Facebook’s Big News May Make Some Scramble

This week Facebook dropped some big news at its marketing conference in NYC: Companies and brands with Facebook pages will also be required to adapt to the new Timeline profile. . . . by March 30. The change—and the reasoning behind it—created all kinds of media buzz, most notably with respect to its implications on advertising.

But this is a corporate history blog, so I want to talk about the “timeline implications of Timeline,” which also got some interesting press.

This is a great opportunity for companies with iconic brands and well established stories and histories. Ford, Harley, Starbuck’s, American Express and many other category-leaders have already made the switch and can now just continue to curate and publish new content.

On the flip side it’s going to be a lot less great for those companies and brands with either a more “checkered past” or less documented heritage. For instance, when most of our clients first call The History Factory, they don’t have much in the way of documentation or “formal” history. When I saw Facebook’s announcement, I took pride in knowing that we’ve prepared our clients for an apparent sea change in the era of social media.

But from the vantage point of our little heritage management niche in the marcom and PR landscape, there’s another wrinkle that is going to be interesting to watch. There’s a whole category of companies that no longer have a clear beginning. They’ve merged and acquired (or been acquired) so many times that they literally don’t know how old they are. It sounds trivial, but it can create all kinds of problems, especially with respect to legal compliance and IP issues. Imagine what it would be like to navigate through life without knowing your birth year!

Earlier this year, I changed my own Facebook profile over to Timeline. Since I don’t conceal my age, Facebook already knew that I was born in 1974 and it automatically populated my personal “founding date.” Facebook may not know my mom’s founding date, but she and the rest of our family do. That’s why Timeline is going to reveal all kinds of interesting and conflicting interpretations as companies and brands scramble to literally fill in the blanks of their own timeline.