When Facebook launched Timeline for brands in March, brands immediately recognized the potential of the new format. But the big, looming question was, "How do I get started?"

With that question in mind, here are six straightforward ways to optimize your brand's Timeline to drive better marketing performance.

1. Update your cover photo to reflect your brand's goals

Brands are bringing attention to new products and campaigns by harnessing the power of Timeline's most noticeable feature: the cover photo. Use that amazing piece of digital real estate to showcase a unique image that's relevant to both your brand and the latest initiatives you want to support.

A prime example of a page with well-executed cover photos is Hostess, updates its cover photo to reflect its latest product launches—such as its new Baseball Cupcakes. Mindful that brands are discouraged from including explicit calls to action in cover photos, Hostess instead grabs fan attention by employing big, bright images and calling out product names.

Those visual elements are echoed across the Hostess Timeline, from the profile picture to the apps to the photo posts, reinforcing brand engagement and generating more awareness.

2. Don't forget about the profile pic

Following the initial launch of Timeline, Facebook recommended that brands use their standard logos as their profile pictures. Although your profile picture should convey who you are, making occasional changes can help boost awareness for new brand initiatives. After all, profile pictures show up in your fans' news feeds and can draw them to your page. And Facebook recently gave a nod to their significance by expanding the profile pic's width and height to 180 pixels.

We like the Ann Taylor approach: employing a photo of the company's latest spokesmodel, Kate Hudson, as a creative representation of the brand. It draws attention to the brand's summer campaign, and it acts as a subtle reminder for fans to check out seasonal items.

3. Personalize the Views and Apps section

Though brands can no longer set default tabs, the new Views and Apps section below the cover photo increases visibility of other page sections overall.

Online clothing retailer ModCloth takes advantage by constantly updating its Views and Apps section.

Because the photos section is the first tile by default, ModCloth frequently posts photos of its latest merchandise and encourage fans to also post photos. And the company arranges the other tiles to feature its latest photo contests and promotions, customizing the tiles with retro fonts and images to reflect the vintage style of the brand.

4. Pin and highlight key content

Brands can increase awareness around key initiatives with the new Pin and Highlight functionality, which allows them to emphasize their most important posts.

Pinned content gets more fan engagement because it's featured at the top of the Timeline. Highlighted posts stretch across the full width of the Timeline, and they are ideal for visual content such as photos and videos.

Taking advantage of both options helps brands generate more interaction around their content.

Online shoe retailer Sole Society effectively uses Pinning and Highlighting as a part of its social strategy. It frequently pins news and updates about its latest Facebook sweepstakes—including featured posts on past winners—to boost participation.

Plus, Sole Society creates highlighted posts that feature big, attention-grabbing images of its latest shoes, driving visits to its online store.

5. Integrate apps that drive Timeline engagement

Recognizing the Timeline's potential for increased fan engagement, smart brands are already implementing apps designed to take advantage of the opportunity.

One great example is Interscope Records recording artist JoJo, who has created her own SuperFan community on Facebook. When a JoJo fan joins the community, a fan profile page is generated by automatically pulling in all JoJo page or newsfeed content the fan has recently liked, shared, or commented.

Fans in the community can browse a gallery view to discover and connect with other like-minded fans. All activity is automatically synced with JoJo's Timeline, driving up her page's People Talking About This score as well as overall EdgeRank.

JoJo features a new SuperFan on her Timeline every week—a great strategy for driving more participation in the program.

6. Make creative use of your milestones

When employed creatively, milestones can help fans connect with, and participate in, key moments in your brand's history. Our favorite example of this approach comes by way of Sony UK, which asked fans to share their favorite, personal Sony moments.

The result is a Timeline that features a mix of brand and fan milestones, from "Sony Computer Entertainment established" to "Lena received a Walkman from her first love." This approach encourages fans to reflect on the role that Sony has played in their own lives, promoting strong brand affinity.

* * *

Facebook Timeline features provide key opportunities for brands to run strategic marketing campaigns and initiatives. From cover photos to milestones, you path to Facebook success should include these six steps:

  1. Keeping the cover photo fresh to reflect your brand's current initiatives
  2. Choosing a creative profile photo that's aligned with your brand's evolving image
  3. Personalizing the Views and Apps section to include the most up to date and relevant content
  4. Pinning and highlighting key content for more engagement
  5. Deploying apps that incorporate timeline integration
  6. Making creative use of the brand's milestones to encourage fan interaction

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Mark Cooper is CMO of Offerpop, an easy-to-use next-gen SaaS platform that enables marketers to create campaigns on Facebook and Twitter in minutes.