Thoughts and Tips on the Timeline Update for Facebook Pages

If you operate a Facebook page for your business or organization, you are likely aware that on March 30, 2012 Facebook will be updating all pages to their new timeline view. Page owners can preview the timeline functionality prior to that date, and even opt to publish their timeline view ahead of the deadline, if they choose.

We took the plunge this week, updating the LightCMS Facebook page to work with the new timeline. I thought I'd take just a moment to share some tips and some of the things we learned in the process of updating our Facebook page.

The new LightCMS Facebook page in timeline view.

You Need a Cover Image

The cover image is the most striking improvement in timeline view and the only extra thing you absolutely must add to ensure your page looks right after the transition. Without a cover image, your page will look kind of strange in timeline view. But with a cover image, you can truly express your brand in a way never before possible on Facebook.

The cover image space is 851px wide and 315px tall. If your image isn't these exact dimensions, Facebook will size it to fit and allow you to drag the image up and down to center it on the part of the image you want to highlight. But why not create an image at exactly those dimensions so you can completely control the look and feel?

Your Last Uploaded Image is Now Very Important

In timeline view, Facebook now displays the last photo you uploaded in a very prominent place, just below the cover image at the top of your page (see the image above). This box cannot be moved or hidden and it will always show the last image uploaded. If you don't upload images to your page very frequently, an image may stay in this spot for a significant amount of time. So, it's worth checking how your images look in this space and, if you upload one that looks awkward here, you can always re-upload a different image to force it to display in this area.

New Opportunity for Branded, Custom Content

The other boxes to the right of the photos box now offer a new opportunity to integrate custom, branded content into your Facebook page through images representing your custom page tabs. If you have custom page tabs, you can now select custom imagery to place in these boxes and, when clicked, this imagery will direct you to your custom page tab content. These 110x74 pixel images give you a great place to add even more branded content to your main Facebook page. In the image above, you can see that we have added two custom images (the ones that say "Take the Tour" and "For Designers") in this way.

In typical Facebook page style, the method for updating the imagery to associate with your custom page tab is a little obscure, so we've laid out the steps for you below.

  1. Once your custom tabs are installed, visit your Facebook page and click the small down-arrow icon to the right of the four boxes.
  2. Hover over the tab whose image you wish to edit and click the edit icon that appears at the upper right.
  3. Select "Edit Settings" from the menu that appears.
  4. On the settings screen, you can change the Custom Tab Image and specify new text to use in the caption under the custom tab image as well.
  5. Click "Okay" when finished.

In case you're wondering "What is a Facebook custom page tab?" you can check out the tutorial we wrote on creating custom page tabs last year. Just be aware that things have changed a bit since we published that article and we're working on an updated version of this tutorial to release soon.

A Few Other Items of Note

Here are a few more things that struck me as I began exploring Facebook's new timeline layout for pages.

  • With Timeline, you can no longer set a default landing tab for non-fans who visit your page. All traffic to your page will be directed to the initial timeline view. We used to force non-fans to land on our "Welcome" tab when they visited our page. We can no longer do this, so we've gotten rid of the welcome tab and created tabs for other purposes. You can still link to a page tab with a direct URL.
  • You can now allow Facebook users to message your page. Once they do, you can respond to them and have a private message conversation as your page. This was not previously possible.
  • The timeline gives you the ability to highlight updates (which makes them span two columns and use larger text) and pin an update to the top (which keeps it at the top for seven days). These two features offer some nice, new opportunities to control the way updates display on your timeline.
  • My favorite part of the new timeline is the ability to create milestones to tell the story of your company or product. If you enter the year you were founded, Facebook creates a "founded" milestone for you that you can edit to add more information and even photos. You can then add additional milestones for your company, associating pictures with them if you want. This is a neat way to document some significant things on your timeline.

I hope this has given you some insight into what's necessary and what's possible with Facebook's new timeline view for pages. Best of luck updating your own pages. If you have a page you've updated, please share it with us in the comments below. We'd love to check out what you've done!