Since the middle of last year Facebook has been undergoing a series of changes. Many of these improvements are rather dramatic and easily apparent. Along with excited anticipation they also elicit the kind of grumbling complaints we have heard time and again from Facebook users who find themselves inconvenienced by these changes, much like how one would gripe when he discovers that someone suddenly rearranged his workspace while he was away.
But for businesses that seek to harness these new Facebook features, it is important to recognize the underlying reasons for these modifications. More important still is to understand how these changes affect your business. The first thing you must realize is that these changes have been made for a reason, and that reason has nothing to do at all with helping you conduct your business.
Take Facebook's new Reach Generator, for example. A report last month on Tech Crunch (http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/29/facebook-post-reach-16-friends/) revealed that a post from your Facebook profile reaches, on the average, only 12 percent of your Friends. Then comes the introduction of Reach Generator (https://www.facebook.com/business/fmc/guides/reach) a premium application that lets you reach and engage up to 75 percent of your Friends and Fans. In other words, if you're buying Likes and other means of generating traffic toward your Facebook Page, you will be wasting 88 percent of your resources. Unless, of course, you spend for Reach Generator.
It's the end of the free ride for brands seeking to reach out to their Fans. From hereon, businesses will have to pay in order to get their marketing messages to their target audiences.
On March 30, Facebook will impose its new Timeline layout on company Pages, making your business Page "the richest, most customizable marketing canvas ever created." That gives you the rest of this month to get to know the new layout and how it can best serve your business. There are numerous other sources that discuss the intricacies of the new Page layout, such as Houssem Daoud's excellent post (http://socialmediatoday.com/houssem/464293/how-get-best-out-new-facebook-pages-design), so I will not echo these here. Instead, I will focus on specific features that have a direct impact on how you will conduct your social media marketing initiatives on Facebook.
Facebook has eliminated the unique landing tab and in its stead has instituted a 851 x 315 pixel cover photo that lets you convey your brand image. But there are limitations, lest this feature quickly degenerate into a billboard of sorts. You are not allowed to include price or purchase information, your contact details and any calls to action. Facebook claims that these restrictions encourage businesses to behave more like people as users interact with these pages. But at the back of our minds we really cannot shake off the feeling that this has more to do with leveraging revenue opportunities for the social network. Whatever the case, the large photo provides an excellent opportunity for your business page to make good on that all important first impression with prospects and visitors.
Apps and Tabs
Right below the cover photo, Facebook lets you display a maximum of four apps or tabs. The Photos tab is permanent, so you are actually left with three tabs you can configure to display the apps or information of your choice. You can actually have more than four apps, but the rest can only be accessed by clicking the button on the right of the app tabs. As useful as this may seem, you will be better off limiting yourself to three apps to be displayed within this area. The rest will be hidden and the chances are slim that users will bother to dig deep into your selections to explore what other goodies you may have. This may not be a bad thing, as it will force you to focus and use this feature wisely.
Pinning and Highlighting
You can now pin important messages to the top of your Timeline, where they can stay up to seven days. The timeline also allows you to highlight certain posts, displaying them in larger placeholders than normal. You can only pin one post, but you can highlight any number of posts. You cannot combine pinning and highlighting, it's either one or the other. You are also allowed to create 404 x 404 pixel visual ads for pinned posts and 843 x 403 pixel ads for highlighted posts. These features are very useful if you want to draw the visitors' attention toward important marketing messages.
Wider Page Width
Apps now have more space within which to operate as Facebook has increased the maximum width from 520 pixels to 810 pixels. Existing apps that are fixed at 520 pixels will float toward the middle of the page, but eventually expect newer apps to take advantage of this additional real estate.
Direct Messaging is an optional feature that allows users to send messages to companies through the Page, without having to be displayed within the Timeline. Besides allowing you to keep your Wall chatter positive, this feature lets Facebook compete with Twitter for the customer service space.
Facebook lets you separate the backend features and management functions by including a new admin panel. One of its primary functions is to allow the designated administrators to read direct messages sent by users through the Page. It also provides access to configuration parameters to manage Page settings, allowing you to manage everything from one place.
With half a month left, you need to get started with changing your Facebook Page. It may be a cause of anxiety for you to have to migrate to the new system, but it might help to think of these challenges as opportunities to beat your competition to the punch and harness the marketing power of the new Facebook.
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