Facebook’s launch of Timeline—a new presentation for pages and proﬁles—holds real promise for campaigns.
While Facebook will likely continue tweaking and changing the platform (that endearing aspect of the service hasn’t changed) several fundamental characteristics of the new Timeline framework should drive your planning and approach to Facebook through the current election cycle.
If anyone forgot that Facebook started out as a place to post photos, the Timeline ratchets up the importance of incorporating compelling photography and video into your communications plan.
It’s hip to be square
You’ll want to plan for the various photo formats used to build your page and present your message. Start with a basic square format that you’ll use for the proﬁle image. Facebook seems pretty committed to the square format for the proﬁle image, but the exact dimensions have varied since the new format launched.
Right now, proﬁle images display at 125 x 125 pixels, so if you upload a 200 x 200 pixel image you should be safe. This proﬁle image will show up wherever your posts are shared, so make sure it’s a recognizable view of yourself or your logo.
The smaller images to the right of the proﬁle image that link to your tabs are scaled to 111 x 74 pixels. These are thumbnails, so you’ll also want larger versions to appear on the tabs themselves at 810 pixels wide. The proﬁle image is nested into the large cover photo at the top of the page, giving you the opportunity to present a dramatic visual entry to your page.
The 2.7 to 1 ratio (851 x 315 pixels) of the cover image may be natural to the Facebook engineers, but it’s not a typical photo dimension, so you’ll need to plan ahead to get a graphic image that works well in this format. You’ll also want to review Facebook’s guidelines, which preclude including a call-to-action text or your website URL in this cover image.
It takes two to tag
Think of your timeline as a place to post pictures and videos with short captions. Visualize how your audience is seeing your posts stream by in their own newsfeeds, and realize how an interesting image or thumbnail is much more likely to attract attention and be shared than a long block of text. Tagging photos is especially helpful in increasing the visibility of your posts within the newsfeeds of your fans.
Nothing encourages sharing like including someone else in the story. The photos displayed in posts are scaled to 403 x 403 pixels, so even if the original photo is a more traditional size, you’ll want to think about how it will look when it’s cropped to the two column format in your timeline.
Count the milestones
As you’re laying out your campaign story, you can use the milestone feature to enhance the visibility of selected activities. Milestones give you the opportunity to present mini stories and full-width images in your timeline (Milestone images are scaled to 843 x 403 pixels). You can select any date for a milestone, so you choose where you anchor it in your timeline.
You also have the option of pinning a standard story at the top of your page. The pinning feature allows you to lock a photo, video or text at the top for up to one week—a useful feature for event announcements.
Keep it clean
You can hide or remove posts from your timeline. This feature isn’t an undo button for the “I wish I hadn’t said that” post, but it is helpful to remove old status updates, event notices and minor posts that are no longer relevant to where the campaign is right now. Think of your page as a presentation of your campaign highlights rather than a detailed archive, and you’ll keep your page engaging for visitors throughout the entire campaign.
Time for advertising
Once you’ve invested the time and resources into creating an interesting timeline, you’ll want to promote it as well. The familiar marketplace ads on the side of the news stream are still there, but Facebook now offers the ability to promote your posts directly to your audience’s newsfeeds as well with “sponsored stories.”
There’s no rule of thumb here other than to experiment, read the results and then experiment some more, as your time and resources allow.
Steve Pearson is president of CivicNEXT. Ford O’Connell is the managing director of Civic Forum Strategies and the editor of the Political Quarterback blog