Facebook Timeline, What Does It Mean For Your Business?

by Jason Keath on Oct 19, 2011
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Facebook TimelineWhat is the new Facebook timeline?

Timeline is the next evolution of the Facebook personal profile page. Todays Facebook profile is focused on a very brief list of past status updates and a slightly organized photo album. It works, but it doesn’t go far enough for what Facebook wants.

The new timeline tells a story. It gives users the option to show as little or as much as they want of their lives in an elegant vertical timeline of photos, events, status updates and more. And in the process hopefully gets you to spend more time on the site and give advertisers more of your info to target. The goal here, Facebook hopes, is a win win.

So what does this mean for your business? The short answer is it means very little today, but in the long run, the timeline shows us plenty about what Facebook will do next. Below we will introduce you to the elements of the timeline, why they did it, and some of the reasons your business should be paying attention.

9 Facebook Timeline Changes and Features

  1. Cover – Fill this wide, open space with a unique image that represents you best. It’s the first thing people see when they visit your timeline.
  2. Square Profile Photo – no more worrying about how it crops. One size fits all here.
  3. 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.
  4. Star Or Remove – Star your favorite moments to make them widescreen, or remove the ones you want to hide.
  5. 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 let you express who you are through all the things you do.
  6. Play music – The music you listen to is on your timeline, so friends can listen along.
  7. Maps – As you record your travel and places you have checked into in Facebook Places, your profile will show these on a map that can be displayed in the profile. You can also mark where you were born, similar to Google+ profile maps.
  8. Archive Access – One feature of social networks that we have rarely had access to until now is our archives. Recording our thoughts and actions every day, week, or month on Facebook or Twitter offers awesome access to a running history we are creating. Facebook now helps get access to the long line of content we have created through ttimeline. How easy this will be, we don’t really know yet.
  9. Channels – Your timeline displays a basic info section very similar to the info currently displayed below your name at the top of the current profile. Next to the new info section are 4 channels that users can control. Think of these as widgets. Similar to the original Facebook profile users will now be able to add blocks of information that they want besides just their wall. The 4 default widgets are friends, photos, map, and likes. Others you can add include/remove include subscribers, subscriptions, notes, apps, content consumed (Hulu, Spotify, etc).

For an even more in depth breakdown of the Facebook timeline features and how to use them, go check out this Inside Facebook spotlight. Very useful.

6 Reasons Why Facebook Launched the Timeline

Plenty of reasons. Many of them revolve, as we teased above, around making the experience better for the Facebook user as well as hinting at some changes that provide new opportunities for businesses. Let’s break them down.

  1. Compelling reason to share more stuff  – Facebook will of course automatically pull in photos, events, posts and more from your Facebook activity and add it to your timeline. But one of their main goals with timelines is to compel you to share even more stuff. You now have a better canvas, a digital scrap book, to share and spotlight all your stuff. You can also go back in time and add historical photos and events into your “Way Back” section. Zuckerberg even showed a demo of adding a baby photo to be the beginning of your timeline.
  2. Better access to info – You can now explore someone’s photos, events, and in general their life in a more organized way.
  3. More reason to visit people’s profiles – Facebook wants you to spend time on Facebook. They want you to spend more time with your friends there. So if your friends are sharing more stuff AND that stuff is displayed in a more interesting and digestible way. People will be spending much more time than they already do consuming their friend’s timelines.
  4. More info for ad targeting – With more info comes more opportunity for ads to target that info. This, likely, is the real root of this change for Facebook. They already gather more information than any other site on their users, and Facebook users freely provide that info. As expression and communication with friends, and utility. Now, those stakes are all raised. This is definitely a more compelling reason to define your life in even more detail on Facebook. And brands WILL benefit through ad targeting options.
  5. Featuring the appsApps are the future of the way Facebook wants brands and users to interacte. It will be a more active interaction than the current static tab standard for pulling fans toward a brand.
  6. Better content for you – The more content Facebook gets you to create and feature on your profile (and everyone else’s) the more they know about what you like and consume. In the more data game, just as Google is always improving search results, Facebook is always trying to make the media they bring you more relevant.

What Does It Mean For Your Business?

Ultimately businesses need to pay attention to 2 things here. Apps and ads.

Ads – As users share more there will be more information available to target for ads. Both keyword based and profile information based.

Apps – Start thinking about how your business can create an app. Apps will now focus on off-Facebook actions (watching Hulu, listening to Spotify) that drive on-Facebook updates. These updates, if interesting enough, will go both to the newsfeed and to the user timeline.

These changes hint at where Facebook wants to be. They want people to spend even more time on site and when they are off of Facebook, they want there to be a Facebook layer that feeds their activities back to Facebook in the most interesting way possible. And they are doing this better than anyone else. They have the first mover advantage in being a blanket to the internet. So it behooves all businesses to see how they best fit into the Facebook open graph.


Lastly, many people are wondering if business pages are now going to start looking like personal profile timelines. Come back tomorrow and we will tell you what we think will happen with inevitable changes to business pages.

What do you think, do you love or hate the new Facebook timelines?





Post Author

CEO and founder of Social Fresh, the social media education company. Jason is a social media consultant, a social media speaker and industry analyst. He consults with corporations and agencies on social media strategy, building community, and influencer...

  • I think, and hope business pages will get a layout close to timeline. I also hope companies take advantage of using it in more compelling way than many do now with their walls. It is not enough to simply post about yourself 2-3 times per week and expect people to be engaged by your content. Don’t just show up to the dance, get out on the dance floor and show some moves.

  • Great overview of the Timeline Jason. Can’t wait to implement this personally and with the companies that I work with. I absolutely love the idea of the timelines as it will bring a great overview to what someone is about and enjoyes 

  • Great overview Jason!  

  • Great post, Jason. As an entrepreneur, with a ‘personality-based’ business, I decided to enable the Subscribe button on my personal profile and have activated my Timeline early via the developer route, and added a branded cover image to promote my new book. http://fb.com/maris

    I’ve been amazed at how quickly the Subscriber base has grown — far faster than any other channel, including on my fan page, Twitter and Google+. For so many Facebook users, there’s just something so personal and intimate being connected to people’s personal profiles.

    Now, there’s more work to do, though: I’m striving to post very different content on my profile vs. fan page as I know there is bound to be a bit of an overlap. I will say that I’ve noticed quite a drop off in the amount of engagement from my personal friends and core Facebook community that I’ve known for many years on my public posts. Opening up Subscribe draws a lot more attention to public posts and often there are comments in foreign languages… and sometimes spam/inappropriate comments that need to be removed. The fact so many more users are now interacting with public posts, close friends may feel that bit more vulnerable and exposed. What I’ve started doing, is for posts I make to just friends (or a Friend List), I will actually say right up front at the beginning of the post, “I’m posting this to friends only…” and that works well to encourage more interaction from friends. 

    With the Timeline though, before I hit the Publish button, I went through a ton of old (public) posts and either deleted or tightened up the privacy settings.

    So far, other than the large cover photo, I’m not hugely digging the design of the Timeline. I do understand the various reasons why Facebook introduced this next iteration of the profile and I do agree with you Jason on the fact businesses need to be thinking about Apps (and Ads). I’m intentionally steering clear of using apps on my personal profile; the Ticker makes me feel a tad more cautious about sharing my every move!

    Re Timeline for pages, I’ve been making an educated guess that we may see the Timeline design roll out to fan pages within approx six months. I’m very excited to be able to navigate and display all manner of archives from pages! I’d love to see a reliable search feature on pages and also a keyword tag cloud or something similar to categorize post topics!

  • Fascinating Mari. Really great to hear the subscribe option is working so well. I feel like this should have been the solution years ago for artists and public figures whose “brand” was also synonymous with their name/personal profile. Really great comments. Thanks for taking a second to leave them.

    I am also suspect about how useful the timeline will be for brands of all kinds. I hope Facebook has something up their sleeve that keeps pages more focused on what works best for businesses.

  • Mauno Ahlgren

    This is very interesting post Jason. Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    Jason, thanks for writing this and thanks to Mari Smith for bring this to our attention.  As Facebook app developers this helps solidify what we have been trying to tell businesses about developing apps for their companies whether they are a manufacturer or a service company.  There are so many benefits for them!   I would love for all businesses to read this.  Thanks so much!  Jim Oborny http://facebook.com/socialmediaapps

  • Anonymous

    Mari I love both suggestions you made, about having a search feature within the page, and post categories would be great too! 

    I’d love to be able to manually tag content on a page & have them appear in a category similar to our blog. That would certainly help fans/followers quickly find the info they are seeking!As a user I’d love to be able to bookmark useful content for future reference… similar to your list of +1’s on Google+ .. very handy!

  • Pingback: Tips: Enable Facebook Timeline Right Now | The Geek Post()

  • Well the long expected Facebook Timeline is finally being officially released and it’s here to stay! There’s no more escaping this..

    You can enable it right now with just 2 clicks: http://www.vectorash.ro/how-to-enable-facebook-timeline-reloaded/ 

  • Hello!  Thanks for the wonderful read.  I’ve been told by a few people that they read somewhere that we can’t use our COVER picture for a business?  Such as mine: 
    http://www.facebook.com/artisticmarketing  Can you let me know the details on this?  And if this is anywhere near true.  I’ve searched and can’t find anything.

    Thank you so much!
    Jessica Palotas

  • Timelines do not exist for business pages yet, only for personal profiles. No word from FB when and if they are coming.

  • Four years ago today, Jason and Mari here both knew the timeline was key to businesses and pages. The profile was not where people navigated, but just an identity anchor. But if in hindsight we knew content marketing, word of mouth, or whatever buzzword for posting things was key, this would be obvious.