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How to Tell Your Brand Story through the New Facebook Timeline

The new Facebook Timeline format will officially be applied to all business pages as of March 30, 2012, but some businesses are already experimenting with the feature. Reactions are mixed, but as content marketers, we are thrilled.

We think the timeline format offers a great opportunity for brands and companies to tell their story in a more authentic, visually compelling, and streamlined way. The new format offers businesses a bigger canvas on which to paint a picture — and lots of great new storytelling features.

Provides a megaphone

Content marketing is all about storytelling, and the timeline allows businesses to share some of their history (including historic photos, documents, and company milestones) with the public in a way they might not have done before. This gives people a glimpse into what businesses are all about and helps build a deeper relationship between companies and consumers. Social media has given brands a voice, and these enhanced storytelling options give them a megaphone.

Levels the playing field

This new focus on storytelling opens the doors for more companies and brands to engage with their customers and reach new ones through Facebook. The Timeline creates a more even playing field. Now, even small, local businesses, such as dentists, florists, and lawn care companies, can more easily create content that will sustain a community. In essence, Timeline gives businesses a template and an opportunity to share how their story has progressed through the years.

Promotes transparency

At Sprout Content, we implemented the new timeline option right away and got excited at the prospect of our company’s history beyond what’s on our website’s About page. For companies with interesting personal histories and backgrounds, Timeline allows that story to be brought to life in a succinct and visually interesting way. It also lets brands highlight the milestones of a company built in a pre-Facebook time. 

Not sure where to begin? Here are 5 new features that businesses can use to tell their story through the new Facebook Timeline, and examples of a few companies already doing a great job.

The Timeline cover photo

The Timeline cover photo feature provides a good amount of real estate (an 851 x 315 pixel banner) across the top of your page where you can create more branding with more impact that symbolizes what you are all about. A vibrant cover image is the first thing people will notice when visiting your page. It offers a great opportunity to create a visual display of what your business is about, and capture attention right from the start.

Some cover ideas include:

  • Pictures of your retail store or business office
  • Visuals of customers using your products or services
  • Historical snapshots
  • Pictures of popular menu items (for restaurants, bars, spas, salons)
  • “Before” and “After” photos (for contractors, salons, decorators)
  • Your company logo
  • Staff members and/or company founders
  • A photo montage that represents your brand
  • A mosaic of your fan’s photos

Check out what a few big brands created for their cover photos:

Keep in mind that Facebook has also instilled guidelines of what you cannot feature on the cover, such as coupons, calls-to-action, discounts/special offers, downloads, website addresses, contact information, or encouragement to “like” the page. Here’s the full list of guidelines for Facebook cover photos.

The About section

Tell your story in a sound bite. The ABOUT section isn’t new, but it’s now even more prominent, located right under the profile picture. This space allows people to quickly understand what your business is about. Keep it brief and include keywords and your website URL. This nugget of information can include important company branding, such as a mission statement, tagline, or customer service contact.

Company milestones and history

Bring your story to life. The Milestone or Composer feature is the most important new tool to help you tell your story and highlight important milestones in your company’s past. Dig in the archives and rediscover your company’s history. Share your company’s founding date, historical documents and photos, name changes, the first customer order, original logo or website, new products that changed your business and other occasions that tell the back story of your business.

Here is what Coca Cola has to say about its new Timeline: “The Coca-Cola Facebook Page is a collection of your stories showing how people from around the world have helped make Coke into what it is today.”

Check out these fascinating company histories and the dates to which they go back:

Tabs and apps

Choose your most engaging apps. While apps still exist, they look different in Timeline and will be shown in thumbnails underneath the cover photo. Three tab “apps” can be featured in addition to photos, which appear first by default. You can show 12 apps in total. The thumbnails can link to things such as your photos, number of fans, a map, custom welcome, blog, email sign up, or other promotions. The apps you feature can be changed by clicking a dropdown arrow menu. Hover over the place where you’d like to put an app and click the pencil icon that pops up, then choose the app you’d want to swap into that space from the menu.

Here is an example of how Livestrong is using the apps section.

Star and pin posts

Draw attention to your most important posts with these great new features:

“Star” or highlight posts. When people visit your business Timeline, they’ll see a range of stories published by your business, friends, and those stories from other users that received the most “likes” and comments. They can choose how to see the content organized on a page by Highlights, Friend Activity, Posts by Page, and Posts by Others.

Starring or highlighting a post expands it to the entire width of your timeline, drawing special attention to it. So think about which posts you’d like to stand out the most. Also, when you’re working on your company history, think about which posts you want to star/highlight that are most important to telling your company story.

Pin posts. Emphasize crucial updates by pinning one post to the top of your page, which keeps it at the top of your Timeline for seven days. Pinning lets businesses control what visitors see first and draws attention to a specific post, such as engaging content, a special offer, a new photo, link to a blog post, or a promotional app you want to feature that week.

Pinning something to the top of your page ensures it doesn’t get buried by more recent updates. This feature is great for communicating timely or newsworthy information about a recall, new launch, new business hours or a change in conditions that affect your business or an upcoming event.

The new Facebook Timeline for business pages is transforming the way brands communicate and tell their story through the social media platform. Has your company implemented the new Facebook Timeline yet? What ideas do you have to tell your company story? I’d love to hear about it!