The only constant is change!

The sun came up this morning, which can only mean one thing: Facebook has changed.

Last year I outlined social media options for Masonic lodges at The Millennial Freemason. Facebook Groups are better than they were, functioning a bit more like Yahoo Groups, and in effort to separate the two more, Facebook Pages have been steered in another direction: the Timeline.

2011 is the year that lodges finally, en mass, published Facebook Pages to, as our recent Wall Street Journal profile showcased, expand membership with an audience-facing social media tool. Any group steeped in centuries of tradition, however, are slow to keep up with change, so let’s go over the changes to Pages under the Timeline format, how they affect you, and how you can take advantage of them to help your lodge grow.

The Big Changes

First, the look is dramatically different. The branding options for the page include a large banner across the top, as well as a icon/avatar.

Second, rather than keep every post visible from today to back when you started posting, the Timeline shows the posts and events happening in your organization from today back to 1000 C.E. (pretty handy for Masons!). It will keep the important posts visible (Facebook uses strange voodoo math to figure that out) if there are too many for good taste.

Third, Tabs have been changed. Rather than the side menu option for tabs, the top of the page, just under the banner, shows Photos and the three most important apps that you choose. More are available in a drop down menu.

I’m your brother, not your mom, so I’m not going to tell you every change update with Timeline, or tell you how to use them all to your advantage. Explore. Try things out. If you’d like some more information, check out Mashable here and here. I will, however, go over the basic strategies.

The Cover/Logo

Facebook is giving businesses and organizations a real opportunity to deploy their social brand. Take advantage of it. True, most lodges don’t have a professional graphics department (most Grand Lodges either, for that matter), but we’re not trying to sell high fructose corn syrup; we’re offering brotherhood and history.

Most orgs (though it’s certainly not a rule) put their logo in the avatar box. Lodges like their seals, so it’s a natural fit. The cover photo, on the other hand, is where lodges have a real opportunity to put their best foot forward. Some lodges will throw up some kind of Masonic symbol or art. I encourage people to step outside of that box. What Freemasonry is may be clouded in esoteric mystery, but who we are should be on our sleeve. Red Wing Lodge, from a town steeped in MN history, has a beautiful exterior building shot. It evokes a lot of roots-in-the-community feeling.

Braden 168’s page uses a picture of what I feel is the most important feature of any lodge: its brothers.

Whatever you pick, make sure it’s something that embodies not just Masonry, but your lodge and what it has to offer.

The Timeline

Given the deep history of Freemasonry, I’m not sure there’s a better featurefor us than the timeline, but because of the striking visual change, many lodge admins may ignore it and hope it goes away. Don’t let it! It’s awesome!

The timeline lets you fill out the history of your lodge from its founding (or the founding of Masonry if you want to get clever), with pictures and stories. Using the Milestone post feature, you can fill in every major moment in your lodge’s history; note the installation of your past masters, etc. It’s not only a great visual history for potential members, but an outstanding history project for your lodge.

The timeline is customizable as well. You can pick the posts to highlight (embiggenate!), hide, or even pin to the top of the page. Braden 168 has a poll up there right now (chime in!).

Messages

For the first time Pages can now receive private messages from fans. That means potential members can contact you without having to dig up your email address or make the extra effort to go to your website. In true Masonic tradition, however, page admins may not use this feature to initiate private contact with fans. The fans have to ASK 1 if they want to B 1.

A handy tip: the system only allows up to two responses for every fan-message, so have your elevator speech and links ready, and if you have multiple admins, make sure everyone isn’t talking at once.

Keeping up with change is tough, especially when social media isn’t your job, or  an interest. But even organizations that don’t solicit membership have to at least be visible if they’re hoping for new members. Facebook is still the Mason’s number one working tool of social media marketing. It’s cheap to free, fun, and now that you know what to do with it, it will be an advantage for your lodge.

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