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Brands - You Have Two Weeks to Sort Out Your Facebook Page

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Facebook will force through the switch to the new timeline-based brand pages on 30 March. This means that if you're one of the 29 million brands with a Facebook page that haven't yet made the switch over, then you have two weeks. Given the inevitable diary clashes / design tweaks / approval procedures etc... I'd say that makes today just about the last day you can start to do something about it and still be ready in time.

So, what do you really need to know? It's pretty simple - you know that lovely like-gated homepage app that neatly transferred 80+% of page impressions into likes? Yeah, you can't use that any more. Instead, people are going to come straight to your wall where the default settings are that they will be able to post publicly to your timeline. You can change all this (including the default visibility of user generated posts), in the "manage permissions" section of the your admin interface but this shift in emphasis immediately raises a serious question, does timeline becoming the landing page affect your commenting policy? Will people expect a greater level engagement if your default "engagement space" ie your wall is now the landing page of your Facebook presence?

So, action 1:
Get a meeting in place with whoever is in charge of approving the commenting policy on your Facebook page, explain how the changes might affect expectations and see how that affects your policy. This is probably where you bring up the new private messaging button and work out whether you have the capacity to respond to the expected weight of messages.

By getting rid of your landing page you also have the problem of how to push people towards your apps as these are usually where the interesting stuff happens on a page. Underneath your new header image (discussed later) you will have five boxes. The left-hand two boxes can't be changed. These are an "about" box (roughly 24 words over three lines fit in the preview) and a "photos" box. The remaining three boxes can be populated with whichever apps you want though it stands to reason that you go from left to right in order of importance. There are 12 app spaces in total, accessible via a dropdown menu though I'd hazard a guess that click numbers on those applications not immediately visible from the homepage will be dramatically lower.

Action 2:
Sort your apps out. Get a meeting in place with the team that deals with your apps and start to prioritise.

The new layout is designed to be much more visually arresting than before with much more scope for image / video content. This is great from a brand perspective as I always struggled to get the old Facebook pages to look impressive but it does throw up a minor headache - you've got to get all your template images re-designed. Content-wise, again it's very simple. The cover image can't include the following: calls to action (i.e. "buy it here" or "like us"), contact information (web address / phone number etc...), or price / purchase / discount information. Other than that the content rules are all the same.

The new layout also includes two new additions that change how you deal with content. "Starred" (or milestone) posts give you a big visual canvas to work on and highlight whatever the post is by extending it to a full page in width, whilst "pinned" posts stay at the top of your page regardless of whatever else you publish (This can be a good way of driving people to key apps.) So, what all this means is:

Action 3:
Get a meeting in the diary with whoever is responsible for the design / branding approvals in the company, talk through the design changes (with a designer) and work out what creative use you can make of the new layout. To speed things up, here are the new image sizes (in pixels)

Cover Image - 851 x 315
Profile picture - 180 x180
Small version of profile picture (for when you publish to your wall) - 31 x 31
App icons (for use in the menu under the cover image) - 111 x 74
Starred / milestone posts - 843 x 403
Pictures within wall posts - default to 404 x404

And that's pretty much it. Three meetings in two weeks, some design work, some thinking around engagement policies and some more thought around priorities. I genuinely think that March 30 will throw up some fascinating results. Brands that get the transition right could win big but those that rely on cool apps and try to keep people away from the wall at the moment could really struggle.

My gut instinct is that it will change the current dynamic, and for the better. Forcing brands to engage with people up front has to be a positive move, and for apps / deeper content to be worth that extra click, they will have to add even more value, thus raising the standard, driving more engagement with the platform and creating a virtuous circle. Of course I could be wrong...