How news brands can get started on Facebook Timeline

On Wednesday, Facebook debuted Timeline for pages. This new design and setup has been available on profiles for awhile and now it is coming to your news account pages. While this is an optional changeover for now, all pages will convert to this new design on March 30, so it gives you a little bit of time to get your pages ready for primetime.

 What does Timeline change?

Timeline brings a whole new look and feel to your Facebook page on the front and back ends. The biggest change in appearance is the addition of the cover photo – an 851 x 315 pixel banner image across the top of the page. Converting to this new design will also rearrange your page in a timeline format, with all status updates and important milestones ordered in a tree fashion by date.

There are changes on the admin side of these pages as well. In the top right of your screen, you’ll see a button that says “Admin Panel” – click it to find your analytics and page controls. You’ll also have a few new options on this admin panel, including an ability to see banned users from your page, a log of user and admin activity on your page and (finally!) a place to send and receive private messages from your users.

 

What you need to do now

Ivan Lajara, a community engagement editor at Digital First Media and Life Editor at the Daily Freeman in Kingston, N.Y., offered a great deal of the following steps and tips for local news outlets to get started on Timeline.

 

1. Select a cover image

With an image this big (dimensions are 851 x 315 pixels), you have a lot of options. You might opt to include an insider photo of your newsroom or employees, as the New York Times did (above). This might also be a good spot to highlight an excellent local photo from your staff photographers or a historic image from your archives.

You might also opt to ask your fans what they’d like to see in that space — or even ask them to submit photos to feature there, as the Daily Freeman has on their Facebook page.

Note: This image isn’t set in stone, so you can change it as often as you’d like. One thing you shouldn’t do is use your brand’s logo or masthead here – that’s what the square profile photo (which will still show up as your image around Facebook) is there for. Also, Facebook’s TOS prohibits using this place for advertising or to shill for Likes, not that you’d do that anyway.

 

2. Write a good description for your page

Your description is a bit more prominently featured now, so be sure to write a snappy bit about your publication here. Edit this space by clicking on About.

 

3. Arrange your apps to highlight the most important ones

Your photos, likes, videos and any apps/contests you had are now displayed as images below your cover photo. You have the ability to feature 10 apps in total, but only four are displayed above the fold. In this space, you should highlight Photos, Likes and two apps.

You can move these featured apps around by hitting the arrow hovering near them on the right. Hover over the app you want to move and click the pencil button that shows up in the top right corner. From here, you can select what app you want to swap in.

Note to Digital First newsrooms: Ivan suggests you highlight SeeClickFix, Obituaries (Legacy has built-in app) Ustream/Livestream, etc.

 

4. Add a milestone or two to your Timeline

You can do this by going to the status update box (now on the left instead of the top) and clicking Milestone. An obvious one to start with might be when your publication began. Fill in the date and any info you’d like, along with an image if you have it. You might also add in some big events that occurred in your area in the past, such when you launched your website or notable local happenings just to get started. Upload an image of your publication’s old front pages or a historic photo to mark the occasion.

You can highlight photos or stories from the page or fans by making them fill both sides of the timeline. Do this by hitting the Star button on any post. This looks great with photos!

Ivan’s tip: Go back and add dates to the images you’ve already posted to the page by clicking the pencil icon on the image. You can’t tag a current image with a date older than when the Facebook page was created. At least not from the photo. You have to go to the Timeline date, add and event and THEN tag a photo (or cover or front page) to it.

 

5. Pin a top post

You can pin any of your postings to the top of the page by clicking on the top right of the post on the pencil icon and hitting ‘pin to top’.

Ivan’s tip: This is a great way to highlight stories that haven’t gotten as much attention as you’d like or to bring attention to the biggest item of the day.

 

 6. Hide embarrassing, outdated, or negative posts by you and your fans

One major upside/downside of Timeline is that is makes it easier to find past posts by you and your fans. Check over your timeline for past posts you might want to hide from view for any number of reasons. To hide one from view, click on the pencil icon and select “hide from timeline”.

Right now, page administrators can hit Preview (on the top of your page) to make all these changes without anyone seeing them. If you are a page admin, you’ll see the new page, but you can see how everyone else sees it by clicking into “Until you publish your Page, you can see your old design any time” at the top of the preview screen (below).

 

Publish your changes along the top of the page when you’ve completed the basic steps. Have fun!

 

For more info on Facebook Timeline for Pages, check out this helpful post from TechCrunch.