The Infosec Vendor’s Guide to the Facebook Overhaul

Photo credit: Lev Radin/
Photo credit: Lev Radin/

While Facebook’s new look has left many IT security firms in a scramble, migrating to the new, mandatory layout changes need not be accompanied by gnashing of teeth. Armed with insights from web marketing experts, you’ll be able to cruise through the upgrade – and perhaps dust a competitor or two – unphased.

Migratory Patterns

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”, says Pete Goold, managing director with Punch Communications, a web marketing firm.

Tom Bukacek, CEO at Black Box Social Media, another web marketing firm, is less impressed. “Quite frankly, the spacing issues and the way some of the photos look on Facebook isn’t really that impressive”, he observes. “I’m amazed that while Facebook claims to be going in the direction of photos, Google+ seems to really be crushing them when it comes to pictures.”

Love it or hate it, the fact is that all businesses with pages on Facebook will be forced to deal with its latest [timeline] design change. Fortunately, getting from here to there is fairly easy, as long as you know the way. Here are some guidelines to show you the way…

Get Acquainted With Your New ‘Start’ Page

Probably one of the most far-reaching impacts of Facebook’s upgrade is that the design format of every business profile page – the page your visitors land on when they first visit you 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 is start page. “The large cover photo alone presents a fantastic branding opportunity”, says Peter Lee, CEO of WireWalkersVA, a web design and marketing firm headquartered in New York.

Maryland-based Tenable Network Security, for example, uses an arresting image of a backlit globe and shadows of IT workers for a cover photo. BalaBit IT Security out of Budapest, goes for a sleek city shot populated by slick IT security honchos. Greece’s Trust-IT embeds a small image of the globe in an abstract form.

"While Facebook claims to be going the direction of photos, Google+ seems to really be crushing them when it comes to pictures"
Tom Bukacek, Black Box Social Media

Beneath the cover photo, 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 company, for example. Other boxes will feature visitor activity – their posts, any ‘Likes’ they’ve posted about your firm, and similar activity.

Running down the extreme right margin of your start page, Facebook is also mandating that you create a ‘timeline’. This new feature is essentially a vertical list of hotlinked dates, which lead to posts and images chronicling your company’s history. There will be more on this in a moment.

Use Care When Selecting a Banner Image

Facebook sees the banner image as an opportunity for organizations to give visitors a feel for their brand. So it’s prohibiting businesses from using the giant image simply to sell stuff.

In practice, this means you 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 ‘2-for-1’. Likewise, you are not able to include other information such as your email address, web address or mailing address within this space. Facebook prohibits embedding these details in the banner image.

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

Create a Mandatory Timeline

If your firm (IT security or otherwise) has a rich, interesting heritage, then you’re in luck. With the aforementioned timeline running down the extreme right margin of the page, you’ll be able to tell your company’s story in words and images. This will mean selecting a series of ‘Milestones’ in your company’s history, which will appear as hotlinked dates stacked vertically on the right side of your start page.

If your marketing staff excels at this kind of creative storytelling, then the timeline may offer your 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”, says WireWalkersVA’s Lee.

Pin Important News and Posts up Top

The new feature, post-pinning, enables your company to anchor a post near the very top of your start page for up to seven days. This is perfect for businesses looking to add staying power to important company news. Plus, it can keep a special offer or sale at the forefront of visitors’ minds for an extended period of time. Such posts, like all other posts, can also include images.

Network Security Group of Charlestown, Massachusetts, for example, pins its monthly newsletter near the top of its start page. PSA Network Security, based in Westminster, Colorado, posts press releases up top. Furthermore, Robridge Network Security in Meridin, Connecticut, offers quick posts on the myriad benefits of pro-active network security.

It’s important to note that a consequence of the redesign is that 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 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 your company. Whether good or bad, all those posts will show in an activity box just below your banner photo. The box is put there by Facebook, and your company has no way of removing it.

"Even those who are skeptical about the concept will find that the new Timeline offers greater connectivity and branding opportunities"
Peter Lee, WireWalkersVA

Essentially, your company may spend thousands of marketing dollars ensuring your start page on Facebook looks and feels just right. But all this effort can be undone in a nanosecond if a customer has a bad experience with your IT security firm, and posts an especially nasty review about what happened while s/he is on Facebook. Unfortunately, the way the new start page is designed, the nasty review may pop up – front and center in an activity box – for any Facebook friends who happen to visit your page.

Adding insult to injury, right next to said review, Facebook may also post a picture of the reviewer’s smiling – or snarling – face.

Isn’t technology great?

Of course, the reverse is also true. A customer that absolutely adores your product or service, may post a review while on Facebook, and the glowing accolade will also probably pop up on your company start page.

As you might imagine, the graffiti factor has left many businesses a little gun-shy.

Consider Private Messaging

As a counter-balance to the graffiti factor, Facebook has also introduced company/visitor private messaging with this latest upgrade. The feature enables your company to handle tricky customer service problems via private messaging. It’s a welcome relief to scores of businesses that previously were often forced to publicly wrestle with customer complaints and pubic relations nightmares on Facebook walls, according to Punch’s Pete Goold.

Of course, if you’d rather not handle customer complaints in this way, Facebook enables you to eliminate private messaging altogether.

Say Good-Bye 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 your Facebook presence is automatically routed to your 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 under Facebook’s previous design format.

Check Out the New Admin Panel

Virtually every aspect of your Facebook presence can be managed and monitored from the new Admin Panel. Here, you can work with page and privacy settings and engage in private messaging with visitors.

You can also monitor visitor activity within the Admin Panel, including who’s ‘Liking’ your brand. “From a research and review viewpoint, the new Admin Panel is much more user-friendly”, says Goold.

There’s plenty of help available for companies looking to migrate to the new look at Facebook’s help center.

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