If you are reading this, you’re probably wondering what to do now that Facebook drastically changed their layout and business page guidelines on April 1, 2012. Well, you are not alone, and so far, the reviews about the changes have been mixed.

One complaint individuals and businesses often have about Facebook, or any other social media platform, is that it changes too frequently. Indeed, when it comes to social media, it seems that every week there is a new contender, new platform or new update to manage.

The fact is, Facebook remains the standard and is still one of the most powerful tools businesses can use to reach their audience. If you understand Facebook’s ideology and motivation for taking such drastic measures, you will be able to effectively utilize this medium.

It’s interesting to note that Facebook was never intended to be a promotional tool for companies. Instead, it was a place for people to connect with each other. Only later did it adopt the concept of pages for businesses, and only then so companies could interact directly with their target market. While businesses were able to tweak the old Facebook pages to work for their promotional efforts through landing pages and like gating, the new Timeline ensures that companies must post fresh content often and make a concerted effort to reach out to fans in order to remain relevant on the site.

After you read this, you will be able to take advantage of the new features to connect with your audience on a more personal level – the way Facebook originally intended, and the way that will ultimately make Facebook a successful marketing medium for your business.

Choosing a Cover Photo.

The cover photo is the photo that stretches across the top of the Facebook page with dimensions of 851 X 315 pixels. The cover photo should be high quality and a good representation of your brand. However, it’s also a great opportunity to let your creativity shine. Some companies have chosen this space to showcase photos of their products while others simply fill the space with a graphic bearing their name, logo and slogan.

When choosing your photo, keep in mind that Facebook policies forbid cover photos which contain:

  • Price or Purchase Information
  • Contact Information
  • References to Facebook Features or Actions (i.e. No “Like Us!” requests)
  • Calls-to-Action
  • False, Deceptive or Misleading Information
  • Any Infringement on Third Parties’ Intellectual Property
  • Set a Profile Picture.

This is the photo that will be shown next to any of your status updates, comments or other posts in the form of a 32 X 32 pixel thumbnail. It will also be shown on your main page in the size of 180 X 180 pixels. You need something that will be clear and easy to identify both in its full size and when scaled down – such as your company logo.

Organize Your Views and Apps.

Below your cover photo and profile picture is the standard About section. Next to this section will be a link to your Photos section with a thumbnail of the most recently uploaded or tagged photo. The About and Photos sections cannot be moved, but you do have control over the order in which your other apps are displayed. You can display up to 12 apps here.

Star, Pin, Hide and Delete.

When posting information to your Timeline, there will be some stories which you may deem more newsworthy than others. After posting such a status, photo, video, event or other such item, you can hover over the post and you will see two icons – a star and a pencil. By clicking the star, you can “highlight” the story. That is, the post will stretch across both columns of the Timeline and thus command more attention. By clicking the pencil, you can pin an item to the top of your Timeline for up to seven days. You can also choose to hide the item from your page or, if you choose, delete it off your page entirely.

Enable Audience Messaging.

If you so choose, the new Facebook layout also allows you to enable private messaging. This is great for addressing customer service issues that you’d rather address privately rather than publicly on your page. This is also a great opportunity to receive feedback from your fans.

Add Milestones.

If your business has reached a specific goal, earned an award, released a new product or experienced some other notable achievement that you’d like to share with your audience, you can use the milestone feature. Milestone images are 843 X 403 pixels and can be created for current or past events.

“Now is the time to leverage Facebook Timeline”

Other companies will lag their feet updating their design, and utilizing all of the features. You now have the opportunity to leverage Facebook timeline and tell your business story in an engaging way. Use Facebook’s new updates to achieve brand consistency, introduce calls-to-action and build an active following. Now go and experiment with the layout and features so you can find the best ways to use them for your company. Good luck, and don’t forget to use visuals!