Update: Facebook woos businesses with redesigned business pages, Timeline

Starting today, companies can update to new Timeline feature on their Brand pages

Just a few months before Facebook launches its initial public offering, the social networking company Wednesday turned its attention to wooing the enterprise.

At its fMC (Facebook Marketing Conference) event in New York City, Facebook executives talked to an audience of business users about the power of social media, the changes Facebook has made to its Brand pages and how marketing is changing in the era of social networking.

Navy Facebook page
The U.S. Navy and the other branches of the armed services have updated their Facebook pages to use the Timeline feature.

"The power of the individual voice is not new," said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer. "The difference now is that so many people can have a voice that scales ... We believe that marketing will become truly social. Your customers are listening and your customers are talking. Engage them."

Earlier Wednesday, Facebook announced that companies and organizations that have Brand pages on Facebook are not only getting a new look and new features, they'll also be able to update their pages to use Facebook's new Timeline.

The social network touted the news of the redesigned Brand Pages on The Today Show Wednesday morning, and the morning TV show revealing its own "facelift" of its Facebook brand page.

Other companies launching a Timeline on their Brand pages include 1-800 Flowers, the New York Times, Starbucks, American Idol, the NBA and the band Coldplay.

The various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces also have updated their Brand pages to take advantage of the Timeline, as well as other new features.

One of the biggest themes to Facebook's event was telling business users that marketing is on the cusp of making a huge change. No longer is advertising alone going to cut it. In the age of social media, companies need to tell stories, according to Mike Hoefflinger, director of global business marketing at Facebook.

Today, companies need to tell stories about how customers are benefitting from their products and services. And they need to get those stories out to their biggest fans, as well as to potential customers.

"Facebook Pages is mission control for you business on Facebook," said Hoefflinger. "It's the place for your identity, your stories."

He also noted that Facebook is coming out with new features such as Reach Generator, a service for business users geared to getting their company's best stories in front of the most people. The Reach Generator, which is a premium ad distribution system, is designed to get a user's ads in front of 50% of the company's fans' eyes each week, instead of the usual 16%. Using the premium service, a business has the possibility of getting its most important posts in news feeds and on users' logout screens.

Facebook also launched a page that gives users information about the redesigned Brand pages.

According to Facebook, any company or organization can update its Brand pages with Timelines now and they will all automatically be updated on March 30.

Facebook first pushed out its new Timeline feature in December. The feature is designed to automatically organize users' status updates, relationship changes, videos and photos into an interactive timeline of their online life. With Brand pages, followers will be able to see a history of the company's products and advancements, along with a history of posts.

The social network announced earlier Wednesady that the revamped Brand pages also will include some other new features, such as the ability to "pin" posts that will effectively keep important news at the top of the Timeline for up to a week.

And an updated admin panel is set up to make it easier for page administrators to track a page's performance and respond to private messages from followers.

Companies also will be able to post larger photos and highlight milestones.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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