Facebook fMC Brings Big Changes for Marketers: How to Respond

On February 29, Facebook held fMC, the social network’s first Facebook Marketing Conference, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Over the course of the six-hour event, Facebook made several announcements that have big implications for brands already using the platform.

The announcements fall into three categories:

  1. Facebook Pages have been updated with the Timeline layout, which affects how brands present themselves, use apps and interact with their Facebook communities.
  2. New Facebook Ads bring premium advertising offerings that offer better placement, the ability to reach a larger percentage of Facebook Fans with a brand post, ads delivered upon user logout and mobile News Feed ads.
  3. Facebook Insights, Facebook’s built-in analytics platform, now displays information in real-time, instead of the previous 48-hour delay.

Facebook Pages

The Timeline format that’s been unrolled to Facebook profiles and groups can now be turned on by brand Pages. The official switch will take place on March 30. At that time, all Pages will feature the Timeline layout. Page admins can now click the “Preview” button at the top of their Pages to set up everything privately. Then, brands can select “Publish Now” to push Timeline live.

The wide-ranging changes to Pages will reshape how brands interact with their Fans.

Cover Photo

The biggest and most visually striking change is the cover photo, an 851 x 315 pixel image that can be placed at the top of a page.

Cover photos cannot include:

  • Price or purchase information (like deals and promotions)
  • Contact information
  • References to Facebook features (e.g., “Like,” “Share”) or arrows pointing to these features
  • Calls-to-action
  • Misleading information or content infringing on others’ intellectual property 

Action: The purpose of this image isn’t to share deals and promotions. This image should capture what a brand stands for, its personality and the story it’s using Facebook to tell.

The image can be changed as often as a brand sees fit, so brands should feel free to experiment by switching out the image to relate to the time of year, highlight brand philanthropy and so on.

Profile Photo

The Page profile photo is now a 180 x 180 pixel square thumbnail. Previously, brands could create vertical, rectangular images for this photo.

Action: This image should be simple, easily recognizable and consistent with the brand. It should be easily understood when previewed in large and small formats, as this image will be the image displayed in user News Feeds and on the Page itself. This space is an excellent placement for a brand logo.


Once turned on by the brand, Pages are in the Timeline format will be separated into two columns, representing time.

Timeline isn’t necessarily in chronological order, which was an option on the previous version of Pages. Instead, the options for filtering content are “Highlights” (brand’s most important posts over time), “Friend Activity” (a user’s Facebook friends’ interactions with a brand), “Posts by Others” (posts by someone other than the brand) and “Posts by Page” (posts by the brand alone).

With Timeline not being formatted in chronological order, brands may have a more difficult time monitoring Page activity. However, the notifications box in the Admin Panel can help brands follow Page activity. Although, the more Fans a Page has, the more cumbersome this can be.

The most powerful aspect of Timeline is the opportunity to tell a more complete brand story. No longer is a brand’s Facebook story limited to the day a Page was created. Brands can add major company milestones, historical photos, key product launches and so on to their Timelines, allowing Fans to see key company happenings. When a brand chooses to add a milestone like a product release or company founding, images are given high prominence, being set at 843 x 403 pixels. These milestones can be added using the status update box.

Photo album descriptions can now, once again, be shared on the Wall, allowing brands to give consumers a preview of what they can expect from the album beyond what can be communicated through a title.

Finally, important posts don’t need to be buried beneath more recent activities. Brands can select any post, whether it’s a photo, status update or announcement, to “Pin to Top.” This post will then stay at the top of a brand’s Timeline for up to one week.

Action: Brands should work with their Pages in preview mode to determine how they can best monitor Page activity. The notifications tool in the Admin Panel will be very helpful, and third-party platforms like Buddy Media and Vitrue can also help brands manage their Page’s online conversations.

A second opportunity is gathering a brand’s historical content, laying it out and determining what should and shouldn’t be included in a brand’s Timeline. Timeline offers an opportunity to tell a very rich story. Brands can hide individual posts without deleting them (or the data from them), to create a beautiful Timeline focusing on the most important posts.

Lastly the “Pin to Top” feature should be a consideration whenever a brand is developing an editorial calendar. A brand should know at all times what content is most important to call out at the top of a Page.


The new Timeline layout has done away with the left-hand panel, which featured links to different Facebook tabs that contained apps. Apps and tabs still exist, but they are now in rectangular panels beneath the cover photo.

The “Photos” tab will always be featured by default, but brands can choose three other tabs to feature. Brands can have more than the four, but users will have to click a drop-down panel to view them. This means brands will need to prioritize which apps should be showcased based on brand objectives and initiatives. The icons related to apps are now larger (111 x 74 pixels), so brands will need to develop new icons to draw user attention and intent to click.

Another major change is that Landing Tabs are now gone. Previously, brands could select a tab, such as a Welcome Tab to introduce potential Fans to the brand (current Fans were automatically sent to the Wall). Now, Landing Tabs are gone, and all users will land on the Timeline by default. This default option makes the cover photo and the posts pinned to the top of the Timeline even more important, because they will introduce potential Fans to the brand on Facebook.

Finally, the tab area has increased from a width of 520 pixels to 810 pixels, giving brands much more room to do more with tabs. Tabs that aren’t updated to the 810 pixels sizing will simply be centered within the 810-pixel layout without adjustments.

Action: Brands should immediately start evaluating their tabs to determine 1.) what tabs should be showcased at the top of a Page, 2.) what icons the tabs will have and 3.) what tabs should be formatted with larger widths.

Admin Panel

The updated Admin Panel on Facebook is available above the Timeline on the right side of the Page. The Panel includes a quick view of insights, notifications and new Likes in an easy-to-access format. Previously, this information was somewhat buried within the platform.

The Panel features an Activity Log, allowing admins to view, manage and organize all posts on the page (hidden and public). This activity can be filtered by date, story type (spam, photos, comments, posts by others, etc.). Admins can highlight, hide or delete stories from this Panel, as well.

Action: Page admins should become familiar with the new layout to determine how they can best use the new format, particularly Notifications, which will be important for monitoring and evaluating Page activity.

Receiving Messages

Another very important aspect of the new Admin Panel is an inbox. Facebook has added the ability to communicate with Fans privately. Users can click the “Message” button on a Page to send private messages to brands, which are stored in the Admin Panel inbox. Brands can then respond. This feature can be turned off, but it’s not recommended. It provides a great way to communicate directly with Fans in need. Brands cannot send messages to users who have not messaged them first.

Action: Brands should evaluate their current customer service protocols on Facebook. This feature should prove to be very useful to get private and potentially negative content off the Wall and into a centralized location where it can be addressed.

Other Features

Facebook Pages also include other, less prominent but still important features:

  • The About section allows brands to give a quick “elevator pitch” of their focus and the value they bring to their Fans. This section should be kept brief. This area provides a great opportunity to share your brand’s website URL.

  • The Friend Activity section allows users visiting a brand Page to see how their friends have interacted with it, creating a more personalized experience. This area provides an opportunity for brands to show potential Fans how the brand fits into an individual user’s social circles.

  • When a user clicks the Likes tab or visits Facebook.com/[page name]/likes, a module displays information that previously wasn’t made public, including “Most Popular Week,” “Most Popular City” and “Most Popular Age Group.” Users can also see a graph tracking “People Talking About This” and “New Likes Per Week” over a one-month time period. Pages associated with a location also have “Photos Tagged Here,” “Most Visited Week” and “Largest Party” (the highest number of people who checked into a place at a single time). Other than “Total Likes” and “People Talking About This,” this information previously wasn’t made available. Now, marketers have more information to track competitor performance and establish benchmarks for themselves.

Facebook Pages Takeaways

Facebook Pages Timeline update creates a few actions marketers should take note of immediately:

  1. Visual Content Is King. Timeline places an emphasis on visual content, and according to Facebook, “posts including a photo album or picture can generate two times more engagement than other post types.” Charts, infographics, photos and videos will go a long way in making a brand’s Timeline as engaging as possible.
  2. Tabs Matter But Not As Much. Facebook tabs are being de-emphasized, particularly by the fact that default landing tabs are no longer an option. Brands need to consider which tabs to highlight at the top of the Page and use content to drive people to them.
  3. Always Optimize Content. Brands should carefully monitor what content is performing best on their Pages and highlight posts that are likely to garner significant engagement using the Activity Log. This will ensure that the best content is front-and-center when users visit a Page.
  4. Make Pinning To Top Part Of Content Calendars. As brands develop their Page content, they should always consider what content will be pinned to the top of a Page. This content will be pinned for up to seven days, and it should be the most important content, as it will be the most visible content on the Page.
  5. The News Feed Still Matters. Timeline for brand Pages is an overall improvement to previous Page layouts, but brands still need to focus on delivering relevant, valuable, compelling and interactive content, because most users will still be interacting with brands through their News Feeds instead of visiting brand Pages. Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm determines which content is most valuable to users and displays that content in News Feeds. According to comScore, 27% of a user’s time spent on Facebook (the majority) is spent with the News Feed, so brands need to be sure compelling content is their primary focus.

Brands have until March 30 to get all of these pieces in place. The focus should be getting everything in order in “Preview” mode before going live.

New Facebook Ads

Facebook didn’t stop with the update to Pages. The platform now includes four new ad formats:

  1. Premium Offers
  2. Reach Generator
  3. Mobile News Feed
  4. Logout Page Ads
  5. Offers

Premium Offers

Premium Offers allows advertisers to have better placement for their premium advertising and Sponsored Stories. Brands start with posts to their Pages and then can increase a post’s distribution using Premium Offers, potentially reaching “three times the ROI for brands,” according to Mike Hoefflinger, Facebook’s director of global business marketing.

Reach Generator

Less than 16% of a Page’s content is viewed by Fans in their News Feeds, according to Facebook. To address this issue, Facebook introduced Reach Generator, which guarantees to get a brand’s posts in front of 75% of a brand’s Facebook Fans each month. This option is potentially very valuable, because Facebook claims that Fans have been found to be twice as valuable as the general population based on purchase behavior.

Content powered by Reach Generator appears in the News Feed with other updates. Pricing is based on the number of Fans a Page has.

Mobile News Feed

Facebook’s mobile platforms have lacked advertising up to this point. Now, Facebook has added News Feed ads on mobile devices. These ads appear similar to how Sponsored Stories appear on the desktop News Feed.

Logout Page Ads 

Marketers now have the ability to deliver ads when users log out of Facebook. At this moment, no other content will be delivered to users, creating an environment with less clutter to distract users. The content of these ads can include videos, photos, offers, questions and even events.


Facebook Pages can also feature a new type of story called Offers, which users can access via their News Feeds or from ad units. These offers can be redeemed either in-store or online, and these offers will replace Facebook’s check-in deals in the next few weeks.

Offers can be created by Page admins without approval from Facebook. Once a user clicks on an offer, it’s sent to the user’s email account where he or she can use a voucher or coupon code to redeem the deal either online or in-store. Once a user accesses an offer, it becomes a story that his or her Facebook friends can see in their News Feeds.

Offers are free to create; however, brands can boost their popularity by making them Sponsored Stories or premium ads.

New Facebook Ads Takeaways

Facebook offers brands a variety of ways to reach consumers, but the power of those tools can be limited, which is why Facebook offers advertising opportunities. The new premium ads are now more closely tied with what brands are promoting and discussing on their Facebook Pages versus being standalone ads. These premium ads will be sold on impressions and reach, not by click-throughs.

Facebook ads shouldn’t be done in a silo. Facebook is working to tie ads and Pages more closely together. This integration means brands need to focus a great deal on content, because it will cause their ads to perform better. The fact that most Fans don’t see brand content should shift many marketers’ mindsets from focusing on Fan growth to focusing on creating content that is engaging. Compelling content is how true reach on Facebook is achieved.

Facebook Insights

Facebook Insights has proven to be a valuable tool for marketers tracking their Pages’ performance, but previously this information was updated every 48 hours. Now, metrics including “People Talking About This,” “Post Reach” and “Engaged Users” are going to be updated in real-time within the Insights dashboard. This feature is being unrolled to all admins over the coming weeks.

Facebook Insights Takeaways

Facebook Insights now provides more real-time information, allowing marketers to see what is working and what isn’t to respond more quickly and effectively.