Mastering Facebook's Redesign
by Joe Dysart
June 01, 2012 —
In the most fundamental terms, The Great Facebook Migration of 2012 represents a move by the digital hangout to standardize the look and feel of every business page on its network. Essentially, Facebook wants every business to be able to express what’s happening with its brand right now—as well as the heritage behind that brand—all on a single page.
Specifically, the new look enables brands to serve up a giant image to establish an overall look and feel for business. Plus, businesses can now feature the history of their firms, communicate privately with visitors, pin important posts to the top of the page and more. Fortunately, getting from here to there is fairly easy, as long as you know the way. Here are the guideposts:
Navigating Your New Home Page
Probably one of the most far-reaching impacts of Facebook’s upgrade is that the design format of every business start page—or the page on which your visitors land when they first visit you on Facebook—will be standardized.
Essentially, every business is required to run a large banner image, also known as a cover photo, across the top of is start page with a recommended measurement of 851 x 315 pixels. Facebook sees this as an opportunity for you to give visitors a feel for your brand or photography business. Therefore, it’s prohibiting businesses from using the giant graphic simply to sell stuff (which means you won’t be able to post an image with a “50 percent off” come-on, or populate the image with phrases like “limited time offer” or “2-for-1.”) Ditto for including other info, such as your e-mail address, Web address or mailing address.
The good news is that many photographers see the new banner image as a huge advantage. “I love the fact that now my images are front and center,” says Tracy Dietrich, owner/photographer of Dietrich Photography (www.facebook.com/tracydietrichphotography), which specializes in babies, kids and high schoolers. Dietrich’s banner photo is a collage of her favorite portraits.
“I typically change out the banner image seasonally,” Dietrich says. “It’s much easier than updating my Web site, and with the collage, I can show my seniors and kids portraits all at once.”
Beneath the banner, you’ll be asked to work with a number of boxes, organized in a two-column format, which will showcase activity on your page. Some boxes will feature your activity—posts and announcements made by your business, for example. Other boxes will feature visitor activity—their posts, any “Likes” they’ve posted about your company, and similar activity.
Create a Mandatory Timeline
Running down the center of your home page is Facebook’s Timeline. This new feature is a vertical list of clickable, hot-linked dates that lead to posts and images chronicling your business history.
If your photography business has a rich, interesting heritage, you’re in luck. With Timeline, you’ll be able to tell its story in words and images. In practice, this will mean selecting a series of “Milestones” in your business’ history, which will appear as hot-linked dates, stacked vertically.
If you excel at this kind of creative storytelling, Timeline offers you an excellent opportunity to connect with potential customers. For example, Dietrich tells the story of her business in posts and pictures chronicling the evolution of Tracy Dietrich Photography since 2009.
Pin Important Posts Up Top
A new feature, post-pinning, enables you to anchor a post near the very top of your start page for up to seven days. This is perfect for photographers looking to add staying power to important news—such as links to a shoot that went especially well. Plus, it can keep a special offer or sale top-of-mind for visitors for an extended period of time. Such posts, like all other posts, can also include images.
“Because you can easily switch back and forth between your business and personal page [on the left-hand column of your homepage], it’s easier to share posts, photos, access information, tag, etc.” says Kathy L. Phy of New Smyrna, Florida-based KL Phy Photography (www.facebook.com/KLPhyPhotography). “The notifications to your page are also helpful—it used to be so frustrating when you’d notice [a post] months later that you weren’t able to respond to. Also you can opt to get push notifications to your cell phone.”
Phy’s top-of-page has a box devoted to sample photos, a map to her business and a hefty collection of her own “Likes” to convey that she’s firmly rooted to the Facebook community.
“I post most things that go on my business page also on my personal page, but not vice versa,” she says. “People who may be my friends or new friends will probably look me up on my own name; if I’m posting the same content on both pages, maybe they’ll check out my business page too. And it’s really nice to have access to the back-end site for Insights and notifications.”
Hide or Delete Unwanted Posts
Warning: With the redesign, old unwanted posts may automatically be incorporated into your Timeline by Facebook. Fortunately, Facebook offers a tool that will enable you to hide or delete old posts that reflect badly on your business, or simply need to be removed.
Simply hover on the post in question until the “pencil” icon appears in the upper right, click on the pencil and then select either “hide from page” or “report/mark as spam.” (Check out Facebook’s help center page, “Monitoring Page Posts” for additional tricks.)
Be Aware of “Visitor Graffiti”
One of the more dicey elements of Facebook’s new start page is that it’s chillingly efficient at tracking what Facebook friends are saying about your business, good and bad.
If, for example, I visit your business page and a friend of mine has made a negative comment about your business, I see my friend’s comment in the “friends activity box”—whether or not you want me to see it.
If there’s not much of this kind of activity on your page, you’ll at least be able to see the negative comment in the activity box on your page, and try to respond to it with your own post.
“Once during a time of intense personal difficulty, a client wrote on my wall, ‘when are my pictures coming?’” Phy says. “I just responded in the comments area something like, ‘sorry for the delay, working on them and will be right to them.’ It if had been something awful, I would have contacted the client personally and let them know I was going to delete it—I feel very strongly about communication with the client.” And in some ways, a negative comment allows you the opportunity to show a client how much you are willing to rectify the problem.
However, if there’s a great deal of this kind of activity on your page, with dozens of comments scrolling through this activity box each day, you may miss the negative comment altogether. The only way to combat it is to be vigilant about checking the “Notifications” feed in your Admin panel.
Consider Private Messaging
As a kind of counter-balance to the graffiti factor, Facebook has introduced company/visitor private messaging that enables you to handle tricky customer service problems. It’s a welcome relief to scores of businesses that were previously forced to publicly wrestle customer complaints and pubic relations nightmares on Facebook walls.
Of course, if you’d rather not handle customer complaints in this way, Facebook enables you to eliminate private messaging altogether. On your business page, click on “Manage” in the upper right corner, then “Edit page.” Select the “manage permissions” option on the left hand column, then scroll down on the page to “Messages” and simply uncheck the box.
Analyzing Your Traffic
Virtually every aspect of your Facebook presence can be managed and monitored from the new Admin Panel. Photographers looking to understand the overall performance of their page will appreciate the “Insights” box located in the Admin section, including page analysis with metrics to measure visitor activity.
The pink bubbles in the “Your Posts” metric, for example, represents the number of posts your page published each day. Meanwhile, “Reach” measures the number of unique people who have seen any content that is associated with your page—including any ads or sponsored stories—during any selected date range. “People Talking About This” counts how many ‘Likes’ your page has received during a selected date range and also includes in that count the number of people who have commented on your page, answered a question you’ve asked, or signed up for one of your events. This same metric counts the number of mentions your page has received and the number of times your page has been tagged.
To take it a step further, by opening the Insights box and clicking on the individual categories listed horizontally across the top, you can get specific demographic and location information.
Speak Now, or Forever Hold Your Peace
Though there’s been plenty of positive feedback, the new Facebook has its fair share of complaints. Holly Ann, owner/photographer, Holly Ann Photography (www.facebook.com/hollyannphoto), who specializes in weddings and seniors, feels the new design is needlessly complex, and can be disorienting. If potential customers “get frustrated trying to find that information on my busy Facebook Page, I’ve lost a client,” she says.
Meanwhile, Oahu, Hawaii portrait photographer Shiyana Wainscoat (www.facebook.com/OahuPortraitPhotographer) wishes she had more control over blog integration and cover image size. “In the past, I was able to link my blog posts to Facebook,” she says. “Each time I blogged, the post would automatically appear on my Facebook page. Unfortunately, they seem to have dropped this feature, so now I have to manually link to each blog post.”
As for the cover image: “Presently, only certain images work for the cover image due to its size restrictions,” Wainscoat says. “I would also like to move the location of the profile photo, or hide it altogether when needed.”
Get More Help
While you can chose to love it, hate it or remain steadfastly ambivalent, Facebook’s design change is a fait accompli; the only choice is to soldier on. Fortunately, there’s plenty of additional help available for photographers. Facebook, for one, offers its own help center (www.facebook.com/help/pages). Plus, scores more advisories are available by typing “Facebook Timeline Help” into any search engine.
“As someone who didn’t grow up with Facebook, I was reluctant to embrace social media until recently,” Wainscoat says. “However, after seeing the impact Facebook has had on my business, I feel the time spent on it is worth it. Since switching over to the new design, I have seen a spike in clients—at least 20 percent—who have contacted me for photo sessions.”
Joe Dysart is an Internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan. He can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his Web site www.joedysart.com.
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