Facebook is converting all business pages to its new timeline format Saturday. However, Josh Chiles, founder and president of Engaged! A Social Media Firm who presented at Profit Xcelerator in 2011, says there's still time for dealers to get their pages set.
The best way to prepare for the change is to plan a strategy and take time to learn about the new format and switch it over before the forced conversion. If a page isn't converted on time, all content already on the old page will transfer to the new page, but dealers will notice a blank space where their cover photo should be. The cover photo is an 815-pixel-wide-by-315-pixel tall photo that appears at the top of the page, and it should be the No. 1 priority for any dealer. Many business pages have already converted to the new format, so examples can be found throughout Facebook.
"The cover photo is going to be a big open area, and dealers need to deal with that quickly," Chiles advised. "A cover photo is the most important thing to have up there."
The cover photo is key because it's the first thing a Facebook user will see when visiting a business page.
"It's a huge space; you have to have a photo there," Chiles said. "With having a motorcycle dealership, a photo of the showroom works great."
Some dealers have opted to use photos of their dealerships, others have photos of their staff and some have photos of bikes. However, businesses have to be aware that there are some rules regarding the cover photo that can be read here.
"There are rules for what the cover photo should not have, and these are rules from Facebook," Chiles explained. "You cannot mention anything about functions of Facebook. You can't say 'click here,' 'like us,' 'share our page;' any of the functions of Facebook can't be on your cover photo. You also cannot promote on your cover photo, like, 'We're having a sale. You can win a prize.'"
Consequences of breaking these rules include having Facebook delete the page of the business that violated the rules.
After the cover photo is added, everything else will transition to the new format, but some aspects will have to be dealt with. The profile photo, for example, will become a 180-by-180-pixel square, so any vertical profile photos will have to be changed. Chiles suggests dealers spend time designing a square profile photo, so the same branding can be used across all social media channels.
Also, all custom tabs and apps will be moved to the right side of the page, under the cover photo, and each will have a 111-pixel-wide-by-74-pixel tall photo.
"They're much bigger, so you can edit those photos. You can make them bigger; you can change them whenever you like," Chiles said.
Below the cover photo, company description, apps and custom tabs, dealers will notice the new two-column format of the timeline page. The left side of the page is what the dealer posts. The top of the right side will be unique for each Facebook user, as it highlights the user's friends who are also fans of the page, the user's comments on the page and the user's friends' comments on the page. Underneath that, if a dealer has added an address to the page's profile, a recommendation box will appear, allowing customers to write recommendations for the dealership. The column will also list the page's likes, followed by regular timeline posts.
With the new format, businesses also have new options than they did in the past. One new feature is the year-by-year timeline available, which allows any business to add to its history. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and The New York Times pages have made the timeline a key element of their new Facebook pages.
"With the timeline, you can really go back and show the history of your company. You can go and fill in the dates of all the important things that have happened since your dealership opened," Chiles said.
He recommends dealers add key dates, such as the day the dealership was established, and photos when possible. Other new features include a new administrative panel at the top for business page administrators that includes any recent comments, likes or private messages from fans, along with a list of the last five or six people to like the page and graphs that document the activity. Personal Facebook users can now also send business pages private messages, and business pages can respond, though business pages cannot send private messages unless one is received first.
The new pin option allows businesses to pin any particular post to the top of the timeline for seven days. Chiles said this option is good for promoting events, displaying important photos, sharing key messages or distributing surveys. A business can also star or highlight a post for better leverage.
"When you star a post, it will take up two columns," Chiles explained. "When someone scrolls down the timeline, that's going to stick out like a sore thumb; they're going to notice it."
Though Facebook has implemented a lot of changes to business pages, the backend system for updating profiles, posting photos, etc. has not changed, and the same analytics that have been available all year are still accessible. Chiles said dealers should also use the same approach to Facebook as they always have.
"Just continue what you're doing. It's all about the content and the experience that the users have. Just because it's a new format doesn't mean your content has to change," he said. "Create engaging content. Nothing's changing with the way that you're going to use Facebook from the old design; you're just going to see a new design."
To see how Powersports Business handled the Facebook timeline at www.facebook.com/PSBMagazine.