Are you skittish about using Facebook’s Timeline because your yearbook picture was inappropriate
or growing up you looked like Urkel on Family Matters? Before you dismiss the new format, consider other ways to use Timeline, besides posting your past. In particular, you may find it helps your organization or group to implement social business objectives.
A basic premise of Timeline is depiction of the lifetime, “cradle-to-grave” process. Business processes, therefore, are a natural for Timeline. Timeline can be used to engage customers, employees, and suppliers in a mutually satisfying and productive experience around a business process.
For example, R&D departments can comment about what inspired them to design a product, complete with photos of their inspiration. Suppliers can post photos of their global team during the production process, with comments from line personnel, connecting upstream people with consumers in a real and personal way. Consumers can add to the company’s Timeline by uploading photos of themselves receiving the finished product or using it.
A fully integrated Timeline of the product lifecycle would be gratifying for all those involved. It holds the possibility of connecting everyone in an authentic and rewarding way, while providing valuable intelligence for continuous operational improvement, customer loyalty and satisfaction, and future product enhancements.
Imagine how appealing a Timeline could be for the growing trend of customized merchandise and services.
For example, ordering a bespoke item, like a watch, can be based on personalized, customer involvement. Photos and comments from parts suppliers and assemblers of the watch could be posted in Timeline to encourage customer interaction along the production process. The consumer would have a complete record of the experience, well beyond placing and receiving the order. Documenting the process for friends and family to see opens up potential new customers driven by the Facebook Timeline interaction.
The use of Timeline also serves as a way for a company to visually articulate a track record of corporate touchstones to current and potential customers. Financial institutions and insurance companies, for example, looking to build their reputations for new business, can pictorially depict their company histories, including years of service to communities. The lifetime of the entity and the shaping of the brand would be documented through Timeline with immediate, 360-degree comments and contributions from partners, employees, and consumers.
The health services industry can show cutting-edge procedures visually on Timeline with storytelling commentary by the actual health practitioners responsible for the breakthrough processes. Doctors and medical students worldwide could have unprecedented access to education and input into further advances. Thanks to Timeline, “between the ears” information and knowledge across a global community would be captured chronologically for all time.
Collaboration is essential to becoming a social business, and Timeline is a natural for companies with strategic alliances. Take visitors' bureaus or travel sites, for instance. Teaming up with hospitality partners, local historians, merchants, and caretakers of must-see sights, Timeline can provide a forum to take would-be visitors on a historical journey, through the past to the present, with dialogue from area experts about the destination.
Personal stories and comments from participants about a locale would build a relationship at the earliest stages with those considering travel. Testimonies, photographs, and suggestions from returning travelers sharing their experiences would round out the community.
Social business is all about inclusion. Using Timeline as a conduit to reveal the essence of an organization, its products, services, and history, creates an authentic relationship beyond the boundaries of that enterprise. It invites others to join in, regardless of what the affiliation is to the entity. In so doing, the “six degrees of separation” between partners, employees, and consumers decreases to a much smaller and more intimate community -- one capable of meeting challenges, gaining insights, and establishing relationships that were previously inaccessible.
— Joanne Korman Goldman is a business consultant, professional coach, and Editor-in-Chief of The Atlantic Lady, a magazine for Rolls-Royce and Bentley owners.