4 Simple Steps to a Facebook Timeline that Tells Your Marketing Story

image of facebook logo

So how about that new Facebook Timeline?

Love it? Hate it? Either way it’s here to stay (until it isn’t).

As always, Facebook loves to change things up and people love to kvetch about it. You can always use new Facebook Features to improve your marketing, so how can you use the Facebook Timeline to your advantage? Read on.

First, a few facts about the Facebook Timeline. The Timeline only affects personal profiles at the moment. Facebook has not announced when (or even if) they will roll the new Timeline look out to Facebook Pages.

Second, not everyone has the Timeline yet. If you don’t, you can visit Facebook’s Timeline page and click the gigantic green button to get started with it.

Third, whether we love it or hate it, Facebook’s going to be rolling the Timeline out to all personal pages in the coming weeks. Hey, it wouldn’t be Facebook if they didn’t turn everything upside-down on you every six months, right?

The Timeline essentially replaces what we called the “Wall,” and is accessed when you click on your name in the upper right corner of the page when you log into Facebook.

If your business strategy includes using your personal Facebook profile to connect to customers (and there are many good reasons why it should) then you need to use your Facebook Timeline to tell a story.

There are four key parts to the Timeline that will help you tell your story:

  1. Using the Subscribe button,
  2. Adding a great Cover photo,
  3. Crafting your About page, and
  4. Adding activity and Life Events to your Timeline.

Let’s take a look at each of these four more closely …

Simple Step #1: Understand the Subscribe button

The Subscribe Button on Facebook allows people to get your Facebook updates without actually friending you.

The Subscribe button is perfect for people who want to use Facebook and the Timeline to support becoming authorities in their topics.

Facebook Privacy settings have gotten better, so you can control who sees particular updates. Some of your customers want to connect with you personally on Facebook (not just via your Facebook Page) and the Subscribe button will help. It lets you keep a personal profile, without having to friend everyone.

If you get a friend request and you have your Subscribe feature turned on, then they will be subscribed to your Updates — but only the ones that you mark as Public. You can find out more about the Subscribe button right here.

Simple Step #2: Add a Cover image

OK, this is the fun part: deciding on your Cover photo.

The Cover photo is like your website header — one you can easily switch out whenever you like. You can use personal photos, something great from your graphic designer, arty shots of your fleet of Lamborghinis … whatever strikes your fancy. Here are some great examples of how people have had fun with their Cover images.

Have Fun:

Showcase business and life:


Be Creative:

To highlight your work, combine both work info and some information about your life in the photo.

Be creative, and remember you can rotate these photos based on your mood or things happening in your life. You can use any photo as your Timeline Cover, just hover over the lower right side to change it.

If you want to design something unique, the dimensions are 851 pixels wide by 315 pixels high, and remember to leave a good spot in the lower left corner where your profile picture will go.

Simple Step #3: Spruce up your About Page

Just like on your blog or website, a well-crafted About Page can showcase your business and experience and let people know what you do and who you serve.

First, make sure your Facebook Page (or Pages) is linked to your “Employer” section in your profile, as shown in this picture.

To do this, start typing the Page name in your “Work” field and it should pop up in a drop-down menu. This ensures that people can easily connect to your Facebook Page by hyperlinking it in your profile.

Also make sure that this is public information by clicking on the little people icon next to the Work field.

Now edit the “About You” section on the right by adding all kinds of interesting goodness. You can add hyperlinks, testimonials, and go deeper into your business. But keep it real and fun.

Remember, your friends will see this. They know you.

Watch your privacy in all the sections of your About Page by clicking on the little Edit icon in the upper right corner of each box. Only share publicly what you intend to be public.

Simple Step #4: Decide what’s in your timeline

Go through your posts and decide what is going to be Public and what should remain more personal.

When you turn on your Subscribe button, everything defaults to be shown only to your Friends of Friends. Make some of your posts Public to highlight your business: your blog posts, articles you might share, business Events, etc.

To control who can see your post, click the icon next to the date. The world icon is Public as shown in this picture.

Make important posts longer and more prominent by clicking on the star icon in the upper right corner of the post that says Feature. That post will then span the whole page and not be collapsed by other posts nearby.

Add significant Life Events to your Timeline with the Life Events. Don’t add them all at once because they will post updates to all your friends and you will look like you are bragging. Add just one a week.

Life Events show up larger than, well … you know, life, if you have a picture with them.

Facebook’s intent with the Timeline is to tell your life story.

Obviously your life is richer and more complex than a few photos and status updates, but why not use this to your advantage and let people know more about you?

The world is spending more time online searching and learning. Use this tool to get to know your clients and have them get to know, like, and trust you.

Or just use it to find some good cat videos.

Either way you win.

About the Author: Are you ready to drink the Facebook Kool-aid? If so, Andrea Vahl has lots of handy tutorials on how to get started and how to effectively use Facebook, with the help of her alter ego, Grandma Mary. Get more from Andrea and Grandma here: AndreaVahl.com.

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Reader Comments (64)

  1. says

    This is a wonderful, wonderful post. The information was so easily understandable and the use if images made it worth reading. Although I am not a marketer, I can still use these tips in my timeline

  2. says

    This is probably the best piece about Facebook timeline and how to get started. I’m sure Facebook is up to some cool stuffs and updates soon. You made the whole process simple. I like your style.

  3. says

    Does emphasizing your business on Timeline violate Facebook’s Terms of Service for profile pages? I thought that Facebook Pages were to be used for business and profiles for personal.

    • says

      Carol and Cheryl,
      I was wondering the same thing regarding using the cover photo for promoting your business or products.
      Yesterday, I was changing up my cover photo and a pop-up called: Choosing Your Cover Photo appeared:

      “Pick a unique photo from your life to feature at the top of your timeline.
      Note: This space is not meant for banner ads or other promotions. Please don’t use content that is commercial, promotional, copyright-infringing or already in use on other people’s covers.”

      I had to click OK to continue, so I assume that I was agreeing or a least acknowledging the terms in the “note”.

      What does this mean? My opinion is Facebook is making it pretty clear your Timeline Cover Photo is not for advertising or promotional spots.

      Does Facebook enforce personal only Cover Photos? At this point in time, I haven’t heard of anyone being asked to remove their “business promo” cover photo – Mari Smith has one and she has pointed out that so far FB hasn’t asked her to remove it.

      Why would Facebook care if you use your cover photo to promote your personal business? Maybe they don’t. My speculation is Facebook’s main concern is that they don’t want people selling ad space to businesses on their Timeline Cover Photos.

      • says

        Hmm, interesting considering the amount of times I’ve seen/heard of commercial use out of the handful of timelines I’ve seen so far. And you can probably bet that somebody, somewhere has already thought of selling that big ole’ space :-).

    • says

      All of the functionality around the “Subscribe” button looks to me like a recognition that there are solo business owners (or people who are the face of their business) who need a blended answer.

      Andrea should be swinging by soon with her own take on that. :)

      • says

        Good point! Subscriptions do add another twist to the mix. I will be looking forward to Andrea’s take on this.

        Aside Note: Mari Smith not Marie Smith is the well known social media person who I was referring to. She has written an article: Facebook Timeline Cover Images – Is Promotional Content Allowed?, which is were she mentioned her personal experience.

      • says

        That’s kind of what I was thinking, but based on Andrea’s answer, that may/may not be the case. You’re right, many solo-preneurs don’t make a big distinction btw work and leisure time in social media spaces. Some do, but not all. FB should just come out with a clear policy. Even if they can’t always enforce it, at least people would know before they try something in a “gray area” and then get smacked somehow by surprise later.

        • says

          Very interesting Sue that the the message about the Timeline cover popped up! I hadn’t seen that or heard that before. I thought I had mentioned the issue with using your personal profile for business use in the article but I didn’t see it. Darn it! But yes, you Timeline is not supposed to be about selling. Facebook’s guidelines are unclear (being kind with that adjective) http://www.facebook.com/legal/terms and they say in sub-point #4 of #4: “You will not use your personal profile for your own commercial gain (such as selling your status update to an advertiser).”

          But our lives are about our work. So I try and mix in what I’m doing right now in my work without being overly salesy (which I think works best anyway). Facebook will probably need to come up with some clearer policies since they have now opened up the Subscribe button – as Sonia mentioned it is an answer for solo-preneurs and people who are the face of their business. So you will be talking about your business.

          • says

            I saw that same warning in a pop up when I changed over to the Facebook Timeline format for my personal page, that the cover photo could not be used for promotional purposes (someone at FB was thinking ahead). However, I would say that it is a good idea to use a clear, close up shot of your face to connect yourself with your brand in that space. And with career details displayed near that photo, it is a good idea to list your business in that space and not leave it blank. Good post for those who are unfamiliar with Facebook tools! :)

          • says

            Even for business pages though you are not allowed to have your URL in your timeline image. Facebook does have specific guidelines for what can and cannot be included on that image. I stuck with my logo and name and that was it just to be safe. The second cover image example above is in violation of those rules. I like it, and it looks effective – I just wonder if Facebook will enforce their timeline image rules eventually…

  4. Olsi says

    I want to get timeline on Facebook but when i click the link to go to timeline page and click the BIG GREEN BUTTON, there’s no green button. the bottom line: i can’t get timeline. need a little help here.

    • says

      Olsi, from what I understand, if you don’t have the button, it means you already have Timeline. If you’re not in the U.S., though, I suppose it could mean that Timeline isn’t rolling out to you quite yet?

    • says

      Olsi, yes it isn’t rolled out in every country yet. So if you don’t have the green button, and you don’t have the Timeline yet, it hopefully will be there soon!

    • Shanti says

      Some people cannot access the green button. We have two Facebook pages in this household. The first one got Timeline as Facebook invited them and we just went ahead with it (a couple of months ago). The second one just won’t work… no green button. We have tried everything but have now found out that now, if you do not provide a mobile phone number, you won’t get a green button. So that seems to be the answer (I won’t give out my mobile phone number to Facebook, so it will be interesting to see whether I just stay in the old format or disappear altogether!)

  5. says

    Andrea, One question I have since reading this post and visiting a few people’s timelines is has FB lightened up on promoting from your personal page? In the past, it was supposedly a big no no to “sell” from your personal space. That was what pages were for.

    However, in the examples above, as well as on a few other profiles I’ve seen lately, biz people are using the space more freely to mention a webinar, to showcase a book etc.

    What are the current rules of the day along this line?

    Also to answer the question as to whether or not I’m looking forward to it, I’m in the “not until they make me camp”. I don’t like the layout, everyone’s I’ve seen so far are way too busy. Hoping there is a way to keep things neat, clean, not overwhelming.

    • says

      “biz people are using the space more freely to mention a webinar, to showcase a book etc. ”

      Yeah. Exactly. As if FB wasn’t turning into a combination tradeshow/flea market/infomercial before, it really is now. Regardless of FB’s aesthetic and functionality “upgrades,” at some point, the effectiveness question must be asked.

    • says

      You can take a look at the above thread. where we talk about this issue Yes, Facebook’s rules are not clear. In their terms, http://www.facebook.com/legal/terms and they say in sub-point #4 of #4: “You will not use your personal profile for your own commercial gain (such as selling your status update to an advertiser).”

      But does that mean you can’t mention a free webinar (that maybe has a sales offer at the end?) Or you can’t talk about your book (which has probably been a huge part of your life?) You have to be able to mention your work because it’s part of your life. But it’s a gray area.

  6. says

    Although it’s frowned upon by Facebook to utilize your personal profile as business tool, it’s still very important to understand how your customers are using their new profiles to reach you. If any of these features are rolled out to business pages you’ll already be on top of your game in terms of understanding how these updates can work for you. Thanks for the insights!


  7. says

    These tips are great–but how many businesses use a Facebook account versus a Facebook page to manage their fan base? I would never use my Facebook account for my business. And as far as I know right now, Timeline only works for accounts and not fan pages. Hopefully some day that will change thou b/c I’d love to use these tips for my business!

    • says

      I think people are using their personal profiles to connect to people personally but still add in a little business. The Timeline is only for personal pages but we’ll see if the adopt the same look and feel for the business pages!

  8. says

    Hi Andrea,

    I’m sorry but I clearly disagree with what you’re suggesting in your article. 3 of the 4 examples are clearly in breech of 4.4 http://www.facebook.com/legal/terms as it states

    ‘You will not use your personal profile for your own commercial gain’

    I think that authorities like Amy Porterfield should error on the safe side and not wander into the gray field.

    In 3 of the 4 examples they are promoting their book or commercial website. How can that not be for commercial gain?

    Personal Profiles are for people and their friends. There are plenty of other alternatives.

    Kind regards,


    • says

      Thanks for your thoughts on this. I personally think saying you wrote a book is not a violation. That’s part of who you are. You aren’t telling people to buy the book. I don’t see how you can separate what you do as a business completely from your personal updates. And many people will just want to focus soley on Fan Pages.

      • says

        Hi Andrea, thanks for responding. You aren’t telling people to buy the book but you’re surely using your timeline to advertise it. Part of Amy’s income comes from book sales and she is advertising the book on her timeline. Next step is that she put a shortlink to amazon where people can buy the book.

        Where does it stop?

        I guess it stops when facebook shuts down her personal profile because they deem she is using it for commercial purposes. I hope it will never happen but it is not a matter of if it happens but when it happens.

        Unfortunately it’s neither you nor Amy who decide if it is a violation but facebook.

        Nobody seems to want to answer the question: why take the chance when you don’t have to?

  9. says

    I really like the new Timeline for exactly the reasons you are discussing. It is an awesome way to further humanize social media marketing. I can understand how some people may be panicking if they were a little uncensored about their posts in the past, but as long as you take the time to sort through your FB history no one is any worse off than the were before.

    I love the way people are getting creative with their cover and profile pictures. Makes me feel a little pressured to get something awesome up! Challenge accepted. Thanks for the post!

    • says

      I see more and more cool timeline pictures all the time. They can be more fun than the header of a website. I’m sure you’ll have something awesome up soon :)

  10. says

    All really good things to think about. I need to work on my Facebook page and this article certainly helps! So many new things to consider.

  11. says

    Great post Andrea! I really like the look and feel of the timeline but I hadn’t grasped how much I could control the displayed content using featured posts. I’ve just popped back to make some adjustments!

    I love the creativity some people show in their timeline images. Although they can’t be promotional in nature there is a still a lot of scope to connect with your business And give people a window into your personal side.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    • says

      Happy to help Belinda! I think people really do want to connect with the people behind the businesses rather than logos. And it’s a great way for your customers to get to know you better.

  12. says

    WOW – it certainly changes regularly Andrea – one question i have a welcome page for hopefully soon to be fans just about to be launched. However should i post “some” business on timeline and on my own wall and all business on the business page. or keep all business off timeline and my wall??

    Sorry its a bit confusing – i am trying to build followers to the business wall – but also develop ‘my brand” my authority on oral health – any addvice


    • says

      Thanks for the question! I think it’s a good idea to tell people what you do and share helpful tips on your Timeline. That’s your warm market and then when you launch the Page, people will already be familiar with what you do.

  13. says

    Thanks for the tips, Andrea! I really hadn’t thought about using my profile to tell my marketing story. But it makes sense, especially since some people are subscribing to my public content. Time to look into a new cover photo!

  14. says

    Well, that “subscribe” button really changes things now doesn’t it? A nice blend of personal and business may be in my future. Thanks for all the screen grabs with this article!

  15. says

    Why does everybody want to mix personal with business?

    Keep your Personal Profile for your friends, family etc. and use a Facebook Page to promote your business where you don’t have to worry about if you’re crossing the invisible FB T&Cs breech line.

    Facebook Pages have a gazillion more features so why use an inferior product. It makes absolutely no sense.

    More importantly why risk FB closing down your personal profile because you have gone too far. They might not even warn you and all your friends and content will be gone and you have to rebuild what has taken you years to build.

    If you can go to sleep tonight and not worry about waking up in the morning and all your hard work is gone then keep doing what you’re doing.

    I have already transferred several Personal Profiles to a Facebook Pages for clients who have unwittingly used a personal profile. It’s fairly easy and all your friends will be converted to fans. Every single one regret not having done it before once the realise the potential of Facebook Pages with tons of free apps which can basically turn your new Facebook Page into another website with tons of functionality and information that you can’t get on your Personal Profile. The list is too long for this post but I can make a list of at list 100 benefits that are for free.

    What’s holding you back?


    • says

      Hi Jorgen – I think you do need to use these features cautiously so you don’t cross the line. I do a lot of networking around my area and connect with a lot of business people. They want to connect with me personally because I’ve gotten to know them personally. That’s my warm market. It’s easy to direct your updates to your business friends or only your family.

      But I definitely understand some people who want to keep this private. Thanks for your input.

    • says

      Hi Jorgen, Social media platforms are actively encouraging us to share more and more and for many of us, our business is a huge part of our lives so it’s naturally going to blur the line between business and personal content. I am a copywriter. I have my own business and most of my work comes through the work of mouth machine that is social media. My clients get to know me through my personal profile and I talk a lot of shop because it’s part of my every day activity.

      Thanks to the accessibility of the internet through smart phone and tablets, “work time” and “personal time” aren’t as silo’d as they used to be. The 9-5 world is no more. I’ve definitely found this from an email marketing perspective as people open their emails in the evenings and over the weekend which means marketing has to accomodate that shift if it’s going to be effective.

      Sure, you have to abide by the rules of the platform but I think there is a difference between saying “I’m an author, I wrote a book” and “Here is my book, it costs $29 you can buy it from Amazon using this link”. It’s an extremely grey area, and you are right about the risk you take if you push it too close to the edge, but it just goes to show how blurry the link between “personal” and “business” is.

    • says

      If you wiped aside Facebook rules, for me it is just a matter of personal preference. I prefer to keep my personal Facebook profile – well personal. I enjoy interacting with my family and close friends as one of my off work activities.

      Yes, some of my clients have been come friends, but again we are not talking shop. I have a Facebook business page for that. I share updates from my page with my friends when I think they would be interested – ie. security updates or how to use a new feature.

      Maybe I am missing out on business opportunities, but I have to say that none of my Facebook friends are spending time talking about or promoting their businesses. I think my group of friends is happy just being social.

  16. says

    Facebook timeline is really great and one of the feature that i don’t like is the loading time of page, it seriously slow when I come to my friends’s wall who’s using timeline.

  17. says

    These tips were great! Thank you for not only explaining them, but visually depicting them too. Us visual learners really appreciated the extra steps you took there.

  18. says

    Andrea, what a home run of a post! I am going to open a new window and start fixing ASAP. I love how you explained the steps, and with a bit of Photoshop pixie dust and a flair for the inane details of my life, I am inspired to do it….before my kids get home from school. Thanks for getting me OFF the plan to wait till they explain it me, and onto a new approach where I can do-it-myself! I owe you big-time.

  19. says

    Hello from Montana,
    Thanks for sharing these tips and techniques. There is so much changing with social media that it can be overwhelming.
    I really appreciate it when others share what has or has not worked in order to simplify the process.

  20. says

    “Facebook’s intent with the Timeline is to tell your life story.”

    They missed the mark completely, unless they meant tell, but not be heard. I find timeline unreadable – my eyes get crossed, the text and pictures turn into a big mishmash and I tend to miss a lot of info. I hope facebook will provide a setting that will enable to view timeline as if all entries had the “star” turned on, otherwise I’ll have to find some greasemonkey magic to make this parody of clarity readable.

    If I’ll be forced to switch to the timeline myself, I’ll star every single one of my entries – at least they won’t get missed by people who visit my page.

  21. says

    It’s taken me forever to get my head around the new changes to facebook – (I haven’t even sorted out the timeline on my social page, yet alone that for any sites I own). This is the best and clearest guide i’ve seen. Thank you. Off to create a cool cover for my facebook timeline for the blog. Should be up in a few hours.

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