Since Facebook announced its new Timeline feature to the public, I've noticed a lot of grumbling amongst my friends and followers on social media about this latest in a long line of constant updates that make Facebook, for some, more of a hassle than a convenience. While I'll agree that Facebook Timeline is a dramatic departure from the user interface to which we have become accustomed, I believe that it offers a wonderful opportunity to "document the links to our past" by creating an online biographical profile that can be useful on a number of fronts. Here are a few examples...
Facebook for Genealogy
Timeline gives its users the option of posting digital images from your photo albums, and dating them to appear on your own Timeline on the exact day that they were captured by your camera. On my own Timeline, I posted this great photo of my days in Kindergarten. I knew the month and year when the photo was taken, so all that was required from me was to scan and download the image, then assign a date and brief description. A few seconds later, the image appeared prominently on my Facebook Timeline as if it had always been there, long before I joined Facebook in 2008. See if you can pick me out of the lineup...
You can use Facebook Timeline to document your own past, or help a relative get started on their own Timeline. You can also document significant family events and post them to the Timeline, write dates, descriptions, and tag family and friends, making this a truly interactive project. Facebook Timeline allows you to share and highlight your most memorable posts, photos and life events in chronological order, so a family vacation, a major accomplishment, or advancement in your career, can be documented as part of your own personal narrative.
Facebook for Corporate History
Companies that have a rich history -- so-called "heritage brands" -- have made a concerted effort to take full advantage of what Facebook Timeline has to offer. With Facebook Timeline, businesses can tell the story of their company or brand in chronological order, no matter when they joined the Facebook community. New product launches, and momentous occasions in your brand's history can be added with a few simple clicks. The only glitch in Facebook's Timeline is the fact that it can only be filled as far back as 1800, which some brands claim restricts their complete history. But unless your company can trace its roots to the 18th century, Facebook Timeline offers businesses the chance to strengthen their brand and connections with their potential customers through historical marketing. Consider these examples:
The New York Times - Founded and continuously published since 1851, "The Gray Lady" has quite a history to tell, and she uses Facebook Timeline to great effect. In addition to publishing daily news events and editorials, the social media editors at The New York Times have taken the time to incorporate some historic photographs from the paper's "morgue" into their own Timeline. Ever wondered what the newsroom was like following the news that the Titanic sank in the North Atlantic? The New York Times captured an image of reporters hard at work to cover the story, and an image of the front page from the story that appeared in print the very next day. Here's the Facebook Timeline view of the coverage of that important event...
This is just one example of the rich history captured by The New York Times Facebook Timeline. The paper also documents significant events in its own history, from its founding in 1851 to present day.
Ford Motor Company - One of America's most significant brands, Ford Motor Company, has used Facebook Timeline to tell its own history and highlight its products. A look back to the beginning of their Timeline reveals when the company made its first sale: a Model A is sold to Dr. E. Pfennig of Chicago for $850...
Coca-Cola - My hometown of Chattanooga was the site of the World's first Coca-Cola Bottling Company, so my affinity for this soft drink brand goes way back. A quick look at Coca-Cola's Facebook Timeline reveals several interesting and important events in the history of the company, including its founding in 1886...
Images, documents, and events that are important to your life and to the life of your brand can make a huge difference in how you present yourself to your friends, to the general public, and to potential employers. As an individual, Facebook Timeline can help you to document your own personal life story in vivid detail, and share your experiences with others, whether they are relatives, friends, or acquaintances. If you own a business, Facebook Timeline can provide your customers with a visual narrative and comprehensive timeline of your product or service. Museums, historical societies, libraries, and archival institutions can also benefit from displaying their history on Facebook Timeline.
Timeline may take some getting used to by those of us who have become accustomed to Facebook's old user interface, but by the end of March, you will not have a choice in the matter. Most individual users have already received notice by Facebook of the mandatory migration to Timeline, and Facebook plans to migrate all its users -- both individuals and pages -- to Timeline on March 30th. The fact that this change is mandatory does irk some people, and limits choice in the matter, but I have a hard time complaining about a free service that offers so much in the way of social connectivity and information sharing. As a public historian and social media advocate for archives and cultural heritage organizations, I think Timeline offers great potential as a tool to expand public outreach, and share information about our collective past.
If Facebook is part of your social media network, click here to learn how you can take full advantage of the positive features found on Timeline.
Gordon Belt is an information
professional, archives advocate, public historian, and author of The History
Press book, John
Sevier: Tennessee's First Hero, which examines the life of Tennessee's
first governor, John Sevier, through the lens of history and memory.
On The Posterity Project, Gordon offers reflections on
archives, public history, and memory from his home state of Tennessee.