Love it or hate it, Facebook's new Timeline format is great for business pages! It's visual, it's easy to use and there are a lot of unique ways you can use it to promote your organization.
Plus, Timeline generated a buzz of renewed interest in Facebook at a time when some users were maybe starting to get bored with this particular social network.
For business owners, your Facebook Timeline page is like having a big interactive ad promoting your company 24 hours a day, much like your website.
Unlike your website, your Facebook Timeline page is extremely dynamic and can be redesigned daily, with input from you, your clients and your fans with every comment and picture posted.
But let's back up a little.
The first step in creating a successful Facebook business page is to design or post a compelling cover photo. The cover photo is the first thing people see when they visit your business page. It should be an image that people will remember, one that draws the eye and speaks to the heart of your business. Remember, your cover photo image can't have any obvious sales pitches (like us to win, save 50%, get a great deal, etc.) but it can contain your logo or words pertaining to your business. It can be one strong image or a collage of pictures.
The next step is to go to the admin panel and click 'Manage' so you can adjust your settings and permissions, as well as filling in the basic information about your company. Don't forget to upload a profile picture. This is the image that will appear every time you make a post, upload a picture, comment on someone else's post, etc.
Also under 'Manage' you can add and delete administrators and manage your apps.
Spend some time looking around this part of your page. You might be surprised at some of the interesting and useful things you find.
While you're on the admin page, take note of the 'Messages' field. This is where people can send private messages, rather than posting them on your public page.
The key to getting the most out of Facebook for your business is to keep your content and your page fresh by:
- Posting regular comments, updates and photos
- Encouraging friends and fans to add their comments and photos to your page and share posts from your site with their friends.
What exactly does 'regular' mean?
You don't have to be on Facebook every hour of the day, but you should be updating your status daily. You should spend some time checking out other people's FB pages and making comments of your own a few times a week. You should definitely respond to any comments, questions or messages posted to your page as soon as possible, just like you would any other e-mail or phone message. To be sure you don't miss anyone, go to 'Your Settings' and set up automatic notifications to be sent to your e-mail whenever someone posts, comments or sends a message to your page.
What should your posts look like?
It's tempting to use your status updates to advertise your products and services, but if people just feel they are being 'sold to' all the time, they will quickly lose interest in your page.
Better to provide interesting tips and information related to your products and services without actually selling all the time.
In fact, the best way to promote your business is to get a conversation going that draws people to your Facebook page and keeps them there for a time.
If people like your posts and your Facebook page, they will remember you the next time they need what you are selling.
This doesn't mean you can't advertise upcoming sales or promote aspects of your business on Facebook, you just shouldn't do it with every post.
The biggest downside of the Timeline format is the loss of the so called 'fan-gate' welcome page that allowed you to offer incentives to visitors to encourage them to like your Facebook page. Of course, you can still try and encourage people to like your page, but the big draw of the fan-gate was that the visitor had to click 'like' to gain entry to your main page. It almost made you feel like you'd joined an exclusive club.
Without the fan-gate, you are forced to become much more creative in finding ways to earn 'likes' and get people talking about your page.
The upside is, the welcome page you already have doesn't have to be discarded, it can be converted into an informative app that visitors to your Facebook page can view whenever they want.
Take advantage of Facebook's built-in options to make certain posts stand out.
'Pin to top' keeps one post at the very top of your Timeline. Only one post can be pinned at a time and it only lasts for seven days, but it is a good way to promote upcoming sales or other events. Of course, you can 're-pin' an item if you really want to keep it at the top longer than a week.
'Highlight' stretches a post across both Timeline columns. More than one post can be highlighted at the same time and it lasts indefinitely, however, highlighting doesn't keep a post at the top of your Timeline. It will move down as newer posts come in.
Both pinning and highlighting can be undone any time you want.
One of the great things about Timeline is that it gives you the chance to lay out the entire history of your business, highlighting important anniversaries and milestones that occurred along the way. Look at the status bar where you should see an option for adding Events, Milestones and Poll Questions to your Timeline.
Poll questions are a great way to generate conversation. You can solicit feedback on your products and services or ask customers what they thought of a recent promotional event. You could ask a question just for fun or to start a conversation.
One last piece of advice: make important information easy to find.
One of the main reasons people visit Facebook business pages is to find specific information about that business or organization. If visitors can't easily find your web address, e-mail address, phone number or whatever it is they are seeking, they aren't going to spend much time looking for it before they move on.