Building a Facebook Timeline for Higher Education

So what does the roll out of Facebook Timeline mean for higher education beyond bigger pictures and a new way of doing things? Plenty.

Colleges and universities around the country are always searching for better ways to tell their story. They struggle with the simple ways to talk about all they have going on. Timeline takes great strides to make it easier.

Timeline streamlines the brand experience into a scrollable story. It allows administrators to craft that story in ways the old wall never would.

The trick is that building that story takes time and effort. So while administrators have until March 30 to make adjustments as to how their timeline will appear, it’s best to start now. Here’s five quick tips to get you started while still in preview mode:

Select a Sweet Cover Pic

The cover pic is the most visible change to a Timeline-enhanced brand page. It’s bold and big — 851 x 315 pixels, to be exact. Use every last pixel to be creative and demonstrate the vibrant nature of campus. Do not take this opportunity to share another photo of a girl studying under a tree. We’ve seen that shot before.

Remember the rules: Cover pics cannot contain contact information, calls to action or references to other Facebook features. Essentially this means administrators can no longer put an arrow pointing to the ‘like’ button to increase a fan base.

Arrange Applications and Customize Appearance

Custom applications used to be banished to a small list on the left of a page where they were hard to organize and harder to find. No longer. The new Facebook Timeline allows administrators to add up to 12 applications to a page and selects the first four to highlight front and center.

These highlighted applications take up some prime real estate and there is no reason not to capitalize on that fact. Administrators can customize the images for each app (beyond the photos and videos) by editing the settings for each individual application. New images need to be 111 pixels high by 74 pixels wide.

Pin the Most Important Content

Seems pinning is the latest rage, even on Facebook. Timeline allows adminisrators to “pin” certain content to the top of a page for up to seven days before it falls back into place. It’s a great feature to highlight specific content and, in turn, push down content you’d rather not have people see.

Get Visual with Content

Most research on Facebook suggests photos are more engaging than the traditional status update. So why not get more visual? The new Timeline increased the size of common photos and allows certain posts to stretch across the page.

If Facebook is going to allow page admins to extend an image all the way across the page, use it when the time is appropriate.

Go Back in Time

History and tradition run deep at most colleges and universities and the “milestones” feature of Timeline is a great way to demonstrate it. Set milestones to define the key moments in an institution’s history. The milestones are added to a date selector running down the right side that tells the story of a school established long before Mark Zuckerberg built Facebook.

Adding milestones may take some time, but the rich content it adds is worth it. Special tip: Opt out of publishing each milestone to the feed you don’t want to flood fans’ streams as you build a school’s story.

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22 Responses to “Building a Facebook Timeline for Higher Education”

  1. Great post! I converted our Facebook page to a timeline format today, and love how more articles are seen at once. There are a few glitches, however. First, when I post articles that have featured pics, the pics aren’t showing. Hopefully this is just a temporary issue that Facebook will fix. Also, posts are showing more prominently on the right side if a friend also liked or commented on them. This is fine in theory, but it means that sometimes really old posts are looking new again. We had one of our students wonder if she missed a holiday party. Maybe we should have thrown a Leap Day party to make it up to her!

    February 29, 2012 at 7:35 pm
  2. As usual, you rocked it with this post.

    March 1, 2012 at 3:09 pm
  3. Thanks, Eric!

    March 2, 2012 at 9:54 am
  4. Great coverage of these changes and how to take advantage of them! Visually, the new timeline looks more appealing. Much more immersion into an organization’s brand than the old format. And I think being able to “pin” an important post to the top is a nice touch.

    I’m curious to hear your thoughts about the loss of landing tabs. Big deal? No deal? Personally, I thought that was a great feature. It allowed you to have some control over the first impression for non-fans and provide a “welcome” experience for them, in some way.

    One thing that I think it’s important for all page admins to keep in mind is that most fans consume a page’s content in their own news feed, not on the page itself. So while the changes in design are significant, most of your fans will still see your posts in the same way they used to.

    March 7, 2012 at 7:53 am
  5. Mark,
    Great point about the loss of the default landing tab. I was a big fan. Traditionally we saw double the traffic to our custom tab than to our wall. I’m curious to see how that pattern may change now that custom tab is given less prominence, at least in our page’s structure.

    March 7, 2012 at 8:15 am
  6. This is a great post, thanks so much. The point about pinning is especially helpful. Could you tell me how you were able to “get” the timeline design for your page? I am able to do it for my personal profile page, but not for my school’s page. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

    March 7, 2012 at 11:11 am
  7. This is an excellent post in regard to the ways that higher education universities and colleges can keep up with the digital trends that seem to be ever evolving. It’s interactive elements like these that allow any institution a way to customize their own timeline and help create its personal identity. Keeping up to date with multiple social media channels, like Facebook, will only enhance the way current and prospective students associate with their institution and hopefully lead to further engagement down the road!

    May 24, 2012 at 11:13 am
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