Facebook’s Timeline Changes Everything

Earlier this week I was initially thrown by the new News Feed elements Facebook rolled out. I was mostly annoyed about  the new lists because I liked the way I did my own lists. But I spent an hour or two getting to know the new interface on Wednesday night. That, along with the explanations from f8’s keynote on Thursday, made everything fit together for me. And my friends, I AM EXCITED.

Why I’m Excited About Facebook Timeline, Apps, and Open Graph

In 1995 I was making websites by coding HTML in Notepad. And I was geeked about how things were emerging and new. I had a job that hadn’t even been INVENTED when I was growing up. AMAZING.

Fast forward 16 years. I’ve enjoyed blogging. I’ve enjoyed Twitter. I’ve enjoyed Tumblr and Facebook and LinkedIn. Those were all natural progressions of the path we were on. What Facebook outlined at the 2011 F8 Conference is the first time I’ve seen a new idea that no one was expecting. It’s the first time I’ve been EXCITED about potential in a long while. What we’ve been doing up to this point has been a shadow of our social potential. What Facebook is doing is *really* social.

I recognize there are potential problems. People will definitely have to re-think how they share their information and take more ownership of their privacy. They’ll have to pay closer attention to who they’re sharing specific content with. I’m ready to do that (and have been doing it, but I realize I’m not a “regular” user). I think the bigger issue is that people don’t own their page on Facebook and it shouldn’t be the only place you’re keeping these important life moments. I’m afraid less savvy users — like our parents, for example — won’t understand that. They’ll assume that if they put it on Facebook, it will be there indefinitely for their use. And that may be true, but I’ve been in the space long enough that I know we’re breaking new ground, but you don’t know what’s going to be here (or gone) in five years.

But still . . . I’m excited about the potential.

The issues I point out for less savvy users haven’t really changed. Those issues have been the same issues since Facebook started — you don’t own your content and you shouldn’t use it as your only means of recording photos/video/anything special. The interface has changed and people may be thrown initially, but I think they will adapt fairly quickly.

As for clients, if FB chooses to install this update to pages as well (which they must), I think this allows a much broader picture of the company and can be much more useful with marketing options. Consider that you can create an entire campaign to share with your fans right on the Wall. You’d be able to have video, testimonials, and a soundtrack grouped together for a much more interactive update.

I’ve seen many tweets and Facebook status updates complaining that it’s too much. The new elements are too hard to navigate. I’m not negating the fact that there will be a learning curve, but I don’t think a learning curve is reason enough to hold the process back. We’re finally moving forward and I can’t help but be really excited about it.

Find Out About the New Facebook Timeline, Apps, and OpenGraph

Knowledge is power. You’ll probably feel more comfortable with the changes if you understand what they are and how they fit together. At least I felt better after hearing an explanation and reading more about it — and I hope you will too. To that end, here are some links to help you see what’s coming and why.

Replay of the f8 Keynote. If you didn’t watch the unveiling in real time (or you just want to see it again), you can watch it via the recorded Livestream video on the f8 Facebook page. I’m not a big Andy Samberg fan, but I admit he made me laugh with his intro bit. But what’s interesting about the keynote is how Mark Zuckerberg explains how the new rollouts fit together and will change the way we market, buy, and share products. We’ve been saying “social media” for a few years, but we’re really just now seeing what social can be. Until now, we’ve been treading water. We’re finally moving forward with something innovative.

F8’s Big Facebook Changes: Timeline, Ticker, News Feed, Apps. Can’t quite bring yourself to sit through a few hours of the keynote? OK. This article highlights the main points. It, along with the other links I’m providing, should give you enough to see what the rest of us are geeked out about.

Video of How Timeline Works. Timeline is going to keep track of your updates and content sharing, but instead of just showing the last few days, it will show everything. You can go back to the first day you joined Facebook. Then you can add more information all the way back to when you were born. This is a new way to share the important milestones of your life. I think I heard someone at F8 call it the year-end report of your life. Or, for those of you who love the crafty, it’s like an online scrapbook. YOU get to choose what the focus is. Facebook has an algorithm that will try to choose the important information, but you ultimately have control and can decide what’s featured and what’s not.

Facebook’s Overview of Timeline. Here you can see each element of the new Timeline and see an explanation of how it will work.

How to Enable the Facebook Timeline Right This Second. If you have the developer app installed on your account, you can see Timeline in action right away when you follow the instructions in this Tech Crunch article. If you don’t have the app, click over anyway and you can download it and get started. Quick note: Your App Display name can be anything and your App Namespace can also be anything, but it has a character limitation (I think it’s 13-15 chars max, but I’m not completely sure). Just pointing that out because I originally assigned a namespace that was too long and it took me a minute to figure out why it didn’t work immediately.

How do the New Facebook Changes Affect Privacy?

You are always in charge of your privacy — online and offline. Although it’s not popular to say, it is never the tool’s responsibility to protect you, it’s your responsibility to protect you. Would it be easier if the tool, in this case Facebook, started out with your privacy set to the highest level instead of the most open level? Perhaps. But consider two things:

  1. Facebook’s mission isn’t to provide a personal space for you. They want to create a community that is open and whose members constantly share their lives and milestones with others. It makes sense that they would encourage that by setting default privacy to be more open rather than closed.
  2. No matter what the default settings for privacy are, you will most likely have to visit your dashboard and tweak those settings for your own needs. Whether Facebook sets those privacy setting high or low, you still have to go in.

The new apps and sharing that are coming to Facebook allow you to have full control over what you share. If you don’t want to share with people, then don’t install the application. If you don’t want everyone to see your Timeline or profile, then change your settings to Friends Only. If you want to share your updates with select people, you can customize your updates by clicking the Public button below your status update text box and choosing who can and can’t see your update. Your privacy lies with you as much as it ever did. These new changes are not taking it away. There may or may not be instances where you will need to think twice about what you share and with whom, but you should be doing that anyway.

When you do a tour of the new Timeline, you’ll see this message about your new “View Activity” button on your profile: “View all your activity. Your activity log lists all your posts and activity, from today back to the beginning. Go here to change the privacy for individual stories, delete posts and more. This is your private resource — no one else can see your activity log.”

Let me ask you this: Do you use the free wi-fi at your local coffee shop or library or anywhere? Are you concerned that whoever is supplying the wi-fi isn’t covering your privacy? Why not? I know that when I’m on public wi-fi, someone could easily hi-jack my passwords and make purchases on sites that I’ve logged into, so I change my working habits or where I browse when I’m not using my own secure wi-fi at home. That’s my responsibility.

The bright side to us moving ahead and taking control of our own privacy is that we have the opportunity to teach our kids how to be even more vigilant than we are about weighing what’s public and what’s not.

How Do the New Facebook Changes Affect Facebook Marketing?

The recent changes haven’t really focused on fan pages, but pages are affected. A few things you may have noticed about pages:

  • Facebook is no longer sharing Likes from within Facebook in the News Feed. What that means is that, if I Like a picture or status update or link on your fan page, my friends don’t see that any more. However, if Like a blog post or article on an external site (e.g., BloggingBasics101.com), then that Like *does* show up in my stream.
  • Your fan page has a new link in the left nav called Friends’ Activity. If you click on that, you’ll see the people who you’re connected with (i.e., your FB friends) and how they are specifically interacting with your page.
  • The FB News Feed is no longer making fan pages a priority in the feed. They are favoring personal relationships over business relationships. That means your status updates aren’t showing up as much in the News Feed.

Will Timeline, Ticker, GraphRank Break Facebook Marketing? If you’re concerned about the changes I mentioned above, this article will help explain what your options are.

What Should Facebook Page Administrators Do After f8? I stated privately in a few Facebook groups I’m part of that Timeline and apps associated with it will be rolled out to the masses first. Then, when people are comfortable with the layout, it will be rolled out to pages as well. The impact of Timeline on pages will be big. Businesses will be able to curate how their customers see them; highlight specific campaigns and interactions; and create new campaigns that include interactive apps, soundtracks, testimonials, images, and video. It will change the social media marketing landscape completely. This article backs me up.

What Do YOU Think About the Facebook Changes?

And before you answer that, please stop and think about it. Read through the information I’ve linked to. Consider where we’ve been and where we’re going. Look at the bigger picture. This isn’t just about a new interface, it’s about how we’re going to interact with each other without boundaries. It’s about how business will grow over the net ten years. If you get bogged down in the fact that your interface changed, you’re going to miss the bigger picture.

Let me tell you this: I am the last person who thought I’d be swayed by Mark Zuckerberg. I like Facebook a lot and I love social media, but I’ve had a healthy concern about how Facebook operates. I still do. I think about my privacy, I think about what I’m sharing and how, I think about the fact that I do not own my content at Facebook. And I think about the fact that I don’t like a lot of change in general, because I want to know how pieces fit together rather than jumping in blindly. I feel like Facebook did a fairly good job explaining how the pieces fit together. I’m excited about where we’re headed and that we’re no longer on the same, slow path — we’re about to really get social.

29 Responses

  1. Cara September 23, 2011 / 10:17 am

    You have summed up my thoughts exactly! Thank you for the wonderful resource of links and explanations I plan to point friends who are in need of direction to this post.

    I’m also excited to see what the future holds for pages because the fact that their updates aren’t showing up in the main feed is a little disturbing from the viewpoint of the marketer….

  2. Kellyology September 23, 2011 / 11:24 am

    Another excellent article Melanie. I’m still perusing and figuring things out, but I have to say I’m really, really, really enjoying the new Timeline.

  3. Kelly September 23, 2011 / 1:00 pm

    I wasn’t a fan of the changes they threw out earlier this week but now that I see the bigger picture I’m really excited. Facebook has actually been hard for me to navigate since I have too many ‘friends’ from blogging. I lose a lot of people b/c of that (like not knowing someone had a baby!), and it’s been great to have my lists on the sidebar and I LOVE the way Timeline looks.

    I know it will be hard for people to adjust but like you said Facebook has never been about protecting your privacy, so people either need to adjust their content or their settings as they need to.

  4. Rajean September 23, 2011 / 3:05 pm

    Melanie,
    I’m in the learning curve, catching the waves, but I like how you’ve outlined the changes, especially their impact on biz pages. Thank you. This is quite shareable. Which I’m off to do!

  5. mamikaze September 23, 2011 / 3:32 pm

    wowza! you covered it all.

  6. Kathy September 26, 2011 / 8:25 am

    Thank you for sharing all of this. I am cautiously optimistic and can’t wait to see and experience the new “timeline” features for myself! 🙂

  7. birdie September 26, 2011 / 9:35 am

    You are saying that my privacy lies with me like it always did? No, it doesn’t, my comments and likes on all friends’ pages appear in the running commentary on the side since the new update. I do not want friends to see my comments and likes on my friends that they do not know s pages….

    • Melanie Nelson September 26, 2011 / 10:45 am

      Birdie,
      Actually, all the things you are seeing in the Ticker were available in your friends’ news feed as well, but they may have hidden them or just not noticed them. Amber Oliver wrote a great post explaining how your Facebook privacy stands: http://bit.ly/n6uuGG I hope it helps clarify some things for you.

  8. Sara September 26, 2011 / 11:53 am

    The other changes don’t seem to affect me much since I never thought anything was private on FB anyway. I hate, hate, hate the ticker. It’s redundant and distracting. I do not care to see if my friends like a comment made by someone I don’t even know. Before I could see that on their page if I wanted to go there and look, now it’s thrust in my face real time. I wish it were optional or it had the option to hide or close it. I have to squish my screen to hide it, so I don’t see all the advertising on the right side anyway. Counterproductive for FB?

  9. Melanie Nelson September 26, 2011 / 12:08 pm

    Sara,

    I think things aren’t quite completely rolled out yet and it’s hard to see the entire picture unless you’ve watched the F8 keynote and listened to what Mark and others were saying about where social is headed (I’d argue we haven’t even been social up to now…these changes are that significant).

    Have you seen this article at Mashable? Why Facebook Timeline is Made for Its Youngest Users: http://on.mash.to/qNvnDK Essentially, Facebook back has always been about open sharing and it’s the generation one and two behind us that are going to really understand how to use this new iteration most effectively because they’re already using it that way.

  10. Gretchen September 26, 2011 / 2:04 pm

    Great–and refreshingly positive!–post. Thank you.

    I’m with you on the Pages getting the style of Timeline sooner or later–it’s inevitable. And what a wonderful way to be able to take the branding of your Facebook page to a whole new level!

    And as a scrapbooker? The potential of the personal Timeline thrills me. 😉

  11. Nicola September 27, 2011 / 10:43 am

    Hey all, I LOVE the new timeline, however just wondering how come my friends can’t see that I’m using the timelin???

  12. Melanie Nelson September 27, 2011 / 12:00 pm

    Nicola,

    Right now, only FB users with the Developer app installed can see the Timeline updates of others. If regular users (w/o the Dev app) flip over to your profile, they’ll see it just as it has been (until later this week when it’s rolled out to everyone!).

  13. Carol Garvin October 2, 2011 / 6:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing all this info. Personally, I hate the changes, but that’s perhaps because when I joined FB it was just to find and communicate with people I know. It worked well for me. I don’t want to spend a couple hours re-learning a new way to accomplish the same things. The Ticker is annoying. The Timeline doesn’t interest me. Having to monitor the privacy of every post and who sees what is a pain. And I really hate the way the News Feed works now — what it thinks is a priority isn’t what I want to see first at all. I want to see everything in chronological order as it use to be in the “Most Recent” format.

    IMHO, I think Mark Z. may have overestimated the level of complexity that people want from FB and it could backfire. I know a couple dozen people who are already migrating over to Google+ because of its simplicity.

  14. Andrew Davis December 6, 2011 / 3:45 pm

    Thanks for this post. 🙂

    Facebook Privacy has always been a problem, even though many people try to deny that.

    The Timeline has definitely helped me to clean up my private information a bit, and helped me to find content I shared, that I couldn’t otherwise remember or find.

    My Facebook friends see more of my Activities that I do… 😐

    Anyway, I’ve put together a new website with Hundreds of Free Facebook Profile Covers:
    http://designfacebookcover.com/

    Feel free to use them on your Timeline. 🙂
    -Andrew Davis

  15. Andrea December 25, 2011 / 10:12 pm

    I started use facebook timeline but my friends can’t see it! I also wait 7 days already, but I can not see an tool saying how can I publish my timeline.

    And sorry if my english is bad I’m from Ecuador

  16. Ruth Ruane February 8, 2012 / 9:08 pm

    have seen a few posts cribbing on about facebook’s new timeline. Here’s my view. I got excited about the new timeline. I changed mine as soon as I saw it. started learning what fancy stuff it does and I thought woohoo something new, thanks facebook. sounds cringey but it’s true. I like it first because its different, secondly because it’s a sign that facebook is still updating… it’s alive and working to make things better, a sign it’s not going anywhere. You’d get worried if it didn’t update to be honest when you consider the rate of update releases for other popular software. I have to say it though…I’m in business and facebook is a fantastic tool, for networking and sharing, it gets me wonderful new customers and lots of sales and it’s all free of charge. (afraid I’ll jinx it now by saying that) it’s a bit shocking to see how many are getting crabbed about changes to something useful that they are getting for free…thanks for the blog post by the way.

  17. Lizzie February 14, 2012 / 12:10 am

    timeline is AWFUL. It’s visually difficult to follow and not the least bit intuitive. I am the “go to computer” person for my friends so I’m not a computer idiot. Timeline removes all the pleasure from my facebook time. The large photos are distracting. I liked being able to see a fairly large number of posts in one glance. Now it’s limited to just a few. And the double columns are visually distracting. Facebook is going to reduce viewing time and consequently advertisers will have less views for their ads. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

  18. Fahmy February 17, 2012 / 1:54 am

    I have more than 300 notes, and since the last major change in FB about one years ago, there is not any more a way to go my first note otherwise through scrolling down through all my notes to find the first one, however before that there was a simple way to see list containing only the titles of all my articles (notes) in a glance, now this is lost forever and not fixed in timeline. I have not yet Timeline and seems I will not like it, I saw it on some friends’ profiles and did not like it at all for many reasons that are clear enough to every bod but not the FB administration and FB programmers. You call it the big picture, I call it fuzzy and crumbled. We all loved FB since it WAS simple to use, it became hard to use since one year, and with Timeline it will be forever much more hard to use. What a pity that this is the case and you try to justify the opposite, like when the gov makes a very bad decision and try to defend itself against the willingness of everybody!

  19. Jared February 22, 2012 / 12:53 am

    Hi, I would like to know if there is anyway for comments that I post on others’ photos, status etc can be shown on my timeline? Please reply me thru the mail thanks!:)

  20. abhishek gupta June 26, 2012 / 8:50 am

    i have a problem ….i have started using the timeline but it is not visible to any of my friends……..what is the solution of it?????

  21. Marilu September 14, 2012 / 10:16 am

    I created 3 new timeline pages ( not groups ) and my friends tell me they are unable to post on them, even though my privacy settings allow friends to post. I have done everything possible to fix the problem, even reported the issue but I got an automatic messages thanking me for reporting the problem, which was of no help. The help center does not answer my question and I’m ready to close the pages to my sadness, because I do want to keep them; however, if friends can’t post, theres is no fun having the pages. Does anyone have any suggestion? Thanks in advance for all the help yo can provide !

  22. Marilu September 14, 2012 / 10:17 am

    I’ve created 3 new timeline pages ( not groups ) and my friends tell me they are unable to post on them, even though my privacy settings allow friends to post. I have done everything possible to fix the problem, even reported the issue but I got an automatic messages thanking me for reporting the problem, which was of no help. The help center does not answer my question and I’m ready to close the pages to my sadness, because I do want to keep them; however, if friends can’t post, theres is no fun having the pages. Does anyone have any suggestion? Thanks in advance for all the help yo can provide !

  23. Pam October 5, 2012 / 6:51 pm

    I recently entered a post (using my iPad) on what I thought was my “status” page in Facebook. That’s where I wanted it to be. But in checking it out after posting, the entry only appears in my timeline. Why did that happen? And, how do people access your timeline vs status? Thanks.

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