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Facebook Timeline for Pages: What does it mean for your business?

Mar 6th, 2012

Last week, at their first fMC (Facebook Marketing Conference) in New York, Facebook announced that Timeline will become mandatory for Pages by March 30, 2012.

What does it mean for your Facebook Business Page?

It depends.
It depends on how actively involved you were in the maintenance of your page, since all wall posts and updates will become part of your Timeline and Facebook’s effort to – once again – streamline and unify its look and feel.
Including (or limiting) particularly the options you have to customize your brand’s appearance.

The good news first:

You can “edit the past” – meaning you can add items – pictures, events, etc – to your past.
You can make certain items “look” more important than others by “highlighting” it so it occupies the whole width of the page.
Or you can “pin an item to the top” (for 7 days) which will keep it visible for everyone who visits your Facebook page.
(You cannot do both though).

You can add a large “Cover Photo” at the top of your page, making your brand even more visible.
People can finally send a message directly to a page admin.

All great news, right?
Well, as I said before, it all depends.

Let’s look at the Cover Photo.

A great spot (literally – it’s huge – more info in Facebook’s Pages Product Guide) to highlight your products, your services, your phone number, and an awesome call to action – right?
Uhm… not so much.

Facebook Rules for Brands
According to Facebook’s Guideline for Pages (or their Terms for Brands, as they call it), the following items cannot be included in your Cover Photo:

i. price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it on socialmusic.com”;
ii. contact information such as a website address, email, mailing address, or information that should go in your Page’s “About” section;
iii. references to Facebook features or actions, such as “Like” or “Share” or an arrow pointing from the cover photo to any of these features; or
iv. calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends.”

Since Facebook made the announcement that Timeline will become mandatory within 30 days, a lot of “Big Brands” have already switched their pages. Among them (and even featured on Facebook’s Timeline Help Page are some examples I would definitely find to be in clear violation of the above terms.

It remains to be seen how strictly Facebook will be enforcing its own rules…

The new Messages feature.

Finally! Everybody can send a message to the owner of a Facebook page. Nobody has to buy and install a Third-Party Contact Form App anywmore. Hooray!

Uhm… Well. Michael Currey already wrote about it in his article and the most important point is (and this is why I am repeating it here):
You never see anything else than the person’s Facebook Name. No email address (Well, unless the sender gives it to you). And let’s face it — isn’t that the real reason why we’ve been using supplying our users with contact forms (not only on facebook)?

Enough about the new features – what about the things you CANNOT do anymore?

The Default Landing Tab.

Yep, it’s gone. No more fan-gating. No more having people click the “Like” Button before they can see your special offer, get the coupon code, or can watch the video.
While you can still “have” the app, by not being able to make it the default landing tab its purpose dies with the feature.

The technique itself right from the beginning was frowned upon by many — with most critics describing it as “a shady practice to trick people into liking your otherwise lame page”.
And while – according to studies – a maximum of 10 percent of a Facebook’s page’s new “Likes” typically comes (came) via or because of a custom fangate, a lot of businesses have spent a lot of money branding their landing tabs, creating custom apps and effects. Not to mention the number of businesses out there whose only business was the creation and the development of custom landing tabs.

If you, too, spent a lot of time and money on a custom landing tab — well, sorry to hear. So did we. Thanks, Facebook.

Now you will have to “pin” an important announcement or coupon on the top of your Timeline and link it to — yeah, where will this link go?

Who is in control of your business?

Which is the actual reason for this Write-Up.
With Facebook taking back control on how the “Landing Page” of Business Page looks by re-introducing and enforcing uniformity – how dependent on Facebook has your business really become?

What else will Facebook tell you to do (or not to do – as the things you cannot have in your Cover Photo)?
What if they decided tomorrow NOT to have Business Pages at all anymore? Or that they will now charge you (insert outrageous amount here) every month to keep it? Or maybe that the price will depend on the amount of “Likes”?
Who else is allowed to tell you what to do with your own business?

How much is your Facebook Business Page worth and – don’t you feel like you’re at the mercy of Facebook?

Don’t all these mandatory changes and rules make you slightly uncomfortable? If not — they should.

Because you’re entrusting at least part of your business’ and your business’ future to a company that’s not necessarily famous for its great customer service and has taken more than one slap in the face in the past for its unpopular decisions.

What’s the solution?

Maybe its time business owners (and the marketing people) sit back, take a deep breath and refocus. Look at the big picture and think about the different promotional channels you have available. Social Media is not the only one. It’s just another tool. Stop thinking it’s the sole answer to all your problems and don’t get so over-involved you forget everything else around you and neglect what’s really relevant.

The center of business’ online presence always has to be its website.
Now more so than ever. Stop complaining about the changes Facebook and Twitter are making. All these Social Media Outlets can never be more than planets in your business’ solar system; none of them can ever be allowed to play the Sun. This spot is reserved for your own domain, your website, the only content and asset you have a 100% control over, the one you are 100% responsible for.

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