Brace yourselves: Facebook has already begun the phasing-in process of vast profile-page changes. At the recent F8 Developers Conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the unveiling of the new Timeline feature: “If the original profile was the first five minutes of your conversation and the stream is the next 15, then I want to show you the rest,” said Zuckerberg. He added that the Timeline would be “the story of your life,” calling it a “new way to express who you are.”

It would seem that Facebook has finally responded to the recent launch of Google+ with its own version of CirclesFacebook’s Friend Lists. They’re even dabbling in Twitter’s bread and butter: the Ticker, a real-time feed of activity from your connections. From selective sharing to digital-footprint curating, Facebook is taking big risks to stay on top of the social networking hierarchy. Here’s what you need to know take advantage of these changes:

  • Your cover. Use this wide open space to share your personality, your experiences and your life with your network. It’s the first thing people see when they visit your Timeline.
  • Your stories. Share and highlight your most memorable posts, photos and life events on your Timeline. This is where you can tell your story from beginning to middle to now.
  • Your apps. The movies you quote, the songs you have on repeat, the activities you love—now there’s a new class of social apps that lets you express who you are through all the things you do.

So there you have it. Facebook’s reformulation of the new profile pages which, according to Zuckerberg, is an integral part of the Facebook experience: “We wanted to design a place that feels like your home. You invest a lot of time in it and you curate it.”

As the changes gradually roll out in the next couple of weeks, we’ll be able to see if the risky updates are worth it. In the meantime, check out the tips below, which will help you understand the best ways to interact with the updates.

  • When you get your timeline, you can choose to publish it immediately or take a few days to review what’s there and add anything that’s missing.
  • If important parts of your story aren’t included on your timeline, you can go back to when they happened and add them.
  • Go to your private activity log where you’ll find everything you shared since you joined Facebook. Click on any post to feature it on your timeline so your friends can see it, too.
  • Facebook apps need only ask permission once to share stories on your behalf.
  • All “lightweight” information is going to the Ticker, a real-time list of things your friends are posting now that scrolls down the side of your screen.
  • You can watch TV and movies, listen to music and read news with your friends, all within Facebook.
  • You no longer need 25 likes on a business page in order to grab a custom URL.

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Amy McIlwain is a professional speaker on social media and president of Financial Social Media, an online marketing firm specializing in the financial industry. She can be reached through her website at www.financialsocialmedia.com  and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.