Making the Most of Facebook’s Design Change

10 Tips and “Next Steps”

  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.  
While Facebook’s new look has left many businesses in a scramble, migrating to the new, mandatory change need not be accompanied by gnashing of teeth. Armed with insights from web marketing experts, companies will be able to cruise through the upgrade—and perhaps dust a competitor or two—unfazed.

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 on its site 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.

“The new functionality really does appear to have been introduced with brands in mind,” said Pete Goold, managing director of Punch Communications, a marketing firm specializing in search-engine optimization.

Fortunately, getting from here to there is fairly easy, as long as you know the way. Here are the guideposts:

Get Acquainted With the New Start Page: Probably one of the most far-reaching impacts of Facebook’s upgrade is that the design format of every business’s start page (the page visitors land on when they first visit a business on Facebook) will be standardized. Essentially, every business will be required to run a large banner image, also known as a cover photo, across the top of its start page.

“The large cover photo alone presents a fantastic branding opportunity,” said Peter Lee, CEO of web design and marketing firm WireWalkersVA.

Beneath, the business will be asked to work with a number of boxes, organized in a two-column format, which will showcase activity on its page. Some boxes will feature company activity—posts and announcements made by the business, for example. And other boxes will feature visitor activity—their posts, any “Likes” they’ve posted about the company and similar activity.

Facebook is also mandating that each business create a “Timeline” running down the extreme right margin of the start page. This new feature is essentially a vertical list of hot-linked dates, which lead to posts and images chronicling the company’s history.

Use Care Selecting a Banner Image: Facebook sees the banner image as an opportunity for each business to give visitors a feel for the brand, so it’s prohibiting businesses from using the giant image simply to sell stuff. In practice, that means companies won’t be able to post an image with a “50% off” come-on or populate the image with phrases like “limited time offer” or “two for one.” Ditto for including other info, such as an e-mail address, web address or mailing address. Facebook prohibits embedding that kind of info in the banner image.


It’s a welcome relief to scores of businesses that were often previously forced to publicly wrestle customer complaints and pubic-relations nightmares on Facebook walls.

For optimum display, Facebook recommends that each banner image measure 851 pixels by 315 pixels.

Create a Mandatory Timeline: If the company has a rich, interesting heritage, it is in luck. With the aforementioned Timeline running down the extreme right margin of the page, the company will be able to tell its story in words and images. In practice, this will mean selecting a series of “Milestones” in the company’s history, which will appear as hot-linked dates stacked vertically on the right side of the start page.

If the business’s marketing staff excels at this kind of creative storytelling, Timeline may offer the company an excellent opportunity to connect with visitors. “In the end, even those who are skeptical about the concept will find that the new Timeline offers greater connectivity and branding opportunities,” said WireWalkersVA’s Lee.

Pin Important News/Posts Up Top: A new feature called post-pinning enables each company to anchor a post near the very top of its start page for up to seven days. This is perfect for companies looking to add staying power to important company news. 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.

Hide/Delete Unwanted Posts: Warning: With the redesign, Facebook might automatically incorporate old, unwanted posts into a company’s Timeline. Fortunately, Facebook offers a tool that will enable each business to hide or delete old posts that reflect badly on the company or simply need to be removed.

Be Aware of “Visitor Graffiti:” One of the more dicey elements of Facebook’s new start page is that it is so chillingly efficient at tracking what Facebook friends are saying about each company. For good or bad, all those posts will show in an activity box just below the business’s banner photo.

Essentially, a company may spend tens of thousands or even millions of marketing dollars to ensure that its start page on Facebook looks and feels just right. But those considerable efforts can be undone in a nanosecond if my friend Wilbur has a bad experience with the company and posts an especially nasty review about what happened while he is on Facebook. Unfortunately, the way the new start page is designed, Wilbur’s nasty review may pop up front and center in an activity box for any of Wilbur’s Facebook’s friends who happen to visit the business’s Facebook page. Adding insult to injury, Facebook will also post a picture of Wilbur’s smiling—or snarling—face right next to his review.

Ain’t technology great?

Of course, the reverse is also true. If my friend Madeline absolutely adores the company’s product or service and posts that review while on Facebook, her glowing accolade will probably also pop up on the company start page any time any of Madeline’s Facebook friends stop by.

As you might imagine, the graffiti factor has hoards of businesses squirming, both ways.

Consider Private Messaging: As a kind of counterbalance to the graffiti factor, Facebook has introduced company/visitor private messaging with this latest upgrade. The feature enables each company to handle tricky customer-service problems via private messaging. It’s a welcome relief to scores of businesses that were often previously forced to publicly wrestle customer complaints and pubic-relations nightmares on Facebook walls.

Of course, if a company would rather not handle customer complaints in this way, Facebook enables it to eliminate private messaging altogether.

Say Goodbye to Custom Landing Pages: In another controversial move, the latest Facebook redesign no longer allows businesses to create custom landing pages. Every visitor who clicks to a business’s Facebook presence is automatically routed to its start page. No exceptions.

More than a few firms are grousing about this particular mandate, given that many had spent considerable time and money coming up with stunning custom landing pages that worked just fine, thank you, under Facebook’s previous design format.

Check Out the New Admin Panel: Virtually every aspect of a company’s Facebook presence can be managed and monitored from the new Admin Panel. Here, company personnel can work with page and privacy settings and engage in private messaging with visitors. They can also monitor visitor activity with Admin Panel, including who’s “Liking” the company’s brand.

Get More Help: There’s plenty of help available for companies looking to migrate to Facebook’s new look and feel. Facebook offers its own help center at Plus, scores more advisories are available by typing “Facebook Timeline Help” into any search engine.

Joe ysart is an Internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan. Voice: 646-233-4089. E-Mail:

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