Facebook will begin to roll out the new Pages for brands this month, featuring timeline. It isn’t available to all brands yet, but you can see Nike, Ford, Coke, and Starbucks are using the new design.

The change will be available to all Facebook Pages by the end of March. Here are highlights of some of the new features:

  • Cover Photo: Just like your personal page, brands will be able to use a photo that captures the essence of their brand and showcase their product or service. The cover photo (851×315 pixels) is the first thing consumers will see when they reach your page.
  • Profile Photo: This hasn’t changed at all. Your profile picture represents your page on other parts of Facebook, in ads, sponsored stories and the news feed.
  • Pinned Posts: Brands will be able to anchor the most important story to the top of their Page for up to 7 days. (Much like you will be able to feature a post on the new Twitter brand pages)
  • Milestones: You will be able to highlight key moments in time for your brand. Perhaps the day you opened up shop, or expanded your business.
  • Highlight Stories: You can Star (or highlight) important stories and hide stories that aren’t as engaging or relevant just like you can on personal profile pages.
  • Large Stories and Photos: Take advantage of larger photo format to drive engagement on your page. We already know Facebook EdgeRank favors rich media and engagement, and larger stories and photos on your timeline should only further cement the benefits of rich media.
  • Full Width for Tabs: Applications can now take advantage of the full 760 pixels in width for their applications, which is an increase from the current width of 520 pixels.

One of the more interesting features is how Facebook is now aggregating comments and posts from users. Previously all posts from your fans, or other users, would appear to be threaded and in chronological order on your page. That isn’t the case with the new Facebook Page design.

  • Recent Posts by Others: This is now the collection of all posts on your page from fans, and others. While this may create an opportunity for fans to better interact with one another, it does muddy the waters a bit. Will brands be able to feature any of those posts on their Facebook Page? Will our pages just become more of a brand experience and less about social interactions?
  • Friend Activity: People who visit your Page will have a more personalized experience because they’ll see how their friends have interacted with you. For example, if someone tags you in one of their posts or checks in at your location, the people they originally shared with will see these stories highlighted for them on your Page’s timeline.

There are some great new features here, so what is missing from the new Facebook Page design?

  • Facebook Applications: It appears that applications on your page have lost significant visibility. As of now, brands like Coca-Cola who had 10’s (is not 100’s) of different applications installed for different languages now only has seven that are viewable. Unless brands can feature applications elsewhere on their Facebook Page, the redesign may dramatically alter how brands and marketers use apps.
  • Views and Apps: It appears that your brands’s photos, events, and custom apps are all found here. You can change the order so people see what matters to you first, but for some brands this could substantially reduce people exploring your photos, videos and other rich information.

Applications have a much smaller footprint on the redesigned Facebook Pages for brands.

Will the launch of timeline and the new Facebook Page design for brands drive more consumers to pages? Time will tell. There are benefits for both the brand and consumer with the redesign, and a more consistent user experience across the site for all visitors with the alignment of timeline across all pages and profiles.

Want to learn more? Facebook has put together a guide for the new brand pages, and a complete overview of the page features. For those new to Facebook marketing you may want to review the complete guide to Facebook Pages.

If you currently are an admin of a Facebook page, you can turn on the preview for the new Pages design, click on the green button at the top of this Page. Or you can wait until all Pages automatically get upgraded on March 30, 2012.

What do you think of the new features for brands? Will Facebook timeline improve the experience for your brand? Share your thought below, or join the discussion on Twitter.