Facebook enlists U.S. military for new Pages format debut

Facebook got help from the U.S. military for the rollout of its new Timeline format for Pages on Feb. 29, but the mostly splashy debut was a little bit dampened by a technical glitch.

Enlisted as launch partners several weeks in advance, the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard introduced their new Facebook Pages with the new format, which permits larger photos and a timeline offering easy access to previously-published and historical information.

However, the Navy’s Facebook Page did not convert to the new format as anticipated. Some users can see the new format, while other cannot, Lt. Commander Christopher Servello, director of emerging media for the Navy, said in an interview with Federal Computer Week. He said the problem appeared to be a technical malfunction by Facebook.

A Facebook spokesman was not able to confirm the source of the issue. However, a Facebook employee who asked not to be quoted said the problem appears to be a programming bug and is being assessed for repair.

“We are a little disappointed that the debut did not go as smoothly as we had hoped,” Servello said. “We had hyped the new Pages a lot to our fans.”

Nonetheless, Servello believes the Navy’s Facebook Page probably added at least 2,000 new fans following the format change, probably because the service heavily publicized it. “We have seen a bump in ‘likes’ today,” he said.

Typically, about 1,000 new fans like the Navy’s Facebook page each day. The Page currently has nearly 475,000 fans.

Facebook’s new Timeline design for brand Pages followed the rolling debut in recent weeks of the Timeline format for personal profiles on Facebook. To date, many Facebook users are still being given the option of whether or not to switch to Timeline for their profiles. The new format is expected to become mandatory for all users at some point.

"New Facebook Pages give government agencies, lawmakers, and political campaigns more engaging ways to tell their stories, and we're excited to see branches of the U.S. military leading the way,” Joel Kaplan, vice president of U.S. public policy for Facebook, said in an emailed statement.

Other Pages launch partners included Starbucks, Nike, The New York Times and Microsoft Windows.

One of the features offered by the new format for Facebook Pages is the opportunity to upload photographs into a historical timeline that can be extended back to 1800, Servello said.

The Navy took advantage of that format by adding more than 100 additional historic photographs to its Facebook Timeline, he said. As additional photos are uploaded in the future, they can be featured on top of the page, he added.

“The ability to add information on the Navy’s history and heritage is one of the appealing parts of the new Timeline format,” Servello said.

Other military service administrators also were pleased with the new opportunities to display historic photographs.

“The Air Force's new Facebook timeline brings to life milestones spanning our rich aviation history,” Tanya Schusler, chief of Air Force social media, said in an emailed statement. “The new design is a great way for our fans to clearly see the Air Force's historical development and achievements while interacting with us and other followers."

Facebook’s new Timeline design for brand Pages followed the rolling debut in recent weeks of the Timeline format for personal profiles on Facebook. To date, many Facebook users are still being given the option of whether or not to switch to Timeline for their profiles. The new format is expected to become mandatory for all users at some point.

To see the new pages, go to Facebook and type the appropriate words after the main URL. They are:

Facebook.com/USArmy

Facebook.com/USAirForce

Facebook.com/Marines

Facebook.com/USCoastGuard

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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