As with everything it does, Facebook divided opinion recently with its controversial move to a timeline design that according to the social networking giant will ‘tell your life story through photos, friendships and personal milestones’. There are those who really like the new layout, enjoying further levels of customization on their profiles, and viewing the changes as an opportunity to completely control the way their viewed online.

And then there those who utterly loathe Timeline, either because it reminds them too much the Myspace of ol’, suddenly brings to light ill-advised status updates and embarrassing photos from years past, or perhaps because they just can’t deal with change.

Whether we like it or not, Timeline is here, and it’s coming to Facebook Pages too.

If you manage a Facebook Page, you’ve probably noticed the large box looming ominously over said page announcing that from March 30th, all pages will get a new design. Facebook have given us all a few weeks to preview the new design, which comes with the following new features:

Cover images

Perhaps the biggest and most noticeable difference with the new design is the cover. If you’re not already familiar with this, the cover is a large image you can place across the top of your page.

If you use a Facebook Page to advertise your business, you’ll probably be disappointed by guidelines which insist your cover image must not include promotions, advertisements or any other kind of call to action, including:

  • Contact information including website addresses
  • Anything encouraging visitors to ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ content, including placing arrows from the cover image to those buttons on your page.
  • Any price or purchase information, so no ‘50% off from mywebsite.com’ or anything like that.

That said, this does give you the chance to be creative with your cover image, selecting something that’s both appealing to the eye and which creates a great first impression.

Default Landing Tab

There’s further bad news if you’re using your page to sell and make money, with the announcement that the Default Landing Tab, which were previously used to direct first-time visitors to a tab other than the Wall, shall be no more.

It’s still possible to point people on Facebook to a tab of your choosing by paying for an advertisement linking to that tab, but to entice people towards that all-important ‘Like’ button without shelling out the cash, you’ll need to find creative ways to do so from within your timeline.

Pins and highlights

That’s not to say you’re completely doomed, as the new design does offer a couple of handy tools to make your biggest stories stand out. First, there’s the chance to ‘highlight’ a key story, placing it prominently on your page simply by hovering your mouse over the top-right corner of a post and hitting the star button.

If you decide that a post is so important that it should be the first one people see, you can ‘pin’ that post permanently at the top of your page in much the same manner.

Edit your tabs

Further customization options allow you to rearrange the order in which you display the various tabs on your page. Your Photos tab must stay first in the pecking order, but from there, you can hover over any tab, click the little edit button, and chose to swap your remaining tabs in any order you see fit.

Admin panel

Another major change comes in the form of the new Admin Panel. Those used to locating their admin functions (number of notifications, page insights, etc) on the left-hand side of the page, will now find them in a huge, and I mean huge, box at the top of your page.

This has its benefits.

Everything is laid out nice and simply, with page notifications, most recent ‘Likes’ and a handy graphical display of page insights down the left, and, most useful of all, a messages function on the right. This is a big step for Pages, meaning fans can now send a direct private message to the page, rather than to your personal account, and that you can respond in kind.

If you decide you don’t want this option, it can easily be turned off in your admin settings, easily found in a big drop-down menu marked ‘manage’ at the top of this panel.

The only downer on what is otherwise a great tool is the size. Again, the thing is enormous and is quite the distraction if you’re only interested in getting at your page content. Still, flicking the ‘hide’ button at the top of your panel solves that problem, whilst accessing the panel is as easy as hitting the ‘Admin Panel’ button.

Where to next

Once you’re comfortable with the big changes to your page, it’s time to play around with some of the smaller features, such as adding milestones to tell your story. However you decide to use it, have fun, get creative and enjoy your timeline. After all, it’s here whether we like it or not.

(Photo credit: past, now, future words in vintage wooden letterpress via Shutterstock)

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