Optimizing Your Facebook Timeline for Promotions

Ready or not, your company’s Facebook page transitioned to the Timeline layout a week ago. (For more information about this change, which Facebook announced in February and finalized on March 30, please check out our last several posts.) Yet the change is new enough that we’ve noticed plenty of brands and businesses haven’t taken all the steps to optimize their Timeline, or draw their Facebook audience to it.

If you haven’t really made the transition yet, your Timeline may have a blank space at the top, and crickets chirping in the background. Here are four things you can do immediately:

1) Make it Visual

Above all, Facebook made the change to Timeline to create “a big, fat, storytelling canvas” for your business (their words, not ours.) Fittingly, the most noticeable changes are opportunities to tell the visual story of your brand. The centerpiece: an expansive (851×315 px) new Cover Photo atop your page. Brands from Verizon to the local candy shop are using this valuable real estate to showcase user-generated content, take visitors inside a store, highlight employees and team members, introduce new products, or convey an aspirational moment (like luxury travel). You can’t use a call-to-action in this space- but you can do nearly anything else to introduce your brand. If you haven’t uploaded an image, this space is blank. Choose a picture and do it.

And don’t stop there. Other opportunities to make your Timeline more visual are to

• Post a large Profile Picture (180×180 px) and Custom Apps/Tabs Icons (111×74 px) right below the cover photo
• Pin large photos and posts to the top of your Timeline where they will remain for 7 days
• Create Milestones that tell a chronological narrative of your company
• Highlight posts, giving them twice the width on your Timeline – a great way to showcase Milestones

For more details on each of these new features, check out Facebook’s Pages Product Guide.

2) Engage them directly

In addition to being a visual canvas, Timeline is also supposed to serve as “Mission Control for your business” (quoting Facebook again). The fundamental activity for brands on Facebook has always been dialogue directly with your fans and customers. Timeline makes this even easier by making the brand experience on Facebook more similar to the person-to-person experience.

Take advantage of the reset opportunity that Timeline offers by doubling down on dialogue with your fans. The new Message feature is one of the best Mission Control features available. Encourage users to message you directly (in the upper right corner of Timeline.) Then log-in to your admin panel- complete with improve metrics and Insights, and answer those direct messages. Get feedback, provide service, and cultivate long-term customers. Mission control!

3) Engage them, Part II

With the initial setup and dialogue work in progress on your Facebook Timeline, the fun begins. The biggest challenge for brands on Facebook is how to engage your fans so that they visit your page, or at least read your posts when they become visible on their Newsfeeds.

Promotions and other apps are effective ways to engage your audience, and get them to not only revisit you on Facebook but also spread the word. Run a sweepstakes to draw more fans to your page and generate some buzz. Or run a viral photo or video contest to inspire user generated content and word-of-mouth, in the form of users directing friends to your Facebook page to vote for their entry.

Both are tremendous ways to introduce a new product, promote an event, reinforce your brand, or simply check-in with your audience.

4) Plug it back in

How do you convert fans on Facebook- or followers on any social channel- into happy, long-term customers? (That is ultimately the goal with most marketing efforts!) By plugging it back into your greater marketing strategy. Social conversations and promotions are no different. Here are some basics to remember:

Go across channel: Make sure to optimize all marketing – including social – for your audience, and for emerging formats. Twitter is fantastic for short-form, frequent check-ins. LinkedIn lends itself to a B2B and service-oriented audience. Pinterest is for all things visual Social marketing should be branded consistently to your email marketing, digital (display) advertising, and even traditional campaigns (TV, print and trade shows).

Use the content: if you collect glowing reviews of your company or products when talking to users, or photos or videos from a contest app, use them! On your website, in your adds, in brochures, in future emails. Customer-generated content is the most powerful form of referral.

Expand your marketing database: Anytime you collect email addresses- by interacting with an individual or running a sweepstakes, for example- don’t forget to add them to your email marketing database (assuming the users have “opted-in,” of course). Email marketing is a powerful compliment to social, and vice versa, so don’t forget this important step.

5) Activate

Promotions are about activating long-term customers from within your audience. So whatever your goals may be, whatever channels and themes and promotions you decide on, make sure you provide an opportunity for people to become customers. Whether that means offering all sweepstakes entrants a coupon or discount code, mailing gift cards to contest finalists, giving free trials or new products away to power users, or driving store traffic to retail locations or ecommerce pages, make sure that you offer an activation step.

Timeline is here. Take advantage of the new layout and the opportunities it offers. And like all marketing efforts, follow through to make the most of your Facebook strategy.

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