothing new for those of us with Timeline on our Personal Profiles, but for Pages, this presents admins with some interesting opportunities.

    Infinite Scrolling = Addicted to Scrolling

    The new Timeline layout uses both masonry layout and infinite scrolling to create a seamless browsing experience. This, plus the Timeline date navigation on the right side of the page, makes it super easy for a user to stay on your Page for a long time, just exploring your content, easily navigating to different years with a single click in the Timeline navigation on the right.

    I was excited to read, in this article about Pinterest, an analysis of why Facebook’s adoption of these two features in tandem (masonry layout + infinite scrolling) created an addictive browsing experience:

    “It’s interesting to note that the Facebook News Feed, the epitome of website addiction, uses infinite scrolling. Further, the new Timeline pages now combine this technique with a two-column masonry style layout.”
    Joshua Johnson, designshack.net

    How can Page Admins utilize this opportunity?

    So, we have talked about why the Timeline is a nice layout, but what does that mean to Admins? Well, it’s really not enough that the layout is user-friendly — you also have to offer quality content if you want to keep fans on your Page. If you can combine unique and compelling content with the magical Timeline formula, you can actually curate a Page that attracts — and KEEPS — users.

    Take advantage of highlighting, back-dating and milestone features

    The most powerful and effective way that I have seen early adopters creating compelling content is by utilizing the highlighting, back-dating and milestone features of the new Timeline for Pages.

    Highlighting a post will change it to a full-width format, rather than half-width like most stories. This is great if you are highlighting a photo or a video because they get much more room to shine.

    Milestones are posts that highlight a moment or story in the history of your brand (or the world). You can add milestones to any point (date) in your Timeline. By default, milestones appear in the highlighted post format (wide).

    Back-dating is essentially creating a milestone out of any previously published post, and these stories can be more than just images and text (learn more below).

    How to create Timeline milestones

    (Note: these screenshots are taken from the super-helpful Facebook Marketing Department’s video: learnfacebookpages.com)

    1. Create Milestone from your Timeline composer. The “composer” is the box where you can create a status update or milestone.

    2. Specify date, and pick a photo. Milestones must include a photo, but a story and location are optional.

    3. Save milestone to your Timeline. Now users can find this story in your Timeline navigation.

    Backdating Timeline posts:
    If you want to include other types of media (video, links, albums, etc) in a past post on your Timeline, you can create the post as a normal status update, not a milestone, and then change the date of the post in the composer.

    Examples of Pages with Timeline History

    The following Pages have already filled their Timelines with loads of interesting milestones that tell storied about their brands. You don’t necessarily have to be a company with 100 years of history to do this — you just have to get creative!

    Macy’s

    The New York Times

    People.com Magazine

    Today Show

    Ford Motor Company

    Starbucks

    Coldplay

    Coca-Cola

    Use Timeline to lead your Fans to your new content

    So you added a bunch of milestones to your Timeline… How will people know to go look there? Here are a few cool ways that some of the Pages mentioned above are letting their Fans know about the new Timeline feature:

    The New York Times pinned this post to the top of their Timeline:

    Macy’s had another good idea – they actually asked Fans to help with the Timeline population, asking them to upload memories they shared with the brand onto the Timeline:

    Hopefully this has given you some ideas — now YOU tell us, what sort of milestones can you add to YOUR business Page Timeline?

    Comments

    1. I think of adding a milestone when we moved to a new building, reached xxx employees, went public, made strategic partnerships, release of an ebook, etc. I wonder if a page post ad can be made using a milestone entry.

    2. Does anyone know how Macy’s incorporated user content into their timeline? Did “likers” just upload the photo and macy’s backdated it? Thanks! (P.S. Can you tweet the response?)

    3. Page admins can control settings that allow users to upload images and videos, or, alternatively, just text. So Macy’s must have allowed users to upload content. But I don’t see them actually back-dating any of the content from Fans…I think their attempt at populating the Timeline with user content failed. Sorry, too long to tweet!

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