If you’re like most Small Business owners, your Facebook Page stood the same way today as it will tomorrow. However, Facebook has changed your Page to the new Timeline format whether you, I or your customers like it or not. Actually, they did so on March 31, 2012. Facebook is not where I engage my target audiences primarily so all I do is typically syndicate curated content and self-published content to our Facebook Page (like my blog posts and tweets), but for many Small Business owners it is currently their main Social Media hub. (My Facebook Page with all of 26+ Likes would have stayed the same, except that I posted a coverphoto to my Facebook Page in anticipation of writing this post today.) I am writing this article to educate you about the good, the bad and the ugly (sorry, there’s not much good here) of Facebook Timeline, in hopes of providing you with a small business strategy to leverage the change to benefit your bottom line.
Let’s start off with the good. As the statistics from this recent Webinar hosted by HubSpot and presented by Chris Luo of Facebook [PDF] notes, Facebook Timelines can really benefit certain kinds of business with its “a picture is worth a thousand words” perspective. You can really hone in on your business’ value through focus on making your complex processes easily understood and making them into simple infographics or a storyboard for your target audience. As a consumer, I want to know how you source your materials, what’s new in stock, or how you manufacture your product if I’m interested in your business, and now you can show me in a beautiful chronological format.
As I noted in my recent comment to the Mashable article, “3 Reasons Facebook Brand Pages Are Good for Businesses,” Facebook doesn’t have consumers or brands’ best interests in mind with the changes they’re making. They have their bottom line so that they appeal to their new shareholders as their company becomes engrained in the Wall Street market of Old World economics. No offense against investment brokers and big-time financiers on Wall Street, but over here on Main Street, we have relationships that are far more than money in our businesses since so many small businesses are family-owned and operated, invest in our communities and depend upon healthy referral relationships with other local businesses to survive and thrive. Social Media is a great democratizing agent and Facebook is asking the wrong people to grow their business by wedding themselves to big business and big money. Okay, so enough waxing philosophical. I’ll give you the plain reasons why Facebook Timeline disadvantages many of us:
- You will have to make time to post lots of substantive, rich images and videos to captivate your target audience if you intend on making any impact;
- Posting at least daily is requisite now (whether curated or original content) or you won’t get enough penetration on the valuable and fleeting attention of the Newsfeed of your customers;
- If your business is not photo- or video-friendly (think about oncologists, waste management services, accountants, lawyers and more that have to depend upon stock imagery as opposed to images of their clients, products or services), you’re out of luck. More on this later.
- Become very well-aware of the rules surrounding what you can and cannot post as a coverphoto. Your coverphoto has some very strict rules about its content; see Facebook’s Help response to whether a coverphoto can continue explicit sales copy or information. As well, coverphoto images are really difficult. If you’re not tech-savvy, you should reach out to your graphic designer or Web developer ASAP. I rarely like to tell people that you can not do-it-yourself (DIY), but in this case, DIY-ers beware! If you don’t understand pixelation, a PNG from a JPG from a GIF, and how compression works in photo files, you’re going to be frustrated and end up with bad coverphotos.
Your business must tell a captivating story that appeals to your potential customer. Then it must repeat that story’s theme again and again with new stories about your product or service with your customer as the protagonist. Answer their question: what’s in it for me? Here’s a simple, yet effective strategy to make good use of the Timeline platform for great storytelling if you’re currently using (or planning to use) Facebook as your Social Media hub:
- Get photo- and video-friendly. Over the next couple of months, talk to your photographer and videographer friends, your graphic designer and other creative professionals. If you have a camera built into your phone, you’ve probably got all the equipment you need. As the great photographer, Ken Rockwell, once wrote, “the camera’s only job is to get out of the way of making photographs.” I’m assured by experts say the same goes for video.
- Get your coverphoto up and syndicate all your Social Media activity to the Facebook Timeline, especially your blog. Wait? Blog? What? You don’t have one! Exactly. If you don’t have a blog as a Small Business, and you’re using Facebook, you are wasting your time. I know this is counter to many Social Media and other Web “gurus” but would you rather own your business or rent it from a large corporation which can shut it down at any time? Well, that’s how Facebook operates. If Facebook goes away, your Social Web presence goes away and you lose it all without recourse. But, since I’m writing assuming that you’re going to continue with Facebook Pages, back on the coverphoto. See my advice above about reaching out to your creative professionals to get that coverphoto up with a few extras to be able to change them at least monthly (and weekly if you have regular retail sales or new products going into your store). I like the idea for retail shops to have 12 coverphotos themed for seasons or holidays, and use the Timeline photos and videos posting as new stock, sales and other offerings come up so your audience can get the first notification of it there on your Facebook Page.
- If you’re a professional services business and you’re not photo- or video-friendly, launch your blog. I recommend that you look at using WordPress and not worry so much about visual branding until you’ve gotten the basics of consistently posting content. Create a calendar and map out who’s creating content and when, then block out the time in your calendar required to make it happen. Further, find other bloggers that are marketing alliances and engage (comment/respond) on their blog posts weekly to daily. Prioritize this time; it’s worth it.
- Diversify content. Back on Timeline, continue to post diversified, substantive content consistently (with the five types of recommended content being photos, videos, text-based posts, questions/polls, and curated content with links to pages on your website and others) on Facebook telling the stories of your business.
- Add your Founding Story. Think of this as a more robust “About Us” page on your business’ website.
- Schedule time to visit your Admin Panel. At least weekly or perhaps more, log into your Admin Panel and review your statistics. Why weekly or more often? Because you’ll be posting daily, remember? 😉 It’s imperative that you stay on the pulse of traffic and see how that traffic and engagement are performing at driving customers to your website. As you see what works, capitalize on that data.
Facebook is here to stay for a while; I give them another five years of popularity. They have lots of Web traffic and lots of users who are likely also your consumers. Facebook Page Timelines is here, new and slightly daunting. However, quoting The Beatles iconic lyrics, “with a little help from [your] friends,” you’ll get through this and survive to see Facebook change yet again. Be consistent with your Social Media content and your customers will thank you with their engagement, community support, and purchases. Oh, and Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will Social Media build you a sales pipeline of any great magnitude until you’ve proven your mettle in the sea of abandoned Facebook Pages.
- How Facebook’s New Features Affect Your Business | Social Media Today http://ow.ly/a2r1g
- 10 Reasons Business Blogging is Better than Facebook [Infographic] | Social Media Today http://ow.ly/a2r3K