March 30th approaches! For the uninitiated—or those who’ve ignored the alerts Facebook has been sending—that’s the day all Facebook business pages will switch to the new Timeline format. And, like it or not, if your law practice has a Facebook page, you’re going to have to figure out how to handle the changes. (If you don’t have a business page, you need to figure out why not.)
If you spend any time at all on Facebook, by now you’re familiar with Timeline on personal Facebook pages. Actually, it’s quite spiffy. You get to dress up your page with a “cover” image, and arrange and display what used to be your “wall” in a variety of ways—with a lot more flexibility. With Timeline on your business page, it’s going to be much easier to look like a pro and have some control over your message.
A Few Quick Steps
For a smooth transition to Timeline, start here—before March 30th.
- Get a sneak peak. Fortunately, your existing business page now has a “Preview” button, provided by Facebook, which you can use to see how the look-and-feel of your page will change when the design update kicks in. (Don’t worry, once you push “Preview” only you will see the page with its new look—for now.) The biggest change you’ll see is the transformation of your wall into a timeline, with updates appearing on both sides of a vertical central line. Also, in addition to your small “profile picture” you’ll see a large blank rectangle at the top, into which you can now drop a ”cover photo” for your law firm. More about this later.
- Take the tour. While in preview mode, you can get the complete and detailed tour of your own impending page by clicking on the “Admin Panel” button (directly under your name in the top-right corner of your page). Click “Help,” then “Take the tour.” You can just click through and read about the possibilities, or you can use the interactive tour instructions to take care of the basic overhaul in one sitting. Save any fancy stuff until later. (You can also get to the preview and tour here.)
- Dig into your page data. When you clicked on “Admin Panel,” you may have noticed an interesting drop-down panel with some very cool information—all about your page. Click around and get to know it. You’ll learn who your friends are, statistics about the number of ”likes” you’re receiving, who is reading what, when your posts are getting re-posted, and so on. This is “command central” for you as the administrator of the page. You’ll probably find yourself here regularly, checking to see how things are going and identifying opportunities.
What’s to Like? Plenty
Change is always a pain. But with Timelines’ features, creating a decent branded page is certainly less of a headache. (No more workarounds!) Here’s a look at some favorite features.
- Easy cover changes. With this big cover photo spot at the top, it’s easier to make a big splash with your firm’s brand message. It is the first image your visitors will see when they click to your page, so give it a lot of careful thought. (And know that Facebook, like your state bar, has some guidelines you’ll need to follow.) You’ll want to get a little technical and check the specs for that image before uploading. Otherwise, it will look stretched or squashed or just plain crummy. But don’t stress if you’re torn over which image to use as a cover. It’s as easy as two clicks of the mouse to change it.
- Pin away. One of the very nifty not-to-be-missed things you’ll learn during the tour is that you can “pin” a particular post to the top of your timeline so that it will be seen first by visitors. Lots of possibilities here. Milestones—special boxes that can be used to commemorate special events like a name change or merger or big win—can be inserted into the Timeline, too.
- Post freely. Previously, messages or posts from businesses had been restricted to appearing on the Facebook news feeds of people who liked your firm page, friends of those people and, of course, on the wall of your own page. Now, however, you will be able to post to the walls of any other pages, and the message will be identified as coming from your business page. That means you can be proactive and post to as many pages as you’d like under your law firm name. Used gently, this new freedom to post to the walls of other Facebook users makes promotion on Facebook a lot easier. But remember, gently. Others can post to your page, too. Be sure to check your settings if you don’t like that idea.
Even More Options
By now, you are probably sold on Timeline, or at least on its flexibility. Just do a little homework and you’ll get a better understanding of the philosophy behind Timeline and some powerful communication concepts to guide your design choices. And who doesn’t like examples? You’ll find some yummy ones here. If you’re a real gearhead and you want to go wild, head over to Facebook’s Developer pages (you know where they are) for more technical information than most people could safely use. Even if you’re not a propeller-head, you’ll find these social plugins intriguing.
In the end, though, it’s still all about traffic and the ability to interact. The only way to continually attract attention to your law firm’s Facebook page is via constant updates to it. With images. Lots and lots of images—and videos. Fortunately, you can post to Facebook as frequently as you’d like. Generally speaking, Facebook users won’t consider that annoying. After all, those who “like” you are clearly saying they are interested in what you have to say. Just be sure it’s interesting!
If your firm doesn’t have a Facebook page and you’re still reading this, right now may be an excellent time to dive in. Early Facebook adopters have the advantage of an established social network of friends, but in terms of presenting your firm’s message, Timeline levels the playing field.
Merrilyn Astin Tarlton has been helping lawyers and law firms think differently about the business of practicing law since 1984. She was a founding member of the Legal Marketing Association, past President of the College of Law Practice Management and an LMA Hall of Fame inductee. She blogs about innovation at www.astintarlton.com.
Internet consultant and writer Joe Dysart contributed to this post.