by Jason Dressel

Last week Facebook dropped some big news: All companies and brands with Facebook pages will be required to transition to Facebook’s new “Timeline” profile format by March 30.

This shift, which is largely driven by how Facebook wants (and doesn’t want) customers to be delivering advertising and directly promotional content, is a litmus test of sorts for companies’ and brands’ storytelling capabilities.

Best-in-class organizations like The New York Times, Harley Davidson, Starbucks, and American Express already have made the transition to Facebook Timeline, adding substantive, authentic content to enrich their pages and reinforce what their brands represent.

But for some, their timeline has a big empty gap—a missed opportunity at best, and at worst, sending the wrong message.

For example, one financial services company has already made the switch to Facebook Timeline, but has no content between its 19th century founding date and 2009, when the company created its Facebook page.

Following March 30, many pages on Facebook will have similar embarrassing gaps.

Here a few basics for what companies and brands may need to consider or do to make the most of Facebook Timeline:

Establish the Founding Date. It may sound obvious, but a lot of companies have to establish a point of view and rationale for their founding date! For many companies, multiple mergers and acquisitions have blurred the lines of their corporate genealogy. It’s not unusual to see a company’s history book, web site and third-party resources all refer to different founding dates!

Be Consistent with Information Across Platforms. Make sure the founding date and other milestones that you publish on Facebook Timeline are consistent with information found on the company or brand web site and other resources.

Consider How to Address Past Setbacks and Pitfalls. Great storytelling is based upon drama and tension. And people love underdogs and comebacks. Companies and brands are not perfect; failing to include well-lesser known setbacks or past PR debacles may do less harm than good.

Start with the Future and Work Back. Curate and publish content that aligns with the key messages and objectives of your company’s social media strategy. For example, if attracting talent is a goal, pull forward stories and images that show how the organization has been a great employer over the years.

As companies and brands scramble to literally fill in the blanks of their own timeline, they just may find some new insights and discoveries about who they are and what they’ve done that have application to the future.

Jason Dressel, [email protected], is Managing Director of the heritage management firmThe History Factory.