As the old saying goes, today is the first day of the rest of your life.
And thanks to Facebook’s Timeline feature (which is out of Beta and is now live) it’s very likely that said “rest of your life” will be chronicled and archived publicly for the whole world to see. Granted, if you’re meticulous in nature, you can go back and mark certain less favorable life events as private, thereby protecting your personal and professional reputation.
However, I’m pretty sure that Facebook’s Timeline is really just the tip of the iceberg. Kids that are born today will likely never know what a truly private life is, and it’s likely that most if not all of their actions will be chronicled and archived in one way or another. Whether you want to believe it or not, we are only the infancy stages of the “lifecasting” era.
As intense as this is on a personal level, one might argue that that businesses and brands are bound to be even more impacted by the manifestation of lifecasting.
How so? Because in time, the “mark as private” option simply won’t be available. In fact, anybody who’s involved in reputation management (particularly that of the search engine variety) knows just how difficult it is to erase a stain from the past. Moreover, as social media and online commerce matures, the history of consumer interactions and options will be publicly archived into perpetuity and structured in chronological order for all the world to see.
Let me give you a small example to help further paint the picture. Take a little-publicized feature that Facebook rolled out on brand pages a few month ago called the Friend Activity Tab. In a nutshell, this functionality automatically shows any interaction that your friends have had with said brand. This might not sound like much on the surface, but if you think about it for a minute you begin to realize that it marks a shift from “manual” word of mouth (e.g. asking your friends what they think of a brand) to “passive” or “automated” word of mouth, where technology automatically provides you with word of mouth feedback without you even having to ask for it.
And once again, this information will be available for all to see basically forever.
What does this mean? Simple. It means that if you’re a marketer or business executive, and your company isn’t 100% invested in addressing consumer sentiment online (as well proactively improving your product, service, and marketing messaging in an effort to prevent negative sentiment before it happens as well as amplify positive sentiment when it occurs) time is running out.
The days of one-way, broadcast oriented, sweep-the-crappy-stuff-under-the-rug marketing practices are quickly coming to an end.