Facebook Timeline: 5 Facts You Need To Know

Timeline is coming to your profile, whether you want it or not.Consider this advice on how to make the best of it.

Debra Donston-Miller

January 31, 2012

4 Min Read
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Whether you love it or loathe it, Facebook Timeline is coming to a Facebook account near you--namely, yours. Facebook announced in a recent blog post that Facebook Timeline, which has been an option until now, will be rolled out to all users within the next few weeks.

Here are five things you need to know about how the new interface will affect your Facebook presence and what you can do to make the best of it.

1. Facebook Timeline is a significant change.
Users have moaned and groaned about the slightest changes Facebook has made, but this one is a doozie. Facebook Timeline puts your updates, photos, events, new friends, and other information in reverse chronological order, in a sort of scrapbook-like format. While many have praised the look, others have raised concerns about the way in which the new format highlights information you might not want quite so visible. You can go in and edit your Timeline, but that takes some work (see below).

2. You'll have seven days to make changes once you get Timeline.
Once Timeline is rolled out to you, you will have seven days to preview your information as it appears in the new format. Scan through your posts and delete anything you don't want displayed on your Timeline. (You may find yourself unpleasantly surprised by what you posted--and how often you posted--when Facebook was all new and shiny.) Facebook lets you hide a post from your Timeline or delete a post altogether. You can access tools for doing so by clicking on the pen symbol at the upper-right corner of each post. You can also use this tool to change the date or add a location to the post. Depending on how prolific you have been on Facebook, the process of reviewing your Timeline could take a while. Of course, you can continue to cultivate your profile after this seven-day period, including adding BF (Before Facebook) information.

[ Wonder how Facebook uses all the data it accumulates? See Even At Facebook, Business Intelligence Is Not Viral. ]

3. You should review your privacy settings.
You can customize who sees what posts by clicking on the icon next to the date in each post. Facebook will use your default privacy settings unless you specify otherwise for a specific post. You can choose to have individual posts visible publicly, only to friends, only to you, or to some customized group. You can modify your default privacy settings by clicking on the arrow next to Home at the top right of your profile page.

4. There's an app for that.
Facebook has approved more than 60 new apps leveraging the Open Graph API. These join a growing number of apps that can be used to customize your Facebook presence and get more out of your Facebook experience. However, in a move seemingly addressing increasing concerns over what apps can and can't access and share, Facebook also announced an application authorization dialog box that makes it easier for users to choose the level of access an app has to their profile. Similar to the inline privacy controls available when you post content, an inline privacy setting allows users to control who can see their app activity on Facebook.

5. Facebook Timeline isn't available for businesses--yet.
Rumors are swirling that Facebook will release a version of Timeline for brand pages at the end of February. Clint Fralick, VP of client services at Boston-based social media agency Pandemic Labs, sees potential value in Facebook Timeline for business: "As concept/metaphor, Timeline's value for businesses is the historical perspective it lends to the interaction between business/brand and Facebook community," he said. However, while experts can see some potential value in Facebook Timeline for brands, they also see drawbacks--most notably, interference with current Facebook apps and the potential for distraction.

Have you made the switch to Timeline? What advice would you give to those who haven't? Has Timeline changed the way you post or look at others' profiles? Please respond below or send me an email.

Social media are generating tons of data, but that data only becomes truly valuable when examined in context. Attend the virtual Enterprise 2.0 event Social Analytics: The Bridge To Business Value, and learn how social analytics will provide the bridge to unlocking business value. It happens Feb. 16.

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