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The first ever Facebook Marketing Conference held in New York last Wednesday unveiled plenty of new page features and ad options for online marketers. Pages can now switch over to Timeline. And by March 30th, all pages will be converted to the new format, whether they want to or not. Sorry to those of you still trying to hang on! But, Facebook is confident, as are we, that Timeline for pages is a huge step forward for marketing and brand engagement on the leading social media platform. If you haven’t switched, or have and are are searching for ways to take advantage of the new changes, here are some important things to know about what’s new and how to maximize the marketing potential of your Facebook page:

As we expected, brand pages now have a giant cover photo across the top of the page. It’s the first thing viewers will see when visiting a site. And since first impressions are everything, the cover photo offers great space to showcase your brand with an attractive, content-oriented image. However, Facebook is enforcing some ground rules with cover photos for brand pages:

Cover photos cannot include:
Price or Purchase Information
Contact information e.g. web address, email address etc.
References to Facebook features e.g. “Like” this page.
Calls to action e.g. “Get it now”, “Tell your friends

The “about” section is now more visible than it was on the old Facebook, which forced visitors to click on the “info” tab to in order to view. It’s now located under the page profile picture. Check out The Spark Group’s page to see an example. We recommend keeping the “about” section short, sweet, and to the point rather than long and biographical. Remember, you have an entire Timeline of your brand’s history for visitors to explore your company!

The Timeline format is especially useful for displaying relevant, quality content front and center on a brand’s page. Pages can make use of the new Pin feature, which places posts at the top-left of a page’s Timeline. A pinned post is indicated by a yellow flag in the top-right corner of a post. The post will stay at the top of the Timeline for seven days, and you can re-pin it if you’d like it to stay for longer.

“When a page needs to broadcast information about a recall, change in hours or weather issues, the pinning feature will be really helpful,” says Alison Zarrella, author of The Facebook Marketing Book. This feature is great for getting important information in the sight of customers. Pinned posts can include company sales, new products, special events, etc. As always, be sure to include an image with pinned posts to draw more visibility to it.

Pages also have the ability to highlight posts by clicking the star icon in the top-right corner of a post. Starring a post will widen it across the Timeline.

The big idea behind the Timeline format is for individuals and brands to create and display a story. While users can do this by adding “Life Events”, pages do it by adding “Milestones”. These milestones are key moments that a page decides to display on the Timeline and are widened across the page to emphasize their importance. Include your company’s founding date, new store openings, new product launches, etc. Include photos to make them more engaging. By adding milestones, a brand allows visitors to explore and become more acquainted with your company. It’s a great way to garner new fans and build better connections with existing ones.

With Timeline, you can re-order the icons that appear at the top of your page, just below the cover photo. These icons link to your photos, likes, events, apps, etc. Your photos will automatically appear as the first app, but you can re-order them however you like with the drop-down menu at the right of the apps. Think about which apps are most relevant to your page and what you want visitors to see, and re-order them accordingly.

Also new to Timeline is the Admin panel. Here you can communicate with users privately and monitor activity on your page. Users are now able to message pages privately. This is good for brands, as it keeps customer complaints off the wall where they were visible to everyone, and also allows you to address comments, questions and concerns with individuals. The Admin Panel also displays notifications and activity on the your site such as photo comments and new likes.

You can also view your Facebook Insights on the Admin Panel. Insights is Facebook’s own analytics tool that features “Talking About This” and “Reach”, which tell you who is talking about your company page and who those conversations are reaching. Insights isn’t new, but it’s now more accessible through the Admin Panel.

Now that you know the major changes to Facebook pages, take some time to explore them and become familiar with the features. Remember that marketing on Facebook is highly important and is only becoming more crucial to the success of company advertising. Take advantage of Timeline by thoughtfully and creatively building your company’s story, filling it with important and relevant content and attractive images. If you haven’t already switched, click the preview button at the top of your company page to see what your Timeline page will look like currently. Prepare for the change and make full use of what Timeline has to offer for your company’s marketing.

And as always, let us know what you think of the Timeline features in the comments below. Which do you think are the most helpful? Are there changes you don’t like, or features you don’t find useful?