Facebook Timeline: How to Face a Challenge

Get a facebook Timeline BlueprintNot long ago Facebook introduced the timeline concept to the general public. It was yet another serious change in the layout of fan pages and personal profiles that was implemented by this social network in a rather short time span.

If your company has a fan page, we have both good and bad news for you.

Bad news: many of the previously effective Facebook marketing strategies are not working anymore, and you have to adapt.

Good news: Though it sounds counter-intuitive, new timeline-centric fan pages can convert more visitors into buyers if they are designed correctly.

First let’s take a look at recent Facebook “innovations” and the strategies that were affected by those changes.

Brief Overview of Important Facebook Fan Page Changes

Facebook constantly modifies the layout, design and structure of the fan pages making it difficult for companies to keep up. You’ve spent time learning FBML to create custom tabs? Sorry for the bad news, but this time was wasted. Now this knowledge is useless, you have to learn how to create Facebook applications instead.

Don’t get me wrong. I think this is a great improvement. Facebook apps provide wrap-up environment which resembles an iframe functionality and allows you to use normal programming language of your choice.

But why push FBML in the first place and make people spend thousands of dollars on the development that became obsolete in just a couple of years?

To make things even more difficult, after October 2011 your site is required to have SSL certificate. You have to install SSL certificate on your site before you can host pictures that you feed into Facebook apps if you want the apps to work for people who logged in through secure connection.

The majority of larger companies already use https for shopping carts and membership areas. Yet average small businesses have no idea how to install SSL certificates on their sites or how to get them, for that matter.

We understand that SSL is a security necessity. However, it would be nice if Facebook would provide a free user-friendly hosting solution. An emphasis here is on the phrase “user-friendly”.

Facebook has partnered with Heroku to provide free cloud hosting for apps. But unless you are a developer and at least familiar with linux command line and know how to generate and upload your SSH key, this option might not be for you. Plus, there is a language limitation. You can only develop apps on Heroku via the Facebook Cloud Services integration if you use Ruby, Node.js, Python or PHP. No other programming language is currently supported.

As if those changes were not serious enough, Facebook decided to remove the option to hide your custom tabs. Sounds like a minor nuisance, right? Not really. Marketers suddenly found themselves in a position where their hidden tabs were revealed to the public.

One of the Facebook marketing strategies was based on the ability to entice visitors with discounts, coupons and giveaways on the landing tab and then, after page visitors clicked the “like” button, redirect them to a hidden tab where they can actually get the offer.

After Facebook removed this option, the links to all custom tabs were prominently displayed on the left side of the fan page.

The same ordeal happened with a page wall. Previously, company could decide to let only fans post pictures and videos on its wall. To do that you could simply hide the wall tab and reveal it after visitors turned into fans.

Of course after the links to all tabs were displayed, this strategy ceased to exist as well.

However unpleasant these changes were for millions of companies, they could be considered just an annoyance compared to what was coming next. Facebook introduced the concept of timeline and removed an option to display a custom welcome tab to visitors.

Now all your visitors see a timeline and there is no way to separate the content you could provide to your fans from the content available to general public. Even worse, you cannot use custom-designed welcome tab which essentially served as a landing page to capture visitors’ information.

This was the end to Facebook lead generation strategy as we knew it.

Rather depressing picture, wouldn’t you say?
Now we have two choices. Either leave Facebook completely and concentrate our efforts on other social networks or adapt once again.

Marketing Strategy for New Facebook Timeline

All the changes mentioned above certainly make it difficult for companies to market their businesses on Facebook. It’s not a good use of time to constantly change your Facebook fan page design instead of concentrating on what’s really important – which is bringing customers to your door.

Of course, you need to track the results of your social marketing efforts and plan your strategies accordingly. In light of all these constant changes and inconsistencies Google plus, Twitter or Pinterest might be a better use of your time.

But Facebook currently has around 850 million users. And it’s still the largest social player.

So if you decide to stick with it, here are a few pointers on improving your fan page in the light of timeline changes.

  1. Facebook created the concept of a timeline to give companies the ability to tell their story by highlighting the milestones, featuring customers , emphasizing their products and services, granting more visibility to upcoming events such as seminars, webinars, lectures, product launches, etc.
  2. There are different conversion points. Storytelling helps to increase conversions where it matters the most – converting visitors into customers.
  3. Though there is no default landing tab anymore, you can make your most important custom tabs visible on a top of your fan page and let your visitors know that the story of your brand starts there.
  4. Custom tabs are not limited to 500 pixels wide anymore and programming-wise there are no limitations, so companies have unlimited opportunity in the customization of their landing pages.

To get more ideas on How to Use Facebook Timeline, watch Brian Moran’s webinar (no registration is required.) You’ll also get access to a fan page design with 53.1% conversion rate and timeline story-telling formula.

Watch this webinar, and think how you can apply these ideas to your business.

Your comments and ideas are always welcome. Post your comments below. If you like this post, don’t forget to share it with your social friends.

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