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Branding and Facebook Timeline

Stephen Biernacki

Facebook’s Timeline for brand pages is more than just adding a cover photo, pinning/highlighting content, arranging applications, and adding milestones. Looking past the specifics to the sum of their parts, these changes all equal a better ability to tell your brand story. How can you incorporate what your brand stands for into all of these areas to present your story? That’s the challenge. The good news is, if the individuals who are responsible for maintaining your web presence (at least on Facebook) have a solid understanding of what your brand is about, you can make a accomplished and representative Facebook Page, presuming you understand the platform.

Cover Photo: First Impression of Your Brand
Besides the primary image or images on your official homepage, there may not be a more important online image to get right than your Facebook cover photo. It’s good to see that so many institutions are getting it right (in our opinion), and many great examples can be seen here. I think it’s important to remember your cover photo doesn’t necessarily need to remain the same for long. You can tell your brand story through many different pictures. An example would be how the University of Rochester, according to Lori Packer, uses a winner each week from their homepage ‘Photo Friday’ feature, where students, alumni, faculty, and staff can submit their own photos for inclusion. We’ve also seen institutions use billboard advertising (like EMG does) for their cover photo, which would likely be an on-brand choice. The best example of that we came across in higher ed was St. Edward’s University. You also choose to feature a piece of branded photography like Webster University has done, or create a compilation of photos like St. John’s University. A disclaimer: there can be no contact information – such as a URL or phone number – or calls to action.


Mississippi College Highlighting in Facebook

You now have the ability to highlight and pin posts. Highlighting means the story will stretch across your entire Timeline, not simply one column. Mississippi College is taking advantage of this, not only with just the large image, but with call-to-action text, too. This captures attention and is perfect for notable events or historically important content. When breezing through milestones these items will be easier to identify because of their size.

University of North Alabama pinning example in FacebookNo, we’re not talking about Pinterest here. Pinning a post means it will remain at the top of your Timeline until you unpin it, no matter how many updates you post afterward. In the image to the right, see the orange graphic in the upper-right corner that denotes that an update has been pinned. While this functionality is especially great for reminders (maybe an admission deadline?) and other time-sensitive content, you should feel free to pin any post you deem worthy. If you want to draw attention to a piece of content you’re proud of for more than a few days, it’s a great tactic. You can, of course, remove the pin at any time, but if you leave it be it will be pinned for 7 days. In the example to the right, University of North Alabama is using it to promote a grand opening ceremony for a new theatre and performance hall.

Add a new historical element to your Page by adding major milestones, the years of which are displayed down the right-hand side. In the example below, The University of Arkansas has added when the University changed their name… way back in 1899! Marshall University is another institution that has updated their history incredibly well. The ability to add photos and stories to these events is the most effective part from a branding perspective. Anytime you possibly can, we suggest adding an image and at least a short brief of what occurred. The more you can say the better, so dust off that ‘history of the university’ book sitting in the corner and spend 30 minutes making your history digital. It’s worth noting that some folks have experienced difficulty with adding events to their Timeline. While you should be cautious, we don’t think these select events shouldn’t prevent you from uploading content.

University of Arkansas Milestone example

The Landing Tab is Gone, Applications are Definitely Not

Facebook Timeline view of app examples

One of the best Facebook tactics is no more. If you’ve specifically designed a landing tab for visitors to see if they haven’t Liked your Page yet, don’t throw it away even though you can no longer use it for that purpose. With a little tweaking to the copy, you can probably still use it as a custom application and possibly feature it in your top four applications that reside at the top of your Timeline. You can show off a total of 12 applications, but only four are visible at one time. Besides Photos, which cannot be moved, the other three applications that show are up to you. From a branding perspective, it’s great to have custom applications in this area if you have appropriate ones developed. Make sure you edit the image for each of those so it’s something visually appealing, like the Events application in the Drew University example above. Users can see the rest of your applications (again, up to 12) by clicking the down arrow on the far right of the application section. An example of re-purposing a previuosly-created application to be used as a landing Page for non-Likers is Texas A&M’s “Howdy!” application, which is now available as the fourth option in their applications section.

Other Changes
Those are the primary changes to the front-end, but there are some additional changes behind the scenes you should be aware of. If you’re a regular user of Facebook Insights, you’ll noticed the way you access them and their layout has changed significantly. Another major change is you can now receive messages from those who Like you, but only if the person who Likes your Page messages you first. This is a huge opportunity to connect with your audience on a much more personal level if you can create an incentive for them to contact you first, such as directing them to an application (applications have their own URLs).

We strongly recommend getting as famiiiar as posible with Facebook’s Timeline for Pages. There are a lot of opportunities to make your institution’s brand even stronger online. If you’re interested in more information, here is Facebook’s PDF on Timelines for Pages.

One Reply to “Branding and Facebook Timeline”

  1. Here’s some data just released today that’s definitely relevant to this post.

    A new Adobe report says Facebook Timeline has helped push engagement up 176% in the first quarter of 2012 compared to a year-ago. While it looks like there are a few reasons for this, none are bigger than Timeline for Pages, and a big part of that is Timeline’s ability to tell your brand story much better.

    Here is the link via All Facebook:

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