Facebook Page Timeline Tips for Authors

So, as of March 30th, every page on Facebook will be rolled over to the new Timeline format currently being used on personal profiles. It’s no use complaining; Facebook has mandated the switchover. While all pages will switch over on the 30th, you can actually get started now on designing it and using the Timeline feature for your page. But for authors, here are some critical tips to make the most of the new format.

1. Choose a great cover photograph. The measurement for the new page cover photo is 851 pixels wide by 315 pixels tall. But be advised: your cover photo must NOT have any of the following:

i. price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it on socialmusic.com”;
ii. contact information such as a website address, email, mailing address, or information that should go in your Page’s “About” section;
iii. references to Facebook features or actions, such as “Like” or “Share” or an arrow pointing from the cover photo to any of these features; or
iv. calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends.”

Any of that stuff is expressly forbidden by Facebook.

That said, your cover photo can really make a great impression. It should be sharp, illustrate who you are as an author (and more if you happen to have a good platform) and include a nice eye-catching graphic. Here’s the cover photo I had my graphic design guru do up for my page:

Since my platform is “writer, producer, ninja” it was important to me that I convey each of those items through a visual cue. So, you have a screenshot of The Fixer website, me doing some ninjutsu, and then book covers for my various recent works. My logo is front and center and my name is prominently displayed. I think it works very well and comments have been great. Having the cover photo with Timeline gives you far more real estate to make an impression than the old page layout, so be sure to use it to get people excited about your writing! The overall design also ties in with my website design – brand continuity is very important!

Finally, your cover image is also clickable, so be sure to put up a description there that helps sell yourself and your work. My cover photo description reads: “Find out more about my books here http://amzn.to/lawsonbks (for Kindle users) and http://bitr.ly/lawsonv (for Nook users) and be sure to visit me at http:///www.jonfmerz.net & on Twitter @jonfmerz” It’s one more opportunity to engage new and old fans alike so don’t forget to use it!

2. There’s no longer a tab you can set as your default landing page, so anyone coming to your page will see the Timeline feature. Make sure if you’ve got posts or comments in your timeline that you don’t like that you delete them and clean things up.

3. FBML is going away in June. For a while now, FBML (Facebook Mark-Up Language) was a simple application you could add to your page and create a sort-of custom website on it, using HTML etc. Well, Facebook has decided that FBML is obsolete and they’re switching everything over to iFrames now. What that means is if you have any custom tabs (say, “Subscribe to My Newsletter” or something like that) they will stop working in June. So the best thing to do now is to replicate those same tabs using iFrames. How do you do that? Pretty easily, actually: grab the Static HTML iFrames Tab Application and add it to your page. Now you can take whatever HTML coding you had on your FBML tab and move it over to the iFrames tab. After previewing the new iFrames tab and making sure it works like it should, you can delete the old FBML tab.

One thing, FBML used the same CSS style sheets that Facebook uses and inherited all those font qualities, etc. The new iFrames tab does not, so your stuff is going to look different until you set the font size and face to the same as your other pages. You can set the CSS style directly on the iFrame app tab when you insert the rest of the old FBML code. iFrames actually gives you a LOT more creative control over what you want the tab to do, so take some time to learn how to maximize it. I’m not going to run through how to do that here, but it’s something you’ll want to explore to get the most functionality out of your new page design. (I’m still in the process of redesigning my page anyway, so it would be premature of me to offer up advice when I’m still figuring it all out!)

4. Hello Data! One of the coolest new features when you implement the Timeline design on your page is the incredible amount of information Facebook gives to page administrators about who is viewing your page, liking it, post popularity, etc. This is fantastic because it lets you see immediately how much your posts and engagement with readers is registering. Say you write a post about your recent book coming out for sale: with the new data feedback, you can see how popular it actually was. It takes a certain degree of guesswork out of trying to quantify your reader engagement. The results are right in front of you. It might be slightly disconcerting to learn that your throwaway joke about Snooki and the Mayan calendar had more viral impact than talking up your latest thriller, but it’s also good to know how your demographic responds to you.

Here’s a screenshot of my admin panel that displays on top of my cover photo (you have the option to hide this – see the upper right button there?) Check out the small square that says “insights.” If you click on “see all” you’ll be whisked away to a page with incredible detail. But here’s the cool thing about even that small screenshot: I’ve been sick lately two times. Guess where those two dips in my engagement data fell? Exactly when I was feeling like crap and didn’t post very much or otherwise engage. As a result, my reach dipped, people weren’t talking about me, and the page just sort of died in terms of excitement.

Why is this data so important? Because as much as you might like to lock yourself away and live out that “writer hermit” fantasy, the truth is you’re in business. You sell ebooks, or books, or both. And as such, you need to know what your audience is doing, how they’re responding, and how to engage them – that is, if you have any hope of making a long-term career out of this stuff. So Facebook has graciously given you oodles of information to help you improve your business. Seriously. Some of you will no doubt roll your eyes and employ that old excuse, “I don’t have TIME to look at all of this stuff, I’m a writer.” Great. Well, if that’s your excuse, then so be it. Some other writer will quickly grasp how this data can give them a leg up on you and then proceed to decimate you in sales. This kind of intelligence is gold, people. Use it or lose it.

I’ll have another post next week discussing more ways to make your page better. But for now, get out there and start creating some kick-ass designs!

And by the way, if you find this post useful, come swing by my Fan Page and say hello!

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