Business Storytelling Using Facebook’s New Timeline Feature; Suggestion for Student Activity

We've written here before about the power of storytelling in business communication, and all our textbooks now cover storytelling as a compositional mode, so we are definitely intrigued to see how businesses will be using Facebook's new timeline feature as a storytelling tool.

This article in Ad Age highlights a number of firms that have extended their Facebook timelines back in time to tell the company's story from its founding. The tone and presentation vary widely, as one would expect, from the quirky nonsense of Old Spice to the journalistic presentation of the New York Times.

These timelines offer a great opportunity for a student activity. Have your students analyze several Facebook timeline histories and compare them with the About Us pages on the companies' websites. Which medium presents each company's story in the most compelling fashion, the Facebook timeline or the website? What are the potential disadvantages of the Facebook timeline feature? (Students should recognize, for example, that the linear, chronological format can be a frustrating way to find specific information and to read the company history in proper order, one has to find the very bottom of the timeline and read upward.)

What do you think of the timeline as a communication feature in general and as a storytelling tool in particular?