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Digital timelines will force people (and brands) to think before they act

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.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Anonymous

    I was thankful to see my timeline only goes back to 2004 – when I was 22 and the glaring stupidity of the preceding 6-7 years was behind me. God help Generation Z.

    For business, I see it as a good thing for consumers. Companies who do it dirty are going to find they have a harder time shutting up the people who call them out, and once it’s out, it’s out forever.

    • Anonymous

      Totally agree, Mike! It should be a good thing for consumers (which likely means that some corporations will fight this movement with all they’ve got).

      My timeline only goes back to 2007, and I too am thankful for that ; )

      Thanks for chiming in bud. Hope all is well.

  • Alan Noblitt

    Well stated. We need to be cognizant of everything that we write in any electronic medium, though few of us think about what it will look like years down the road.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for chiming in, Alan! You’re absolutely right about that. It’s something I hope to instill in my son (forward thinking) from a young age.

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  • http://www.webmaisterpro.com/ Kaloyan Banev

    I must admit that quite like new Facebook timeline and new interfaces from top companies. Actually I thin that all “big boys” have redesigned interface during 2011.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for chiming in, Kaloyan! I believe that the “timeline” will become a foundation for the future of what we call the internet.

      Everything and everyone will be archived in chronological and searchable order.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    People and brands should have always been thinking of how they act in social media! Of course, they didn’t. Maybe Timeline will serve as a reminder.

    • Anonymous

      Indeed, Nick. A permanent reminder at that. Thanks for chiming in!

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