The Facebook timeline: 8 reasons why it’s your friend, not your enemy
This is a guest post by Anne Chaconas
Remember how much people griped about the change from cassettes to CDs (“Wait, that thing scratches and then doesn't work anymore? What a waste! Not for me”!)? And then to MP3s (“Wait, you mean I don't even get something with my music on it? It's just on a computer or something? Ridiculous! Not for me!”)?
The latest uproar is about Facebook Timeline.
Look, I get it. When you're addicted to social media (and, let's face it, we are), change is rough. Facebook is like a comfy pair of pajamas–you log in, go to your profile page, look at your feed, and are immediately surrounded by the cozy confines of your online life. Then, suddenly, somebody's taking your pajamas and replacing them with a burlap sack–it's rough, unwieldy, unfamiliar, and scratching you in all the wrong places.
Here's the deal, though: Facebook Timeline is awesome. It really is. And I'm here to tell you why.
1. Timeline lets you make your story available to your Facebook fans with “Milestones.”
As writers, we're all mostly consumed with telling the stories of others. However, our fans might also be interested in something else: our story. Want to note when you wrote your first short story back in the 6th grade? Want to put up a picture of the poem you wrote your mom for Mother's Day back in 1987? You can do all of this, and more.
This is where the timeline aspect of Timeline really comes in. Not only can you add all these events, you can add them on the actual dates they occurred. You can craft a full story of your creativity, one milestone at a time.
2. Facebook Timeline is heavily pictorial.
On the surface, this may not seem like something that matters. Believe me, though, it does. And it's particularly great for authors who, like all artists, are big on sharing images (especially the covers of their books!) and pictures. The previous Wall layout was okay when it came to showcasing pictures, but the new Timeline layout almost gives your page a Pinterest-like feel, with bright, large images dominating the screen and making your page look vibrant and colorful.
Now you can showcase your book covers, locations, and pictorial inspirations, making your page a gorgeous rainbow of color.
3. Your cover image is a wonderful branding opportunity.
You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again: Branding is key. Creating a cohesive image for yourself will allow your fans to recognize you automatically in whatever social network they happen to be. Having the ability to use a cover image (the dimensions of which are 850 pixels by 315 pixels, by the way, for those of you Photoshopping your way along) now allows you to brand your Facebook page in a way that you never could before.
Facebook Timeline lets you add an eye-catching element right at the top of your page, and the more eye-catching an element is, the more likely people are to stop by your page for more than just a few seconds. I must admit, the ability to add a cover image is my favorite aspect of the Timeline (and I love that my Facebook page now matches my website header and my Twitter page.)
4. The “About” section is an excellent marketing opportunity.
The “About” blurb used to be relegated to a small, limited, cut-off box below the profile picture on your page. It was unlikely to be noticed, much less read, by visitors. Now it is featured prominently right below the cover image and profile picture; in fact, it is one of the first places to which your eye travels.
I use mine to talk about my upcoming novel, Salve Regina–and once Salve is out, I'll use it to talk about my other projects.
5. The analytics are off the hook.
At the top of your new Timeline-enabled page, in your new Admin Panel (see point 8), you'll see a section labeled “Insights.” Click on it. Please. Know why? Because when you click on it, you'll see this:
And so much more. You can see how your follower numbers, reach numbers, and general fan outreach has changed. You can see the gender, age, and location of your audience, those talking about your posts, and those you are reaching. Scroll down and you'll see your post “virality”–the percentage of people who have created a story out of things you have posted on your page. You can see how many people have commented, clicked, and shared your posts. This kind of information is essential to figuring out what is engaging your audience so that you can give them more of what they want. The accessibility of these analytics is a huge improvement from the old page layout.
6. You have the ability to receive messages from fans via Facebook “email” right on your page, and you can respond directly to your followers.
This is huge, and brand new. Of course, the negative to this is that the more fans you have the more likely it is that the number of communications will get out of hand–but this new ability to send and receive messages to and from fans gives page owners unprecedented access to their fan base and unparalleled engagement opportunities.
7. You can highlight and feature posts.
Want to make a post really stand out? Highlight it! The post will then span both columns of the Timeline layout, the font and size will increase, your words will jump from the page (of course, you can un-highlight at any time).
Want to feature a post and have it stay at the top of your page so that fans can see it even if you update your page after you've posted it? Use the “Pin to Top” feature and have it become a sticky post at the top of your page for seven days (you can unpin at any time though, in case you want to take it down before then.)
Both of these functionalities are excellent for highlighting good news and for featuring promos, contests, and giveaways.
8. Managing your page is a breeze.
The Timeline Admin Panel is awesome. Everything is one place: interactions, new fans, messages, insights, and even tips.
It's a one-stop shop for all your page needs, and you can hide or show it at will. I love this panel–I almost wish my own personal Facebook page came with something like it!
Change is hard. I know this. Every time I have to throw our a pair of well-worn, beloved pants and replace them with things that haven't yet had the time to shrink in the dryer (therefore assuring me that I'll have that unpleasant “wait-this-doesn't-fit-like-it-did-at-the-store” moment later) I feel the pain of change. But change is also good (and now my pants don't have holes in unseemly places.)
Facebook's Timeline is also good. Embrace it. Take advantage of it. It's not going anywhere, so you might as well. And, I promise, you'll learn to love it.
About this post’s author:
I was born in Central America and educated in the U.S. Northeast. I moved to the Deep South for love and currently live on the East Coast (and miss winter terribly.) My snarky husband, adorable daughter, three rambunctious cats, and two very adoring dogs keep me busy. Salve Regina, my debut novel, will be available this fall. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and Tumblr.