These days, it seems like members of the U.S. Congress can’t agree on anything, but will Capitol Hill reach a consensus that timeline is an improvement to Facebook when the feature becomes available on pages?
For members of Congress, the transition to timeline presents unique challenges. Capitol Hill is notoriously slow when adapting to new technologies. After all, the U.S. House of Representatives only made Facebook an official platform about two years ago.
And many congressional offices have invested in custom Facebook landing pages using HTML instead of Facebook’s markup language. It’s unclear how another major change will be received and how quickly members will start using the new design.
The House also has archaic rules that congressional offices must adhere to. For example, offices must manage two different pages, one for a members’ campaign and another for their office. That rule could slow down how fast offices take to timeline.
To their credit, many Democrats and Republicans have embraced the features of Facebook, using a variety of apps and tabs, as well as video downloads and livestreams, to host town halls, answer questions from voters and share their positions on specific legislation.
Despite the challenges and grumbling that comes with most Facebook changes, we think there are three advantages to timeline that congressional offices will come to embrace.
Create A Historical Record
The ability to go back in time to add key dates will allow members to convey a more complete political record. This change is both a blessing and a curse, since politicians sometimes have selective memories.
Look no further than Newt Gingrich’s timeline on his profile to see what we mean. Still, the ability to add key dates will benefit constituents, who will be able to use timeline to quickly assess where a politician has stood on issues. And the feature allows members to emphasize the issues they care most about.
Establish A Strong Brand
The oversized timeline cover gives elected officials and candidates a chance to show a brand image. Since the entire House of Representatives is up for reelection this year, not to mention the presidential candidates and state and local officials, a well-thought out cover image is a great opportunity to to reflect the essence of a politician or candidate.
But will politicos maximize their cover photos? Too often, they revert to familiar images in their campaign or official websites such as a head shot and photo of the flag. With a number of apps that make the possibilities for cover photos endless, we hope that Capitol Hill will get creative.
Open Graph Apps
Facebook is becoming more of an operating system than a stand-alone website, and with the prominence that open graph apps have on the right side of timeline, developers will look for opportunities to populate that space for politicians.
Much of the activity in a congressional office revolves around constituent service that is, responding to mail and specific requests that only a member of Congress can address, such as questions about government benefits or appointments. These routine tasks that are shared among several hundred offices on Capitol Hill lends itself to open graph apps.
And, with the number of printed and electronic newsletters a congressional office develops, we would expect new ways to share and like these materials among Facebook friends, using apps in the open graph.
Most people view members’ adoption of social media like Facebook as a way to make government more transparent. Do you think timeline will strengthen the relationship between you and your elected officials?