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.
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.
At 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.
Be 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.