Surprise! Facebook Timeline: who’s using it? Who isn’t?


It’s been approximately six months since Facebook Timeline was released to individual Facebook users. You might recall that Timeline was unveiled by Zuckerberg at the f8 conference in September last year, to great fanfare, including a very emotive video.

Since then, a lot of brands have used the feature to varying effect. But what about individuals?

Let’s take a quick look at a few brands first.

Tourism Australia is well known for its popular Facebook Page and is increasingly recognised for its innovative use of Timeline, where it displays not its own history or even Australia’s history, but snapshots from real Australian holidays over the years (contributed by fans).

It’s no surprise that major brands like Holden and Levi’s use Timeline to proudly share their brand history. It’s interesting to see Coca Cola  do this with the good and the bad (it includes various points in history where its fans were disgruntled about changes to Coke).

Snapshot from Britney Spears's Timeline
Snapshot from Britney Spears’s Timeline

Guinness World Records Timeline is surprisingly dry, considering the content it could share. Lots of its Timeline entries revolve around editions being published, and often there are records there without any picture to bring them to life. Perhaps it’s a work in progress?

One of the most fascinating uses of Timeline is by The Wall Street Journal. Its page Tracking FB’s IPO centres around that one news story of Facebook’s public float, with a Timeline that outlines Facebook’s history.

I thought it would be a no-brainer for celebrities to use Timeline to share their personal biographies, so I was surprised that Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber  haven’t used their Timeline in that way. Britney Spears has, including photos of her with the Mickey Mouse Club. Madonna has. Guess who else has used Timeline? Keith Urban. Don’t ask me why I searched that … (You know what? Nicole Kidman has spruced up her Timeline too. Perhaps husband and wife have the same Facebook team?)

The social media president, Barack Obama, also has a Timeline populated  with milestone stories. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Facebook team  has had a go too, although it’s lacking in colour and images.

Flicking through these Timelines, I am reminded that they don’t render seamlessly. The milestones tend to jump around or take some time to load, so the user experience isn’t super-enjoyable.

Snapshot from Coca Cola's Facebook Timeline
Snapshot from Coca Cola’s Facebook Timeline

What about individual use of Timeline milestones?

There’s little available research on the number of Facebook users who have added milestones to their personal Timelines (and by research, I mean no relevant articles turned up in my Google searches). Six months into Timeline, very few members of my Facebook network have proactively used Timeline to share their past.

I put this down to a number of  potential reasons:

  • Time. It takes effort to decide on milestones suitable for sharing, to make sure you have the dates right and to source an appropriate photograph. The best Timelines have photographs; and finding and scanning these is too much like hard work. (Though you can cheat and take a smartphone photo of your photo ..if things like resolution don’t bother you).
  • Caution about oversharing. We already have a lot of our life’s story on Facebook. Some users might feel it’s unnecessary to give the social network even more details of their lives. Our ‘real friends’ know all about us already, right?
  • A reluctance that comes from looking needy or like we have nothing better to do.
  • Timeline has already built itself. We each have a skeleton timeline, beginning with our birth date, then the date we joined Facebook, and statuses following that.  Perhaps users think there’s no need to go back in time because of this organic build up.

Tom’s Timeline

One friend who has added some stories to his Timeline is fellow social media professional Tom Williamson. He’s been generous enough  to answer some of my questions below.

Question: What motivated you to use Timeline?

Answer: curiosity more than anything and the ability to share milestones in my life that matter to me. My friends have been part of my life much longer than FB has, by tagging them in accompanying comments and descriptions, I was able to let them know I remember the moments we shared and make them part of a platform I’ve spent the last 5 or 6 years investing my time in. As a result, friends I tagged Liked and commented on those milestones and I’m sure they spent a few moments remembering the good times we shared.

Q: Was it hard?

A:  the most difficult part was remembering dates the events occurred! Luckily, I use iphoto to store my images so most of the milestones I added were already documented in there. It was just a case of looking through photos and adding the ones that made me smile or had fond memories attached to them. I spent a good hour on the phone to Ma and Pa finding dates attached to images they gave me of me growing up. Items I added without images I took and educated guess on. I had rules around what I added – milestones are important times in my life that have neutral or positive sentiment surrounding them.

Q: Was it worth it?

A: Yes. I have a feeling Facebook will be around for a while. I remember when my Grandad was ill before he died, Dad asked him to document his life by putting pen to paper so he could pass his memories down through generations. While I’m sure he wrote as much as he could remember, there’s probably stuff he missed. Now that I’m adding milestones to my timeline, everyone I care about has access to the important times in my life. As long as I maintain it, there will be decades of history available to anyone who cares to look.

Tom has reminded me of other reasons to use Timeline – and they go back to some of the reasons we use Facebook. It’s about connecting with friends and reminding them of good times together. And when you use Facebook to document your life, it’s a good reminder to Download your profile now and again.

What about you? Have you used Timeline milestones? Do you intend to?


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Gary Lum says:

    I turned it on and haven’t had any concerns. None of my friends have complained. It use it on my Facebook page too and again no complaints. That said, it’s just for a bit of fun and I don’t have a page for anything serious.

  2. I’m constantly bemused by the number of people I know who are resistant …. but that could just be a human nature thing ….

    I haven’t gone back and put too many things in, I suppose that could be a case of not wanting to “overshare”.

    As a hobby photog I do *love* the personalisation opportunities presented by that lovely big space, and will mostly now tie in my profile picture and cover photo. What I have up now is a prime example of that – it just adds a little more “me” to the whole shebang.

  3. thecollyblog says:

    I changed to Timeline because I read it was about to become a forced standard. I thought I’d prepare myself for the inevitable, and get in before the supposed deadline. It’s taken some time to get used to the placement of my posts – sometimes they seem to jump from one side of the page to the other (from one column to the other). Always changing, ever amazing (?) Facebook.

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