Have you noticed how social networks are becoming more about building memories? You make friends, share events, get congratulated for happy events and condolences for sad ones. You can share pictures, videos… in fact, social accounts are like the digital scrapbooks of our lives (for individual accounts) and businesses (for corporate accounts).

Now, I’m immersed in social, SEO, marketing and branding. Rarely do I have time to enjoy and experience social media like the average user does. When a social site makes changes, I automatically look at those changes to see if they can be used for business purposes.

Because of the above, I didn’t really think about it much when Facebook turned on their Timeline in September of last year. It was just par for the course – just another way of displaying what you share. I did what I always do – how can I use it for business, what to do with the new layout and space, etc.

-And then, my personal connections started actually using Timeline. As these things often do, their use rolled into my view. I got curious and started delving into my own timeline. What I found was positive and negative, painful and wonderful.

My Facebook Timeline

If you’ve followed our social accounts and read this blog, you’re probably aware that I didn’t grow up as a U.S. citizen. I’m an Italian citizen, with Italian parents. The ironic part is that I wasn’t raised in Italy; I was raised in the Middle East. While this may seem out of the way to people in the U.S., but if you look, at Europe in proximity to the Middle East, it’s almost like driving from Iowa to New York – maybe even shorter, now that I think about it.

Can you find me?

My mother was a budding starlet back in the 60’s. She was promised fame and fortune if she moved to Lebanon. Needless to say, she did move, and ended up marrying one of the most prominent political figures of that country’s history (my mother’s life would be a book in and of itself).

To dramatically shorten a really long story, our way of life had an adverse affect on my sense of stability, safety and family. As an only child, I learned how to play by myself and with my imaginary friends. –Yet, before the war in Lebanon, there were so many kids from various nationalities, you couldn’t help but be immersed in a plethora of cultures. Smart wonderful people from every walk of life, culture, and nationality.

I fell in love there, kissed my first boy and smoked my first cigarette. I didn’t move to this country until later. Our lives weren’t tons better once we moved here, but there was a sense of strength, of pride… and, of course, the streets weren’t paved with gold compared to where I’d grown up. Opportunity was all around this great, big land, but the memories and connections I made in Beirut will live in my heart forever.

Post War Lebanon

All these memories came flooding back by looking at the Facebook timeline. It made me wonder how much of my past I could build with this one network. Maybe I’m lucky, or maybe not. Not all the memories are pleasant, but I have major red flags with historical facts and whatnot, so I can actually draw a pretty accurate timeline if I chose to.

During my youth, Lebanon was riddled with civil unrest. Yet, I hold treasures and moments when I look through pictures. During the 16-year-war that started in the mid-70s, more than 100,000 were killed, and the same handicapped by injuries. About 900,000 were displaced from their homes. In the meantime, I lost track of so many of those I’d known…

Looking through the timeline on a Sunday afternoon, my mind wandered. How many of you can look at a certain picture, food or smell something, and you’re back in a particular moment? That minute, what I felt of upon seeing the year 1972 was fear mixed with joy.

Once I looked over things, considering whether to fill in moments with images and so on, I had time to really think about Facebook’s timeline. Was it a good thing? A bad thing? Just a thing?

Pros and Cons – Is Facebook’s Timeline Such a Good Thing?

How will you share your story?

For me, not everything in my past is something I want to broadcast to the public – and I don’t think I’m alone in that. I realized, while writing this, that most of the cons are personal based, while most of the pros are business based.

For example, one of the first cons that popped in my mind is that someone can share a picture of you to their network, tag you in it, and have it show up on your timeline. In other words, that photo of you tying more than a few on at the last company Christmas party could end up very public.

When you post something now, you have to be extra careful and decide with everything how public you want it to be. Because anything you share with your network has the possibility of being shared by them to their network and so on. While this is great for business, it’s not so great for personal.

Another con that comes to mind ties in with your communications on other sites. By clicking that innocent-looking “Add to Timeline” button on a site, you’re agreeing to let your network know everything you’re doing on that site. In a world where privacy is a huge factor, is this something you really want to do?

Another: the ease of use for the Timeline really calls to you. It’s inviting, and it pulls you to want to fill in the timeline. Before you answer the call, think long and hard about what you want to fill in – others will be able to see, comment, share and so on. As with anything you put online, a good rule of thumb is to never share anything, no matter how privately, that you would have a problem with having plastered across the Net.

On a business level, there really doesn’t seem to be many cons for the new Facebook layout. The timeline allows you to build an in depth “about us” wall, and the picture panel is a definite plus for branding your business.

In fact, the only real con I can see is that none of this new functionality is available to brand pages – only user accounts. Darned if that doesn’t make us brand users green with envy. So, if you have a personal account, but you’re using it to talk about your business, you get the best of both worlds.

As a business user, filling in the timeline could be a great addition; again, I would caution you to choose carefully what you do and don’t share. The wide picture panel can be used to make an outstanding impression on your followers. In short, the changes have been very good for those who use their personal Facebook accounts as business additions.

Stories At Work

You Have a Story to Tell

I wouldn’t be surprised to see some brands creating some type of personal account, or, at the very least, developing some apps, to get a timeline-type look. Facebook Timeline is an excellent way to share your brand/business story.

-And isn’t that really what social is all about?

Every business – every brand – has a story to tell. Of course, you decide how transparent your story will be, and you do that by being very careful what goes out on your timeline. Every connection from your past can come back to either boost your reputation or haunt you forever.

No one knows how much of this will matter in a few years, technology changing as quickly as it does. No one knows how many of your connections you’ll still have later, because the Internet is such a fluid medium. What we do know is that we live in exciting times; you, your business and your brand are parts of those times.

As you delve into Facebook’s Timeline, remember that we all have a story to tell, including me – including you. Tell it well!