Facebook: 25 Tips and Tricks
Chances are, if you're not on Facebook already, then you're likely to be getting on it pretty soon. Whether it's your kids or your next door neighbor (or those old friends you just reunited with at your high school reunion), folks around you have been hounding you to sign up, set up a profile, and start "social-networking" with all your friends, and their friends, and so on. Truth is, social-networking sites such as Facebook (and MySpace, Bebo, LinkedIn, etc) are increasingly turning into the first place people go when they get on the Internet, as these services offer e-mail, chat, music players, photo sharing, and so much more beyond just staying in touch with your Friends.
But the best (or worst) part about Facebook is all the people from your past who come out of the woodwork (we're talking grade-school past). All this means you'll want to look your very best on your Facebook profile, and make the best use of all that the service has to offer, which is why we've come up with 25 tips that'll optimize your social-networking experience. Try 'em out by clicking on 'Next' below, and if you've got any tips we've missed, please let us know!
Use a current profile picture
While Facebook allows you to post as many pictures as you like, and tag yourself in pictures that your friends have taken, the Web site only allows you one profile picture, so make it count. You may very well have some potential suitors on the Web site, so be sure to portray yourself as accurately as possible. A clear, well-lit picture of you will help you to put your best foot forward, particularly if it's a portrait or captures you in the midst of one of your favorite activities. And you might ought to refrain from using one of the pictures from that New Year's Eve party, as your profile picture is accessible to everybody on Facebook, even with the privacy settings engaged. Use whatever picture you feel projects what you want to project. (Professional,
Be descriptive in your ‘interests’
Since you have only one Facebook, if you use it for business and for pleasure, you need to be careful how much you divulge about your interests. If your interests include something provocative, leave it out. The more information you provide in this section, the more you reveal to others about you and your activities. Another way to approach ‘Interests’ is to list the interests that best differentiate you; it's understood that you enjoy "chillin' with friends" and "reading a good book," so get more descriptive. Instead of "chillin' with friends, say, for example, "eating fried chicken livers while watching football with the boys." Instead of "reading a good book," respond with, "Victorian British literature."
Don't underestimate the importance of your 'Favorite Music' section
As any self-respecting music geek knows, one's musical taste says a lot about somebody, so be judicious in listing your favorite bands in your profile's 'Favorite Music' section. A thorough music section, mentioning your appreciation of Gene Vincent, might make the difference in whether or friend will responds to your message. Don't be yet another one of those people that says, "I like pretty much everything." Get specific, giving artist names (and, if you're up to it, album titles). One tactic that seems to be popular is to sort your iTunes according to the "Play Count" or "Last Played" tabs, and then copy down what you find. These tips – save the last one of course – also apply to your Favorite Movies and Books sections.
Invite All of Your Actual Friends (and Family)
For those of us who grew up in the pre-Facebook era, it's sometimes tough to reach out to old friends and say (in a smarmy voice) "will you be my Facebook friend?" But it's something we should all get over, because the flurry of social-networking only starts getting good when you have a large enough community of folks you know and like that are also out there making new friends and contacts. it just means you'll get more cool stuff in your in-box, and also means you're more likely to hear from some random person you went to grade-school with (or maybe an old flame), which, to be honest, is kind of the most moving thing about social-networking (reconnecting with long-lost folks, that is). This writer is even getting to know far flung members of his family that he wouldn't otherwise have much rapport with if it were not for Facebook.
Don't add random friends unless there is a reason
We have a hard time understanding the mindset of wanting to send friend requests to perfect strangers in faraway places, but plenty of people do it. If it happens that you stumble across somebody on the Web site whose profile piques your interest, it is best to send that person an introductory message. You wouldn't ask a stranger to lunch without speaking with them first, would you? On the other hand, if you share a commonality, such as in my case “Real Estate”, you probably can’t have enough friends to network with for referral possibilities.
It's okay to decline random 'Friend' requests
Inevitably, you will receive friend requests from folks that you've never laid eyes on or, frankly, don't like all that much and have nothing in common. In those instances, you are well within your rights to decline friend requests. No, really, it's okay. Just decline them… they will probably never know.
Make friend suggestions on behalf of new members
When you become friends with somebody new to Facebook, you will get a prompt asking you to make "Friend Suggestions" on behalf of the newbie. Scroll through your list of friends, and select the folks that are also friends of the new user. Notifications will be sent to those you select, informing them of the new friend's presence on the site. This is simply the nice thing to do, the Facebook equivalent to baking a pound cake for your new neighbor. As for indiscriminately selecting your friends, regardless of whether they know your new friend or not, please refer to the previous "Don't Add Random Friends."
Know the difference between suggested friends and friend requests
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be a challenge to tell the difference between "Suggested Friends" that your other Facebook pals are recommending, and actual people who are asking to be your friends (known as "Friend Requests"). So, to be clear: Suggested Friends are at the top of your pending Friend request page and Friend Requests are on the bottom half. Make sure you read the headers (each begins with "You have __numberfriend...") on each of those sections clearly. It's not the end of the world, of course, but do you really want to be one of those folks who invites random strangers to be your friend?
Do write on your friends' "Walls"
Possibly even more so than messaging, the Wall feature is the cornerstone of interpersonal communication on Facebook. That being the case, Facebook etiquette requires that you write on friends' walls periodically. As the Wall is there for the whole world to see, though, it is best to follow some simple guidelines. When writing on a friend's Wall, don't leave personal information ("I got a new phone: (205) 555-1234."), sensitive correspondence ("Hey, man. I'm sorry to hear about your aunt passing away."), or incriminating stories ("I was just thinking about that time we got arrested in Tijuana. You remember that??"). Keep Wall postings light-hearted, leaving the other stuff for messages, or -- better yet -- e-mail.
Make sure to use the privacy settings
While many of us have been freaked out by the stories of potential employers snooping around on job candidates' Facebook profiles, there's really nothing to worry about with Facebook's privacy settings. By clicking on the Settings, and then Privacy Settings, at the top of your homepage, you can put limitations on who is, and who is not, able to view different parts of your profile. Just make sure you purge those New Year's photos before you accept your boss's friend request.
Manage your online profile, because potential employers and college admissions may be checking
In the early days of the 'book, you didn't really have to worry about everyone having access to your friend lists, photos, profile, etc... Now, anybody can join the site, and we're not surprised to hear that college admissions departments and employers are using Facebook as research for applicants, thanks to its treasure trove of information on people. While you don't have to be incredibly uptight and formal about it, it's probably a good idea to fill out your education, work, and interests on your profile, because it just could snag you that job interview.
On the cautionary side, use a bit of common sense when posting images and messages to the site. It's probably best not to post those pictures from that crazy party last weekend -- you know, that one that you don't fully remember.
Update your 'Status'... occasionally
Let your friends know what or how you're doing with Facebook's 'Status' feature, the speech bubble situated near the top of your home page. Folks often use the feature to concisely and quickly inform their friends of personal goings on ("John Doe is now happily married to Jane."), current events ("Jane Doe is excited about the outcome of the Alabama-LSU game!") and – of course – non-sequiturs ("John Doe is a maniac, a maniac on the floor.") While friends' Status updates can be fun to read, their humor decreases as their frequency increases. We don't need to know about your every move; one update every few days is certainly sufficient. And please keep your Status updates at least relatively interesting. Nobody cares to read: "John Doe is going to take a nap."
Some Good Apps
Although I don’t advocate adding a bunch of applications to my page. In fact if you look at mine, you will likely see none. I wanted to take a moment to talk about a couple of good ones that have been recommended.
Folks on Facebook have become application-happy over the last several months, festooning their pages with more software bells and whistles than a reindeer-and-referee convention. While many of them are disposable, these three applications are worthy of your profile's valuable real estate:
iLike: This Facebook-friendly app allows you to select your favorite songs from iLike's massive library, post them on your own profile and dedicate them to your friends. By playing its included music trivia game, you have a chance to win free music.
Where I've Been: Asking you to list the states, provinces and countries you've visited, lived in and wanted to go, this application then generates a world map, color-coded according to your answers. With Where I've Been, you can keep track of your friends' travels, as well as get a visual image of where you have been, yourself.
Mob Wars: Recruit your friends into your own "mob" and vie to be the mafia boss of Facebook. Millions of hardcore gamers and bored office-workers alike join ranks to hustle, steal and kill in their struggle to get to the top. As our friends who use it have said it's quite addictive, and as we have work to do, we haven't taken the plunge quite yet.
Some Bad Apps:
While fun can be had with some applications, there are others that – right away – strike us as bad ideas. Here are three of the worst.
OBGYN Souvenirs: This app gives you the opportunity to post a picture of OBGYN equipment on a friend's profile as a "gift." That's a gift we'd take back to the store.
Who Is Better?: This application asks you to determine which of your friends is the best at a particular activity. We can see nothing good coming of this.
How To Knw That U R In Love??: This app's description reads: "Here we are going to explore deep inside ur heart and see if it's true that u r in love or lets stop." We'd really rather not.
TerraPresents: With this app, you can post images of rocks on the profiles of your friends. Unless you happen to be deeply involved in a community of geologists, we wouldn't recommend this one.
Kissletoe Gifts: A promotion for an upcoming attempt to break the world's record number of people kissing at one time, Kissletoe Gifts just creeps us out.
Don't use the 'Poke' function, ever
While Facebook's infamous Poke function is relatively straightforward in its operation, its intended use is a mystery. When looking at another person's profile, you have the option of "Poking" them. If you do Poke said person, a notification will show up on their page, informing them that you did, in fact, Poke them. That's it. When Facebook first started, "Poking" seemed to be a kind of cautious precursor to a flirtatious message, kind of like a furtive glance before eye contact and a smile. But, then it dawned on us: Isn't a flirtatious Facebook message cautious enough? At this point, "Poking" somebody is pretty much considered to be either creepy or just plain confusing. Let's just leave it at sending messages and wall posts, okay?
Get on Facebook from other places
There are other ways to stay in touch with your Facebook contacts while not actually being on Facebook. Instant Messaging programs such as Adium (for Mac), for example, let you add your Facebook Chat friends right into the mix with all your AIM, Yahoo! Instant Messenger, and Windows Live Messenger friends. This means you not only get to talk live with your Facebook friends while using your favorite chat program, but that you also can get instant status updates flashing on your screen as soon as your friends post them. For other apps that'll help you manage and visit your Facebook profile, be sure to check out the Switched/CNET downloads area.
Access Facebook from your phone
Just because you're not on your computer doesn't mean you can't get the latest status updates on or correspond with your friends. Both the iPhone andBlackBerry offer mobile-specific applications that let you interface with Facebook right on your handset (the iPhone app even lets you chat live with other Facebook friends). For anyone who doesn't have those two phones, Facebook offers a less graphics-intensive mobile version of the service atm.facebook.com.
Add your blog, Twitter account, and more to Facebook
Do you have a blog? Use Twitter? Many Facebook apps have been built to allow you to pull in content from all over the Web. Instead of manually posting your latest blog post into Facebook as a note to share with your friends, you can set up an app to automatically share your newest posts whenever they go live on your site. The more you update, the more your friends will keep coming back to your page, which is kind of the essence of social-networking.
Create and invite 'Friends' to 'Events'
If you're doing an open house, hosting a party, going to a football game, putting on an art show, or something of the sort, Facebook has you covered. Create a Facebook Event for your happening and enter all the pertinent information. Once you've done that, you can invite folks from your friend list, as well as via e-mail, and designate whether your event is open to all of Facebook, a particular network or just your friends, or whether it is only open to those you invite. If you're throwing a surprise party for somebody, then use the latter option.
Do 'tag' your friends in pictures
When you post a new picture, or just come across one a friend has posted, for that matter, you have the opportunity to "tag" the folks that appear in it. By doing so, you include that image in that particular friend's "Photos of..." section. This function is a particular boon to friends who do not own cameras and might not otherwise have many pictures on the site. Your buddy will always be grateful for a tagged picture, unless, of course, it features him with his eyes closed or was taken when he was going through that awkward trying-to-grow-a-moustache phase in junior high school.
Edit your 'networks'
In your account settings, you can set up additional networks. Just what is a network and why should you care? It can be a group of folks from places as far flung as your school(s) or company to your region, city, or hobby, and adding networks lets you manage your privacy settings on the site. By selecting your networks (e.g. Stanford and San Francisco), you'll then be able to set your profile's visibility within different networks -- for example, you can let people in your city see partial contact information, while you can give full access to everyone from your college.
Fine-tune your e-mail notification settings
As any Facebook veteran will tell you, it's well worth your time to adjust your e-mail notification settings so that you're not flooded with hundreds of Facebook updates as you begin to use the service. Click the account menu and then 'notifications,' and you'll be greeted with a huge list of Facebook events. Sick of receiving an e-mail every time someone sends you a message? Switch the radio button to 'off,' and you won't have to worry about it ever again. In case you've totally caught the Facebook bug and are looking for nonstop updates, go to the 'Mobile' tab and activate your phone -- you'll now be able to receive friend requests, messages, status updates, and more on your cell phone
Make a page for your business, club, band, candidate, pet...
With Facebook's Page Manager application, you can create a Web page for – well – just about anything, from your social club to your rock'n'roll band, from your favorite politician to your favorite puppy dog. Once you've started and customized your page, you can keep watch over the page's Web traffic and even promote it on the Web site, with the ability to target a specific demographic of Facebook members. Due to the ever-increasing number of those members, a Facebook page – and an advertisement, to boot – really could bolster the number of your business's customers, your bands' fans or your candidate's supporters.
Be Wary of Scammers
As with any other popular place, Facebook (and other social-networking sites) has its share of evildoers -- namely, in the form of spam e-mail and Facebook messages and random messages posted on your wall. How to stay safe? We recommend typical online anti-scam best practices such as not opening any links or files in any e-mail messages or Facebook messages from folks you don't know. Also, be skeptical of links posted on your wall that don't seem legit (in other words, from random sites you've never heard of).
Set up your News Feed preferences
Assuming you've added a couple friends on the site, you've probably started to notice the never-ending 'News Feed' on the home page pumping out updates on your friends' activities. If you're like us, you may have grown tired of seeing when friends add new apps or when that old friend from middle school posts slightly embarrassing poetry.
You have several options. First, hover your mouse to the right of a note within the news feed, and you'll see a pencil icon pop up. Clicking the icon reveals the option to read more or less about the person posting the update, which lets you adjust the frequency that you hear from certain people.
You can also scroll down to the bottom of your feed and edit feed options by clicking on 'Options for News Feed.' Sick of status updates? Just drag the equalizer-esque button all the way down. Don't want to miss any of the photos uploaded by your friends? Drag it to the top.