Tag Archive for facebook

8 Sources of Inspiration for the New Facebook Timeline

The new Facebook “Timeline” layout for Pages rolls out for everyone — like it or not– on March 30, eight days from now. Are you ready to go? Here are eight ideas and sources of inspiration to get you thinking.

1.) Choose a cool cover image. The most visually striking feature of Timeline is the new cover image at the top of the page. This image is an opportunity to show visitors to the page something unique and gorgeous about you. When choosing this image I think it is especially important to think of new visitors who have not yet liked your page and do not yet potentially get your updates through their News Feeds. Karine Joly at collegewebeditor.com compiled a list of some example cover images from early adopters in higher ed.

For inspiration outside higher ed, I look no further than Cupcakes by Heather & Lori. Of course, the subject matter works in their favor. You can’t go too far wrong with cupcakes! But I love the idea of seasonality here, with their Easter cupcakes on display. Shows the potential fan what is interesting now.

screenshot of cupcakes Facebook page

This idea could definitely work in higher ed, around the academic calendar, around sports seasons, etc. Even the standard quad building beauty shot could benefit from a sense of season.

2.) Let your students provide your cool cover image. As much as I love our professional photographers, I think the cover image provides a new opportunity to showcase user-generated content.

screenshot of University of Rochester Facebook cover image with libraryAt the University of Rochester, we’ve been running a homepage feature for about three-and-a-half years called Photo Friday. Students, faculty, staff, and alumni (even the occasional parent) submit photos and we choose the best to run as the large homepage photos every Friday. Visitors to the site vote on their favorites over the weekend, and on Monday we announce the favorite. We always post both the homepage gallery and each week’s winner to the FB page, so why not make the winner the cover image for the remainder of the week?

3.) Provide your fans with their own school-themed cover images. I love this idea from Arizona State. They provided ASU-themed cover images for their Sun Devil-crazed alumni and students, all sized up and ready to be used by their fans on their own profile pages. Such a great way to allow your fans to show off their school pride to their Facebook friends.

BTW — the cover image dimensions are 851px by 315px. You can upload a larger photo than that and Facebook will allow you to slide it around to position it as you like.

4.) Use custom cover images for your apps. Facebook tabs are a thing of the past in the new Timeline. They’ve kinda been a thing of the past for awhile though, relegated as they were to links along the left side as opposed to the true tab interface.

I never used a default landing tab other than the Wall, so I’m not very familiar with how those used to work. But in the new Timeline, tabs have a new life as apps. And each app has its own thumbnail image. There are default images (and labels) provided by Facebook, but you can change these images to align with your graphic identity or to just stand out more. This video describes how to manage and edit apps custom settings. 

screenshot showing CBS news logo in place of Fast Facts icon on FacebookBe warned: there seems to be some kind of bug in apps/tabs made with FBML. On the UofR page, for example, it keeps replacing the custom image I added to our Fast Facts page with the logo from CBS News. Also, at their developer’s conference in 2011, Facebook announced that FBML would no longer be supported starting on Jan. 1, 2012, and that FBML tabs and applications would cease to function on June 1, 2012. So something else to worry about, then.

5.) Link to your livestreamed events from your Facebook page. Cornell’s Alumni page includes a link to the Livestream.com Facebook app in its line of Facebook apps, which I think is awesome. It allows users to watch a livestreamed event while logged into Facebook — right on the school’s Facebook page — and invite their Facebook friends to join the livestream. This feels like a great way to allow for word-of-mouth communication about your live online events.

6.) Use milestones to stitch together a narrative. The new milestones feature allows you to go back in time and create Facebook posts from your school’s past. Honestly, I don’t know how much time someone who is already a fan of your page would spend clicking back through decades of milestone posts. But if you stay focused on a particular narrative and get a little creative, you can have some fun with these. For example, LSU uses milestones to track the history of their many tiger mascots, going back to “Mike I” in 1936. A fan page for a specific sports team could post a milestone with the records/stats from every season, creating a kind of almanac within Facebook and making their page a real informational resource for fans.

7.) Highlight posts to showcase great art or fans’ posts. The left-right/back-and-forth layout of the Facebook Timeline takes a little getting used to, but the Highlight feature I think makes it worthwhile. When you highlight a post, it breaks free of its left or right side of the page and spans the whole page, giving a really great photo a chance to shine.

One thing I have not gotten the hang of yet though is the fact that fans’ posts to the Wall are relegated to this “Post by Others” ghetto off to the right. I’ve already missed two questions posted there by parents of admitted students, finally replying days later. Not cool. You can highlight Posts by Others, but they are still stuck over their in their box. In the past when people would post questions to the Wall, I would sometimes re-post them so that fans would potentially see them in their News Feeds and weigh in. It will take some getting used to, but the new layout right now makes it harder for this admin to keep on top of these.

8.) Pin a post to the top of your page during important points in the academic year. Timeline allows you to “pin” a post to the top, so it doesn’t get pushed down when new items are posted. I think this concept works particularly well with higher ed’s academic calendar. Sending out your early decision letters and expecting a potential flood of new fans or visits to your page? Why not pin a “Welcome, admitted students!” post to the top of your page that week, with a link to the “Class of” group. Moving-in day coming up? Pin a post linking to a check-off list of last-minute things students should bring, accompanied by a fun video of current students showing how to pack.

Well, that’s all I got! Have you run into any other inspiring Timeline ideas, or are you working on any yourself? I’d love to hear more about them in the comments.



Facebook Class of 2015 Groups: Deja Vu All Over Again

For the third year in a row, a corporate entity — this year, RoomSurf — has established more than a hundred misleading Facebook groups designed to attract members of incoming freshman classes. The groups have no real affiliation with the universities they pretend to represent, though that is hard to tell by just looking at them.

Check out today’s New York Times for an overview on RoomSurf and the Class of 2015 Facebook groups.

Back in the day (and by that I mean 2008), Facebook groups were grassroots efforts started by people who actually shared a common interest in something. Our admissions office would allow groups for the newly admitted class to emerge from amongst the students themselves. That changed in the wake of these “Facebook-gate” shenanigans; our admissions office now creates official Facebook groups for our incoming classes.

Of course, if RoomSurf or any business has a product or service to promote on Facebook, they are perfectly free to do so. Students — like all sentient beings — are marketed to all the time. What is objectionable in this case is the disingenuousness of RoomSurf’s tactics. Call my hopelessly naive, but if their services are cool, useful, affordable, etc., then why not promote them with the honesty and authenticity that is supposed to exemplify social media, rather than stooping to what feels like a cynical con game?

So what to do in the wake of all this?

1.) Create your own Facebook groups for incoming students and create them early. Last year, our admissions staff created a Class of 2014 group after the URoomSurf group was already established and had attracted over a hundred members. It took a little while, but the official group eventually far outstripped the bogus one, with over one thousand members. This year, admissions created the Class of 2015 group in July, and it already has a nice head start on the RoomSurf group, with 145 members to their 28.

2.) Make your group is the “place to be” with lots of fun and valuable content and participation from your own student staff. This probably goes without saying, but as an authentic voice for your students your group should have a whole lot more to offer your incoming class than any RoomSurf group could. Make sure your group is monitored, questions and problems are addressed quickly and honestly, and students get a chance to interact with each other around some fun content only you can provide.

3.) Steer people to your group with posts on the bogus group’s site and posts on your main university fan page. No need to get angry here, tempting as that may be. Just a simple message like, “This group was not established by University staff or students. The group at [LINK TO YOUR GROUP] is maintained by University students and staff in the Admissions, Residential Life, and Student Life offices — come check us out!” should help to clear up confusion your incoming students may have as to which group does what.


Thumbs Down to Facebook Dislike Button

On Tuesday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg posted an open letter describing some upcoming changes to Facebook.

The changes involve updated privacy settings and the discontinuation of regional networks (read the open letter here). But judging by the comments, it’s not privacy settings that most users care about.

What the users really want is a dislike button.

This past February Facebook unveiled its “Like” button, which allows friends to give each others’ status updates, Wall comments, photos, etc. a big thumbs up. There is no corresponding thumbs down button. And it seems Facebook users don’t like that one bit.

Here are some typical comments:

please dude make a “dislike” button! everyone wants it!

BUTTTT………Dislike button pleasssee mark!!!

a fail button!

dislike button- hello!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

dislike button!!! thatd definitelyyyyy be awesomeeeeeee!!!

(By the way, the second most commonly requested feature based on these comments? Customizable background graphics/wallpaper and music. MySpace, in other words.)

I vote thumbs down on the dislike button. Its proponents say they need the ability to say that something sucks. And I know we can all learn positive lessons from negative feedback. But I feel like there are already many, many venues to express our dislike of something. Facebook is supposed to be about sharing and connecting, or asking questions.

We’ve certainly had legitimate criticism and negative comments posted to our university’s Facebook page — and that’s totally fine and appropriate. But imagining how a dislike button would affect higher education pages is a bit depressing. What would happen if I posted, say, the upcoming Glee Club concert (sorry, Glee is on) and it’s met with a fistful of downward facing thumbs? Total bummer, man. A dislike button would make it that much easier to toss off a thoughtless, hurtful diss and could turn a community of “fans” into a much sadder place to be.

So no dislike button for me. And no wallpaper while you’re at it, please. I dislike wallpaper.