Facebook Timeline Changes

It’s Facebook Friday — each week we’ll offer one tip for leveraging Facebook to increase customer awareness of and engagement with your brand or business.

Many of the changes Facebook introduced with the Timeline layout were steps backward for brands using the network. But more updates are on the horizon; Facebook has announced that it is testing a new design of Timeline that will offer some improvements aimed at addressing complaints about the network.

While the confirmed changes include a single, wider column for status posts, there are several other updates that we’d love to see happen in this redesign. Any of these suggestions could make Facebook easier to use for both companies and customers. Let’s hope that Mark Zuckerberg is listening!

1. Showing Wall Posts

One of the biggest changes to Timeline for companies was the removal of Wall posts by any Facebook members. Any posts by fans are currently relegated to a small module on the right column of a Page. This has some benefit for companies, because it means that any negative comments or spam posts are less visible to your followers.

However, it also limits your ability to show off a strong customer support tool. If fans can’t easily see how your brand deals with problems, they’ll only know of your service reputation by hearsay rather than by example. So, Mr. Zuckerberg, why not allow fans full control to post updates to brands’ Facebook Walls, once again?

2. Better Photo Display in Posts

Part of the proposed redesign includes making a single, larger column of status posts rather than two columns with a line down the center. This could be an ideal change; it’s really a much better format for displaying photos that accompany posts.

In the current Timeline, only a small portion of an attached photo is visible because of the narrowness of the columns. For a network that thrives on sharing striking images, this may be an unexpected detraction. It would be easier for brand Pages to make a strong impression if the images are fully visible — without needing to click-through to see the entire image.

Another possible improvement could be a wider column for the News Feed, which would also make viewing photos easier amid the text of status updates. Showing larger profile photos in the News Feed could also be a change for the better. Companies with strong brand logo recognition would be able to capitalize on that visual familiarity, rather than counting on fans to notice the text-based name of the company in their News Feeds.

3. More Visible “About” Info

Since most of the information a customer needs appears on the main Page of a brand’s Facebook presence, he or she has few reasons to click-through and read a full description of the business. This may not be a major concern for large, well-known brands, but for a small business looking to reach a bigger audience, it would be a huge help to have a more visible or lengthy bio on the front page.

This would also be an improvement for Pages that represent places. A single location might only have its address and contact information shown on its front page. That means it’s more complicated for places to get their relevant bio information directly in front of their fans.

4. Clearer Sorting of News Feed Stories

One of the big complaints about Timeline for casual users is that the News Feed automatically sorts by “Top Stories,” a hazy algorithm of posts that are calculated to be the most interesting to the person logged in. This proved frustrating for many people who felt they would miss friends’ updates or see things out of chronological order. It’s also a risk for brands, since research has shown that without paying to promote posts, only 17 percent of a company’s fans actually read its status updates.

While part of the reason for the lower readership is likely the sheer volume of posts made on the network, it would also be helpful to make the News Feed sorting clearer. More transparency about paid content would also be welcome. Considering promoted posts are now an option for personal posts as well as for brands, this is a serious concern that Facebook could address with the redesign.

What are you hoping for in the Timeline redesign? Let us know in the comments!

[Image credits: paz.ca, David Wright, Karol K, Edith Soto, Marcin Wichary]