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Cautiously Optimistic

Social media for better communication and a better life

Facebook Timeline: Your ‘Long Tail’ is Longer Than You Think

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As Facebook converts more of its user accounts to the new “Timeline” format, we citizens of what the Atlantic magazine terms “Facebookistan” have had to make some hard choices.

The timeline format displays, in chronological order, almost everything a person has ever done on the site, including pictures, links to articles, comments on or “liking” of others’ pictures and articles, and which celebrities and consumer brands they follow.

Facebook gives each person a bit of a grace period—some time to review the information on their timeline before publishing it to the web. For many of us, that means we have had to browse through a great deal of content, perhaps more than we remembered creating.

Looking down my timeline, skimming past all the content I knew I was going to have to edit, I was reminded of “the long tail,” one of my favorite concepts from the realms of both business and communication.

Chris Anderson wrote about the long tail in a Wired magazine article, and described it as a special kind of demand curve.

The Long Tail (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)In this graph, the green-shaded area to the left represents things that are in high demand, and the yellow-shaded area to the right represents things that are in low demand. The volumes of the two areas are roughly equivalent. In a business context, the aggregate demand for the plentiful low-demand items is around the same as the aggregate demand for the scarce high-demand items.

In editing my Facebook past for public consumption, I discovered that the timeline was looking awfully like a “long tail” as well. There were lots of entries packed into a short time period for the last two years. Beyond that, each month had fewer and fewer items, but the timeline just seemed to stretch on and on and on. I had no idea I’d spent so much of my life in social media.

According to the long tail theory, if I had a dollar for every social media activity I ever engaged in since I signed up for Facebook, I’d be twice as wealthy as if I had just recently signed up. So I think I’ll keep looking in the mailbox for my check from Mark Zuckerberg. I bet it won’t take that long. Not long at all.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

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Written by Charles Primm

February 28, 2012 at 7:16 pm

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