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Take advantage of Timeline for Facebook pages

22 May 2012

Charities can benefit from Facebook's Timelines – but you may need to adjust your social media strategy, says Susan Luxford

When Facebook announced Timelines for individual users, it was anticipated that they would also be incorporated into Fan Pages. Anticipation became reality as Facebook made Timeline compulsory for Pages from 30 March 2012.

The Timeline

The Timeline feature is your entire Facebook history from the date that you created your Fan Page, in reverse chronological order. Just as individuals had to be careful about what was going to show up on timelines, so will charities and not-for-profit organisations. This is because all content going back to when you started your Fan Page will become available again – regardless of the sentiment expressed. Prominence will be given to those posts that generated most interaction from those years. It is important that you allocate time to going through this content and hide posts that you want to remain forgotten.

Cover Photo

The first thing people will see on your fan page is your cover photo, a large image that you select from your existing page content or external sources. Your cover photo should be 851 pixels wide by 315 pixels high.

Facebook has already stipulated in its Product Guide terms and conditions that cover photos for fan pages cannot include:

  1. Price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it at our website”.
  2. Contact information such as a website address, email, mailing address, or information that should go in your Page’s “About” section.
  3. References to Facebook features or actions, such as “Like” or “Share” or an arrow pointing from the cover photo to any of these features.
  4. Calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends”.
  5. Covers must not be false, deceptive or misleading, and must not infringe on third parties’ intellectual property.

Charities that have been early adopters of the changes are a good place to get inspiration for cover photos – check out Greenpeace New Zealand, Allsorts Youth Project, YouthNet, charity: water and Zhoosh.


If you are a charity with a long history to be proud of, or have had some great achievements since you were founded, your timeline provides a great PR opportunity to retell your stories and remind people of the work that your organisation has done. Some are even referring to this as a company scrapbooking exercise.

To add content to your timeline you simply click ‘Milestone’. Facebook will ask you to first add the date that your company was founded.

This is a great reason to dig out old photos, advertisements, press coverage and video footage from the dusty locations they’ve been stored so they can be given new life and to remind people of key activities in your organisation’s history.

Landing Pages, Tabs and Custom Apps

Previously it was possible to set your own default landing page, which many charities used to drive campaigns and call-to-actions. This option has been removed and your wall with your Timeline is the compulsory default. This means that you will have to work harder to convert non-fans to fans and find new ways to promote campaigns and call-to-actions.

The tabs that were previously in your left side bar have now been moved and changed to buttons below your cover photo. You can have a maximum of 12 tabs for your page, but note that the Photos tab is the default as the first, and only four display directly beneath your cover photo. A user has to click a drop down button to access the others. A big change to your tab pages is that they have been widened to 850 pixels so are able to show more content, including whole websites. The bigger challenge will be getting people to click these tabs to see the content hidden within in the first place!

Pinned Content

The other important area is the top left of your Timeline. This area is where pinned posts can be placed for up to seven days and are marked with an orange flag (see right). If you are running any promotions, call-to-actions or competitions this is where they can be pinned for prominence.


Fans can now directly message you via your page. Ensure you have a process in line with your existing email policy for dealing with these. This feature can be switched off.

Brands will either love or hate these new changes. Some will see them as restrictive, and taking away a lot of the promotional capabilities that were there before with landing pages. Others will welcome the new opportunities to promote the success and history of their brands and will feel that the simplicity and prettier layout will help them engage even better.

However you feel, it’s better to embrace the changes and make the most of these constantly evolving social media platforms, and how users engage with them.

For more on social media, check out resources from CharityComms' Social Media Conference in March 2012.

Susan Luxford

project leader, Zhoosh! Brighton