Are you ready for the new Facebook format?

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It’s said that change is the only constant, and the maxim is especially true when it comes to Facebook. Known for its continually-changing interfaces, layouts and policies, Facebook on February 29 announced a new iteration of business Pages that will incorporate the Timeline feature already introduced on individual profile pages back in December.

The new format, which features bold visuals and a host of other changes, will be mandatory for Pages come March 30 – giving merchants just over two weeks to put the finishing touches on their new presentations.

While it’s tempting simply to port over existing Facebook content, with maybe a few extra photos thrown in, merchant brands are better off fully embracing the new format, which requires an adjustment in fundamental strategy. Among the important mindset changes to make:

Find new ways to engage followers. The most disconcerting change for merchants is the elimination of the landing-page tabs, or “fan gates”, that enticed new visitors to “like” a page, often with offers of benefits such as exclusive discounts. Now all visitors will land on the same page, which includes recent posts like the Wall tab of old as well as a bold billboard-style image at the top and information on which friends “like” and have mentioned the page. But with the loss of the tabs, merchants gain new features that can help drive engagement and “likes”:

  • A prominent brand statement. Replacing the “Info” link which languished in the left-hand column, the “About” summary is now anchored front and center beneath the main photo, and should sum up the brand’s identity. Consider including customer service contact information or, at a minimum, a link to your eCommerce site.
  • Showcasing apps. To the right of the “About” statement and the “Photos” link is space for links to three more links of the merchant’s choosing — a layout that favors merchants with custom features and apps that drive “likes”. Macy’s uses one of its slots for a dance contest promotion that requires participants to “like” the page to enter — helping boost followers.

Example of new Facebook page layout from Macys
Example of new Facebook page layout from Macys

  • Featured content. Merchants can now “pin” posts to the top of the page for a week — giving them the opportunity to spotlight promotions to encourage visitors to “like” the page. Luxury brand Louis Vuitton has pinned a post about live coverage of a fashion event to the top of its page, with information about following the event on Twitter and a video — signaling to first-time visitors that the brand has plenty of up-to-the-minute news to share.

Example of new Facebook page from Louis Vuitton

Think visual. The new Facebook page places a heavy emphasis on visuals. It’s not just the billboard-style image at the top of the page and the icons for apps; with the new column layout, there’s more room for photos, videos and graphics in posts. That means merchants should attach an image to almost every update — even if extra time and effort is required to find the right picture. The picture in Walmart’s post about sports gear for Little League not only depicts the subject, but contributes to the brand’s all-American image.

Example of new Facebook page from Walmart

Build a brand scrapbook. The new timeline format places a chronological navigation tool prominently at the top right of the page, giving consumers a chance to browse through years of posts and giving merchants an opportunity to share more of their brand stories. Outline key milestone dates for the brand and mine the archives for ways to convey them with images and text.

The jury is still out on whether these changes will help brands drive engagement and sales on Facebook — but by maximizing the opportunity, merchants can give it their best shot. For more information about the new format:

Have you made the transition to the new Timeline-focused pages? What challenges and opportunities does the new format bring?

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