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Cariker shares advice on new Facebook timeline

As many Facebook users know, the social networking site is constantly changing its offerings, layouts, options and more, but the latest change may be catching some off-guard.

As of March 30, Facebook is requiring all business pages to convert to its new timeline feature. The timeline layout was originally available for Facebook users with personal profiles in the fall, but recently business pages have been put on notice that they must change their layouts to the timeline format before March 30, or the page will convert itself.

Though the posting process on pages is essentially similar to what it has been, the timeline layout is dramatically different. Powersports Business associate editor Liz Hochstedler asked Ron Cariker, president of 7 Media Group, how dealers can address the change at their businesses.

The first thing Facebook users likely notice about the timeline pages is the appearance of a "cover photo." This photo should differ from the user's profile photo and is extremely horizontal. It's not required of a timeline page, but highly recommended. 7 Media Group's timeline cover photo features the company's logo, as well as information on how to connect to its mobile alerts. Cariker converted his company's page over early to learn more about the new format, so he could better teach his clients.

"For dealers it's going to be a dramatic change to what they are accustomed to doing on Facebook," he said. "I think a quick way for them to get a good look is to take the horizontal header area of their existing website and use that for the cover look. It lends really well to how the majority of dealer sites I see that already have a strong brand look at the top of their site. Logo, brands, images of equipment, etc. are typically present on a dealer's site in that header, so there's no reason they shouldn't stay consistent and use the same look if not the exact same image. A good Web company will have graphics readily available for their clients to easily make this new cover photo."

The other most noticeable difference in the new page is the two-column format, which allows posts to appear either on the left or right side of a timeline in the center.

"More information will now appear higher up on the page, and I think the highlight feature is a great addition. A dealer can highlight a post and make it take the full width of the page. It really stands out as you scroll down the page," Cariker advised.

Another difference is that application tabs have been moved, and they occupy an 810-pixel wide space on the new page, as opposed to the 520-pixel wide space allowed on the old page. To accommodate this, Cariker recommends dealers change their tabs to assure they work with the new format, and he says 7 Media Group has is already changing its mobile sign-up application tabs for dealers making the switch.

Cariker said he was excited for business pages to be turned over to the timeline format because he believes the organization is more concise. He says any dealer who has a cover photo ready should make the switch.

"I think once they have a strong cover image and at least understand they can feature posts with 'highlight,' they should jump in," he said. "There are not many technical issues holding them back really; it's much more about aesthetic and image."

Cariker says dealers should just be mindful of what their Facebook page is for, which is branding their dealership. If they can remember that, the page will be easy to revamp and use.

"Don't overthink this change," he said. "Don't make that cover photo into a gigantic catch-all for every bike, ATV, event photo, logo you can wedge in there. Keep things clean and striking, and most importantly brand, brand, brand. A dealer logo, phone number and address are critical for that cover photo. That's what will catch the customer's eye first, so spend some time and effort in making it appealing."

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