It has been nearly a month since Facebook unilaterally changed all existing Facebook Business Pages to a Timeline format. The most pressing need for small businesses has been to find a wide screen format picture to represent their brand as a “Cover” on the mast head of the Facebook Page, (Facebook see the new Timeline as something of a magazine format, hence the terminology of “Cover”), as well as to simply understand how to best use the Timeline style by remembering to highlight important company Milestones, for example.
However, perhaps a much more important Sales and Marketing feature of the new Timeline Facebook Business Page format is the large and central billing of Tabs (now called Apps) below the Cover image. They appear as large buttons that should be used by all smart businesses to drive engagement and sales. Apps therefore, should be viewed as a critical element of design and of course, functionality.
While the Timeline format is thought to be an advance for larger businesses with the code writing a capacity to design fancy Apps that perform useful tasks related to that brand’s product offering, the jury is still out on whether the Timeline format will be good for small businesses. In the recent past, it has been relatively easy for small businesses to have designed good looking Facebook Business Pages that would compete on a level playing field with the big brands, but the bar has been raised and small businesses either need to get more outside help, or consider the use of an easy third party design tool like ShortStack: www.shortstack.com
If a business did not have any Tabs (Apps) on March 30th, then by default the Apps are: “Photos”, “Number of Likes” and a “Map” leaving at least one other Tab, visible and empty and three others, visible and empty, on a drop down menu. Whilst this is not the end of the world, clearly Facebook, (and by default your customers), are expecting business owners to step up to plate and make use these newly promoted Tabs for more interesting purposes.
It is worth considering what you might like to do with your Tabs (Apps). Well, if you run a web shop, you better create A Tab that links to your shop as a minimum. But other Apps you might like to create are: Links to active Video Tutorials about your products, Links to charitable causes that your company might support and Links to active Competitions. ShortStack is a tool that small business can use that will help design Facebook Timeline Pages and specifically provides 63 easy to use templates and numerous widgets for the creation of useful Apps. So for example, if you want to create a competition, or collect e-mail addresses through a sign-up form to your newsletter, or only open up specific content to Fans that have previously “Liked “your Page, (“Fan Gating”) you can. Using ShortStack means you can do this without writing code or employing a third party agency. And because Short Stack know what they are doing, if you run a competition, the chances are that it will be within Facebook strict rules – so that is a bonus!
ShortStack is free to small business with less than 2,000 Likes. And they have chargeable plans for users with many more. The best value plan in terms of scale and functionality appears to be $30/month and you can cancel at any time. But remember, if you do create new Apps, and then cancel- your apps will be deactivated – until you pay again. Well as someone said, there is no such thing as a free lunch (even on the Internet). So if you want to keep up with Facebook Timeline Joneses you will need to run some decent Apps – but take some time to really think about what would make a difference to your business and be prepared to invest a little time and money. You will be glad you did!