Facebook Pages Timeline Makeover Offers Better Ad Canvas

Facebook's Timeline user interface has been applied to the company's Pages promotional palettes for businesses, organizations and individual brands.

Facebook Pages have gotten the Timeline user-interface treatment with the new Offers tool, a way for businesses with supporting Pages to discount and promote their products right from Pages.

Facebook, which unveiled the new branding and advertising technology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City Feb. 29, also said it was porting its popular Sponsored Stories from its News Feed to mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

Sponsored Stories are Facebook posts from friends or Facebook Pages that a business, organization or individual has paid to highlight to attract more attention. Moreover, Facebook is now showing premium ads on the log-out page, as well as across user home pages and News Feeds, a first for the social network.

Facebook's new ad formats and promotions are designed to help Facebook boost its revenues, which topped $3.7 billion in 2011. The company is going public this year in an initial public offering worth $75 billion to $100 billion.

The company closed 2011 with 14 percent of the crucial market for display ads on sales of $1.73 million, beating Google's own $1.71 million, eMarketer said. The researcher expects Facebook to maintain its lead in 2012, grabbing $2.59 billion in share, compared with $2.54 billion by Google.

However, Forrester Research analyst Nate Elliott has said often that Facebook must branch out to offer ads outside of Facebook.com, spreading ad seeds across the Web the way Google has with its AdSense and DoubleClick programs. Only then, Elliott argued, would Facebook tap into its social ad potential.

"Facebook can€”and must€”do much more to turn the data it has on users into effective ad targeting," Elliott wrote in blog post Jan. 31. "And it must build or buy much better tools for building, managing and measuring branded pages."

Facebook has certainly done more to promote branded Pages with this announcement. The Pages redesign is geared to provide a superior ad canvas, complete with a cover photo and tools to manage the content.

Page proprietors can also pin a post to keep a story at the top of a Page for up to seven days. When users navigate to a Page, they may see their friends' recent posts spotlighted as friend activity and see how many of their friends are connected to a Page.

As with the Timeline, there is an activity log where Pages administrators can hide or delete posts, providing a measure of control for the brand on Facebook. The Admin panel, meanwhile, will let Page administrators track user engagement and connect with fans via messages.

Page owners will be automatically upgraded to the new Timeline-style interface by March 30. However, Page owners may also turn on their preview for the new Pages design by clicking on the green button at the top of this Page.

Page Offers meanwhile are distributed through the News Feed or promoted as Sponsored Stories. People can redeem any Offers via email or on a mobile device.

This isn't the first time Facebook has tried its hand at the social commerce game. The company last year offered Facebook Deals as a half-hearted attempt to compete with local deals purveyors Groupon and LivingSocial.

Facebook Deals aggregated daily discounts of 50 percent or more from local merchants, as well as from providers such as aDealio, Gilt City and OpenTable. Facebook abandoned the experiment last August after it failed to bear significant fruit.