Facebook Timeline is Coming For You! But What Does it All Mean?

by: Kathleen Martin

I am sure by now we've all heard the big news: Facebook is rolling out its new Timeline feature - for all Facebook users - whether we like it or not. And from what we've seen from recent news articles and user polls, people definitely "do not like".

It was easy to see people were up in arms over the situation; what was harder to figure out was what about the Timeline had people so upset. Now, in the interest of full disclosure I should probably fess up here that several of us at Outlier had gone to some lengths to add the Timeline feature to our personal accounts. And, since we had done so, had fully enjoyed the new look and feel. In short, we do like. So why were people so unnerved?

Who gave the villagers those pitchforks?

After doing a little research, it seemed a lot of people liked the same things we Outliers did. Users' photos were now featured front and center, and information easily found by scrolling down through the timeline which ordered activity in a neat and tidy package--by month, and by year. The bad news was that it made this same information easier to find for everyone. Ghosts of youthful indiscretions past, long buried in users accounts, could now be easily accessed by a quick scroll down memory lane.

Some began frantically searching their accounts to find forgotten moments that were best left erased from memory. Others still simply deleted their accounts altogether rather than try to recoup their losses in a mad dash to "scrub" the accounts of dubious material.

Other concerns revolved around new features that allow people to "geotag" photos and comments (geotagging, a helpful tool for accessing all kinds of location-specific information, is an important tool for many location-based services) making it easier to pinpoint someone's exact location and path of activity. I can see why some might take issue, but weren't people already using this feature in other social media channels like Foursquare and Twitter?

I can't help but think that the biggest reason people are unhappy is because they're being told what they have to do. Nobody likes that. Maybe those of us who had already switched were less worried because we had chosen to adopt, rather than being dragged into the fray without our consent. In the end, the lesson for users seem familiar: be aware of your online privacy, take measures to protect yourself, and maybe stick with: "if I'd be embarrassed for my mom to see it, it doesn't belong on Facebook".

What does the new feature mean for businesses?

Good question. The new feature is not yet available for brand pages, but there has been plenty of talk about the next generation of business profiles (I know we would love to have a Timeline for the Outlier company page!) With a new similar Timeline feature, brands will need to consider new ways to engage audiences: more image space means more opportunities for graphics and promotions. A timeline could be a beneficial way to display content, enhancing or in some cases maybe even replacing a company blog. The point is, plenty of opportunities exist as long as brands are willing to change things up, do something different, continue to evolve, just as social media channels surely will continue doing, whether we like it... or don't.


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