26
Sep. 2011

The New Facebook Timeline Revealed: What is it and what does it mean?

FacebookUnless you’ve been living under a stone for the past few days, you’ll have gathered that big changes are afoot at Facebook Towers.  On Thursday 22nd September, my Twitter feed was alive with #F8 hashtags and talk of the new Facebook launch.

So during that evening (thanks to the time difference in San Francisco where F8 – Facebook’s Developer Conference – was being held), as a bit of a closet social media geek I kept a curious eye on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to see what these ‘big changes’ were going to be.

For several years there has really been no other meaningful Social Network to rival Facebook.  But enter Google+ from stage left this summer.  For the past few months, only diehard Social Media fans and techie geeks have enrolled in Google+ but following membership opening out to the general public last week, there has been a huge rise in G+ users.  My own ‘circles’ have increased by a good few dozen over the past few days alone, having been pretty static since I joined back in July, and apparently in the first 48 hours of opening out to the public, Google+ attracted over 10million new users with the current total estimated to be almost 44million. But on Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg announced a series of huge changes to Facebook – still the overwhelming Social Media powerhouse with over 800million members – which he hopes will defeat this New Kid on the Block.

Some of the new features include the Timeline (which gives users the opportunity to personalise their profile to better suit their personality) and a Ticker (which displays a lightweight stream of everything going on around you including what you’re listening to) etc.  Apparently music will be a key aspect to the new-look Facebook with browsers streaming songs from Spotify (who recently launched in the USA) and other music streaming websites including Rhapsody, Soundcloud and Earbits to name but a few.  Newsfeeds will apparently become peppered with music posts and play buttons, allowing users to simultaneously listen to whatever their friends are listening to at that moment.  Additional partnerships with organisations including Netflix and Hulu means that Facebook users will also get to watch TV with their online friends.  The key change as far as I can see is that it will become an ‘entertainment hub’ as well as a social network. Big news indeed.

Early reviews, blogs and articles are varying in opinions at the moment.  A few are extremely concerned about the security and privacy invasions of the new Facebook timelines including this one but reading the comments that follow the article, there are pretty extreme views on the reality of what these changes really mean.  Some people suggest that if you’re logged in to Facebook, but read the news (for example) via the news website (rather than via an app you have activated within your Facebook account) then this is shared on your feed.  Others suggest this is NOT the case and that the only way this would subsequently appear on your feed is if you physically click Facebook’s ‘recommend’ or ‘like’ button on the news site, and that in order for ANYTHING to appear in your feed, they have to ask for your permission first, making it OPT IN rather than OPT OUT.  But one thing seems to be clear: any articles you view from an app (e.g. The Guardian App) is considered a ‘Social reading’ environment and will indeed be visible to your Facebook friends.

I then saw Mashable’s tweet entitled ‘How to Enable the ‘New Facebook Timeline NOW’, so I decided to try it out for myself.  After following the very clear steps (thanks Mashable!) I was then directed to my brand new profile page where I took the Developer Tour.  And I have to admit, I’m pleasantly surprised (I’m yet to work out the security concerns mentioned in the previous paragraph!).

Here’s a quick summary of the 5 basic features to the new Facebook Timeline as far as I can see:

• Cover:  This seems to be a banner which is displayed above your profile photo.  You can choose a photo of your choice to be the ‘cover’ and you can change it as often as you like
• Views:  This is where all of your personal information, your page ‘likes’, apps, photos etc all in one place
• Activity log: I was a bit concerned about this one as this is where absolutely everything you’ve ever done since joining Facebook is stored including all status updates, posts, check ins etc are stored.  However this tab is apparently completely private and no one else can see your Activity Log.  You can also use this section to control who sees your individual posts, delete things and so on
• Stories:  This is your own timeline (rather than your live feed) of your top photos, stories and life events.  You are able to look back to this week, last month, last year and so on, by clicking on the dates to the side of the timeline.
• Star or Hide: This is pretty simple to get to grips with.  You can hover over a story and click on the star icon to open it out to a widescreen or click on the pencil to hide or delete the post.

So what are the initial feelings?  Admittedly it’s my more geeky friends who have also adopted the new Facebook Timeline but, so far, they have all reacted positively.  I have observed comments including: “The new Facebook Timeline is sick!” (I think that means good!), and “love the new Facebook timeline” (via Facebook) and “Been playing with the new Facebook/Spotify integration – gotta say, I think it’s a gamechanger” and “I actually love the new Facebook timeline.  There, I said it. #fb” (via Twitter).  From my own Facebook Friends, G+ circles and Twitter followers I actually have not – to date – read anything negative about these new changes.  Personally, I was a little sceptical to start with but over the weekend, I’ve slowly started to get to grips with it, and whilst most people don’t like change, I suspect over time – as always – people will adapt and before you know it they won’t even remember what the old version was like.

In terms of what this means for marketers, only time will tell.  According to experts, the current Facebook ‘like’ will reduce in significance.  A fundamental addition to the new release is that there is a control in the top right of each news story which users can uncheck a ‘top story’ and over time, Facebook will recognise this information to automatically edit the feeds.  Ultimately this boils down to the age old story:  those of you posting relevant content which users actively wish to hear about will fare well, but irrelevant content will end up having lower visibility.  The fundamental point of using Facebook for marketing purposes is to encourage your customers to engage, share content and interact with your brand.  (Source:  Mashable.]

Savvy marketers need to work hard to benefit from featuring in their customers’ news feeds by only providing stunning content.  In short, generating as many ‘likes’ as possible for your brand is not enough to successfully use Facebook as a marketing tool.

You can obviously follow Mashable’s step-by-step instructions to get the new Timeline now, or you can wait until on or around the 30th September when it will be rolled out across the Globe.

What do you think of the new-look Facebook?  Do you think these changes will be welcomed with open arms or will result in people deactivating their accounts once and for all?

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About Lucy Hudson

After graduating in 1999, Lucy worked for an event management organisation for 6 years. She joined eCircle in 2006 and launched the UK’s marketing activities. Following eCircle’s acquisition by Teradata in 2012, she became Teradata Applications’ (formerly eCircle & Aprimo) Head of Field Marketing for the International region (EMEA & APAC). She was elected to the DMA Email Marketing Council in 2013 and sits on the legal and best practice hub. Lucy is on Twitter: @LucyAHudson and @eCircleUK.
Category: Social Media | Tags: , , , , .

10 Responses to The New Facebook Timeline Revealed: What is it and what does it mean?

  1. Alan Cliffe says:

    I enabled the new timeline 2 or 3 days ago, I personally prefer the look of the new layout. Not sure its of any benefit as a marketer though unless they adapt its use for Facebook Pages.

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