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Things to know about Facebook's Timeline for brands

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As you probably noticed, at the end of March Facebook started migrating all company and brand pages—including yours—to its new Timeline format, a switch that started with personal pages several months ago. Here is a quick overview of some of the things you should know in preparing for and managing this new feature. First, this change isn't optional. If you have a company or brand page, the change in appearance has already been made. Facebook Pages now looks different. For one thing, Pages now sport a “cover photo,” which is a great way to set up the page personality, perhaps by featuring a close-up of a product. Just be aware that there are rules about what can and cannot be included: Per Facebook's guidelines, cover photos may not include price or discount information, such contact details as a website address (that should be in the “about” section), references to Facebook features or such calls to action as “likes,” or such things as “tell your friends” or “get it now.” In addition, your profile picture has a new size. If you try to use your old one, it probably will end up off-center, with random cropping. Tabs are now near the top of the page and feature icons—and you can have 12 at a time. Also, pinning and starring are a new way to highlight important posts. However, you can no longer set a default tab for first-time visitors; visitors must land on your main Timeline. Further, there's no more “like-gating” that page (the practice of offering exclusive content to those who “like” your business' Facebook page. You can still like-gate tabs.) Also new is private messaging, with brands able to respond directly to fans or visitors; however, only visitors can initiate the conversation. This is a huge opportunity for companies, but make sure your business has a strategy for dealing with the possible flood of inquiries and comments, both positive and negative. If you aren't ready, you can turn this feature off; but if you welcome a flood of inquiries, this is your chance. These changes mean that interaction is more important than ever, with new opportunities for companies to interact with their audiences. One way to take advantage of these opportunities is with engaging, interactive content such as videos, quizzes, surveys, sweepstakes, contests and coupons. Your best bet is to fill your Tabs/Favorite Apps slots with quality, interactive content and update them frequently. For more details on why interaction is so important, read up on EdgeRank, Facebook's algorithm for deciding which posts appear at the top of News Feeds/Timeline. Meanwhile, make sure to use the tools available to you to manage milestones, “likes” and networks. To get deeper analytics on how your individual apps are performing, including impressions, share rates or responses to calls to action, make sure that you are choosing a solution that offers this information. Seth Lieberman is CEO of Pangea Media (www.pangeamedia.com), whose Snapapp platform enables the creation of social quizzes, polls, surveys and contests. He can be reached at slieberman@pangeamedia.com.
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