Six tips on how to implement the new Facebook Timeline

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If you manage your union’s Facebook page, you’ve no doubt noticed that Facebook pages have looked a bit different from 30 March. This is because there’s now a new type of Facebook page layout, called “Timeline”. It’s a major change to how Facebook works for organisations, and if you’re not making the best use of this new layout, then you’re missing out on some important opportunities.

Broadly speaking, the Timeline means that unions can’t use the “landing tabs” any more to funnel visitors to like the page or sign up to email lists. However, the new design also helps non-profits like unions to create a coherent story and narrative by adding major events and milestones for the union (e.g. founding, mergers, and major victories and campaigns), as well as photos and videos.

Lance Armstrong - Livestrong Facebook Timeline

One of the best non-profit implementations of the new Facebook Timeline is Lance Armstrong’s cancer charity, Livestrong. Livestrong was an early adopter of the Timeline, and they’ve really made amazing use of the layout, benefiting from a strong visual brand to engage and draw in visitors.

Go and visit the Livestrong page to see how they use Facebook to engage supporters with strong calls to action and powerful, consistent design.

The Humane Society of the United States - Facebook Timeline

The Humane Society of the United States demonstrates how non-profits are using the timeline to mark momentous and significant historical events — and unions could do this kind of thing very easily. Major victories like the Eight Hour Day, OHS Laws, the Rights at Work campaign or successful bargaining campaigns like CleanStart could all feature in the new Facebook Timeline.

Because the new Facebook Timeline is now active, your union communications team should be looking at the new features and starting to make changes.

Recommendations on getting the most out of your new Timeline

Here are a few of my suggestions on how to get the most for your union out of the new Timeline:

1. Sit down and plan it out

There are some very useful resources available for non-profits that unions should read carefully before jumping in to the Timeline. You should understand how the changes impact on your social media plan, and how the person (or people) who administers the page will work. I’ve written before that your union’s social media plan should be an actual plan, so take the time to revise it and figure out the workflow for updating your page.

2. Read the guides

Facebook has a lot of useful advice: their Timeline ‘about’ page and their FAQ/Help page. While there’s a temptation to just dive in, the advice from Facebook is genuinely useful, and there’s a lot more examples of well designed and planned Facebook Timelines for you to get inspiration from (mainly corporate ones).

Visit your existing page — and if you haven’t created a proper Timeline “cover”, you should ask whether the page as it is works in the new format, and if not, what needs to change.

In addition to the Facebook provided resources, social media site Mashable has a good post on preparing your new Timeline, including links to advice on creating covers.

3. Drop your default landing tabs

One of the major features of the old Facebook pages, which I promoted in my e-book and elsewhere, is now gone. This is a shame, because it was a great tool. In most cases, without this tab being made a default, you should just scrap it.

Replacing the default tab is a new feature called “pinned posts”, which are updates that remain at the top of your Timeline. You can consider these your new landing tabs — but they only stay pinned for seven days. This means you can still prominently display a call to action, but it also means you’ll need to think about what it will change to every week. A good part of this is that it makes you think about how you are going to engage visitors and get new likes.

4. Profiles and covers

If you have a graphic designer on hand, get them to do you up a fantastic cover image. If you don’t have one, your do-it-yourself approach should focus on using an amazing, inspiring photo. Check out the SEIU’s Facebook Timeline (by clicking on “photos”, you can see all their old cover photos).

Here’s a good list of 30 creative Facebook covers and a Google search will reveal many more. Bear in mind that there are rules about what can appear on a cover — e.g. no buttons, calls to action or arrows pointing to the “like” button.

5. The new Admin dashboard

There’s a brand new administrative dashboard for Facebook page admins to get a snapshot of your fan activity and other data.

Facebook Admin Dashboard

This dashboard is designed to help you make your page more engaging for fans and visitors — and if you need some more advice on how to use the new Timeline to resonate with your fans, check out this good guide. A neat feature is the user activity log, which shows all of your posts, posts on your wall by others and when your page has been tagged in a post.

6. Administrator communication

Many unions will have multiple people operating their Facebook account — whether you’re a national or federated union or have offices around Australia (or whatever country you’re in). There’s now some useful tools available to page admins to help you communicate as a team with your fans, using the Page identity. This means that rather than responding to your fans as “Joe Bloggs”, you can now leave replies or messages as “Union X”.

Have you updated your union’s page to the new Timeline? Do you have any good examples of union Facebook Timelines? Leave a comment.

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