On March 31st, many restaurant owners and managers were surprised to see their restaurant’s Facebook fan page had changed. Several of the features that previously existed to engage their fans had simply disappeared overnight. Facebook had announced this change over a month in advance, but the news failed to reach most owners in time. As I scroll through some of the restaurants I follow on Facebook, many still have not adapted to the change. This only creates a greater opportunity for those who are looking to embrace the changes.
Four very important changes happened with this conversion to the timeline format for Facebook pages:
1) Visitors can no longer be directed to a “landing page”. All visitors now land on the Timeline page by default.
2) Custom pages within their restaurant’s fan page stopped working if they were not hosted on a secure server.
3) The “long” profile pictures many restaurants used to brand their fan pages were eliminated.
4) The fan page guidelines changed dramatically preventing the use of Facebook features as an entry form of sorts for contests. Many restaurants are still not aware of this change and are placing their fan page at risk.
While these changes caught many off guard, I had been preparing for them for weeks. I released a series of short ebooks in March to help guide restaurant owners through these changes. My clients were not surprised by these changes, but already had a guide to utilizing the timeline for Facebook restaurant marketing in place to help them through the transition. Hospitality Formula upgraded to secure server space and was granted an SSL license. As a Facebook app developer, I set out to find new alternatives to help my clients and start testing the new Timeline features.
Here are six exciting changes you can use to embrace your fans in the new timeline format for facebook restaurant marketing:
1) Cover photos: the largest customizable space ever offered on Facebook fan pages. This space presents a tremendous branding opportunity, but is subject to significant restrictions that even most internet marketers are still unknowingly violating.
2) Setting milestones for your timeline. Feature significant events in your restaurant history with large pictures that will grab the attention of your fans.
3) Pinning posts to the top of your timeline. In the past, your fans viewed all of the status updates to your page in chronological order. With the implementation of the Timeline, you can choose the first update you want them to see.
4) Highlighting key status updates to catch the attention of fans visiting your timeline. This helps draw your fans to the updates you want them to notice.
5) Direct messaging with your fans through your restaurant’s fan page. This also means that you must be prepared to respond to these messages quickly and more users discover this option.
6) Custom pages are still available, but are subject to more limitations. Custom Facebook restaurant marketing pages can be added to your fan pages, but they must be done by a Facebook developer and hosted off site on a SSL licensed server. I have even developed mini-sites that can be plugged into your Facebook fan pages to create interaction with your fans and increase your reach.
The Facebook timeline provides a tremendous opportunity for restaurant’s seeking to improve the impression they make on their fans. Five of the six new opportunities are easily implemented with a bit of guidance. That is why I put together a short report explaining how restaurants can make the most of the Timeline conversion for Facebook restaurant marketing. It is a great companion to my eBook, Building Your Brand With Facebook, in developing a strategy to maximize on these new features. I am currently offering both reports and a few extra bonuses at a special price for readers of this blog before releasing them on Kindle. Both reports should be an important part of your restaurant marketing plan.