About Facebook

Introduction

If you are absolutely certain that Facebook is a bad for you - you can stop reading right here; I have no plans for wasting your time. However, if you are willing to keep your mind open, continue on.

This text is not a Facebook promotion, nor a user manual. It is my collection of thoughts and observations about Facebook after a couple of years using it. It’s quite frustrating to see the animosity towards this good tool, especially among some of my friends. What’s amazing that people set on their beliefs without ever trying the application, solely based on some stories from mass media and workplace dramas.

As for the workplace incidents, one should understand the perils of broadcasting personal events and opinions to the entire world. The bigger the audience, the more chance you’d upset someone. Out of 200 readers, there could be 20 disagreeing, and 2 outraged by your message. Besides, written communication is a tricky thing. At best, it delivers about 30-40% of the message (and the recipient has a freedom to fill in the remaining 60-70%). The less people know about you and the context, the greater chance for misunderstanding. Not everyone comprehends these realities; some learn it hard way, wrecking their careers and personal relationships.

To make matters worse, the same bad Facebook stories are overdramatized in mass media. The majority of ‘journalists’ care less about educating the reader; they’d rather publish stories to entertain and earn ad dollars. So, whenever you’re watching TV or reading a newspaper article, take it with a big grain of salt.

True, Facebook may be addictive. Many people waste years of their lives in social media. However, some drugs are also good pain killers, and similarly there are great uses for Facebook; it helps staying in touch with friends, and keeping track of events, companies and places we like.

Summarizing, Facebook is a very powerful tool, albeit it could be dangerous. However, we don’t stop using gasoline because it’s a hazardous substance. All we need is to learn and handle both with care.

Creating your Facebook Account

When you create a Facebook account, Facebook would ask you a few things about yourself, including full name, gender, date of birth, etc.. Some people prefer staying anonymous entering fictitious information, but this approach could backfire, while hardly protecting your privacy.

Consider using your real name on Facebook. The entire idea of Facebook is about connecting with other people on this planet. For that, you should be able to find them and they should be able to find you; and for that you need at least a full name, location, and (sometimes) employment information. Remember, you have ultimate control accepting connection requests, and having your full name in Facebook doesn’t expose you much to spam or harassment. If you don’t want someone bothering you, you can always block them for good (or even report them). I always decline ‘friend’ requests from people I don’t know, and among those were few nicknames from my real friends. It’s easier to accept messages if you recognize the person. Only a person with a valid account can communicate with other Facebook users. Using your real name also reduces the risk of name hijacking (i.e. someone impersonating you on Facebook). For all the above reasons, let’s stick with real names.

If you like see ‘Happy birthday!’ greetings from many people around, you will need to enter correct birth date (less year) in your profile and allow people to see it (you can limit to Friends, or open access even to more people). Permissions for your Friends (or even public) to access birth year are handled as a separate option. Personally, I enter my real birthday but don’t allow access it to anyone.

You also have to decide who can see your email address, and also find you by the email address. There is no real need to expose your email. Facebook users can securely communicate using Facebook messenger. Note that your email address is also your logon ID; if you’re using your Facebook login on other Internet web sites, your email address will be accessible to those sites.

As for other information Facebook asks you to enter, it’s up for you to decide. Consider searching the Internet to confirm if these pieces of personal data are really confidential. By default, your Public Profile includes a full name, profile picture (I use an avatar), gender and location.

Can anything bad happen if you only created account on Facebook? Not really. Unless you set your browser to auto-logon (remember the password) - in such case, Facebook may be tracking your activities on ‘partner’ websites. Personally, I’d care less about that.

How Many Facebook Accounts?

One person should only have one Facebook account. You can and you should control all your Facebook assets (Pages and Groups) using one single personal account. Your Facebook account is like a master card key to all doors in your building. There is no reason for having more than one card key for a building, and likewise there is no reason for having multiple accounts on Facebook. If you feel that your Facebook login has access to too many important assets, you should tighten security and switch to 2-factor authentication. Which is still easier when you have one account, not many.

I’ve seen quite a few examples when people were creating a separate account named after their small business. It resulted in all sorts of problems. The main one is a very limited audience of account ‘Friends’. If you want your company news be accessible (searchable) to any user on the Internet - you should create a Facebook Page (and not a Facebook Group, which serves completely different purpose).

Although you will be using your personal account to post on your Facebook Pages, nobody will see your name in Page posts (unless you consciously post under your name). A Facebook Page is like a company - you may own and control it, but your name by default is not exposed. And, similar to a corporation, you can pass Page ownership and control to other Facebook users.

Posting and viewing - the concept of news tape

Facebook was originally invented as a user-friendly customizable news tape - for staying connected with people you know. News messages are coming from your ‘Friends’ (people you connected to), Facebook Pages which you ‘Liked’, and Facebook Groups, which you joined. Until you ‘befriend’, ‘like’ or ‘joined’ these sources - your personal news tape would remain empty.

Once you have a few hundred ‘friends’, the news tape will become overcrowded. At that point, you would tune out of some of your ‘friends’ (and they won’t know about it - no offence!). You can block all their messages or only some of them. By doing such filtering, you will tune up your channel and eventually will only see news from people and pages that you are interested about.

Once you have connected to ‘friends’, you can post messages, photos, videos and they will see it in their news tape. Understanding who will receive your message, and who can later see your message is essential for any successful communication, including Facebook. To stay safe, assume that anyone on the Internet may eventually see your message. Regardless, it’s always wise sending messages to a right audience, therefore I recommend creating custom lists, which are subsets of ‘Friends’. For example, when I went for a Caribbean vacation, I created a list called “My Caribbean Trip” and added there a few friends with whom I wanted to share photos and videos. Always check the target audience prior to clicking the ‘Post’ button (the ‘audience’ button is right next to it).

Can friends of friends (and beyond) see your message? They may - if you post on friend’s tape, OR if your friends share or comment on your message with their audience and so on. Given this possibility, you should always ask yourself, ‘Is it good for the world to see my message?’ - before clicking the Post button, - and you will be perfectly safe.

Facebook Pages

Think about Facebook Page as of a ‘corporate blog’, or a ‘corporate news tape’. The purpose is to let the world know what’s happening in your business or community group at this very moment. To the Internet community, Pages are a useful source of information.

Facebook Page is a 'one way' communication, from Page to 'subscribers' (people who 'liked' the page). The Page owner does not receive personal life updates from 'subscribers'. 

Facebook Page is isolated from the creator/owner. Your Page is a good opportunity to post messages without revealing your name (as long as you post ‘as page’). By default, Page owner’s name wouldn’t appear in the Page. Similar to a corporation: you may fully own it, but your name does not have to show on letterheads. Pages are normally created for a specific business or cause. A large business may have multiple Facebook Pages - to target separate customer groups. And, like with corporations, Facebook Page ownership is transferable.

Facebook Page is a good way to communicate a politician's 'public' life (or a special event in personal life, like wedding) separately from your personal posts.

A Facebook Page is visible to the entire Internet. A Page is not a replacement for a corporate/community web site. Page (or multiple Pages) work hand in hand with the corporate web site, taking over the role of the news tape. Normally, a web site would have a link to it’s Facebook Page and visa versa.

There are a few reasons why Facebook Pages are better than a news tape inside your web site.

First, it reduces maintenance costs by taking news tape out of the web site; and adding cool functions along the way. Static information stays on the web site (hence very few updates), and weekly news move to the Page. Second, Facebook Page allows Facebook users to get connected (by ‘Liking’) and stay in touch by receiving automatic updates in their personal news tape and/or the email. True, RSS technology can do the same, however, very few people actually use it. Finally, Page paid promotions are a cost-efficient way to advertise your products or promote your cause.

One of the most interesting aspects of posting on your Facebook Page is observing people's reaction to your postings. The most informative is the number of people reached by each message. You will be surprised how a better crafted message can suddenly fly to ten times wider audience.

You should also be very careful to maintain people's interest in your Page. Remember, Facebook users may tune your page down (block messages from their personal news tape while still pretending to ‘Like’ your page). Try to avoid posting boring and frequent messages. In the end, it’s not the number of ‘Likes’ on your Page, but the number of people reached is truly important.

Advertising on Facebook

Facebook calls it ‘promotion’. You can promote a post on your Facebook Page to Facebook users, who are not yet connected to your page. You would normally limit the promotion to specific gender, age and location. For example a curling club promotion could focus on women aged between 25 and 40 living less than 10km from Calgary. The purpose of promotion could be selling a product or service; or simply recruit more people to support a cause by ‘Liking’ your page.

Facebook users will see the promotion message in the right part of the Facebook screen. Facebook will keep track of the number of people who saw the promotion and also on the number of people who opened it to read the full message. It is absolutely important to craft the message and accompanying image in a way that attracts attention and prompts the user to open it. If your message is really good, people would also share with their friends.
For a selected promotion budget, Facebook would let you know beforehand how many users will see the message.

As a real life example, our Masters Swim Club did an introductory training promotion for $90. The post had reached 11,000 users. Of those about 200 opened the message and 25 joined the introductory class, paying the club the total of $2,300.

A smart message, photo or video posted on your Facebook Page may outperform paid promotion - for free - because people tend to share with friends what they consider truly interesting or amusing. A great entertaining post can easily reach millions and give your Page many new connections.

Facebook Groups

Imagine a group of 10-40 people has some joint interest or activity; and want to communicate to the entire group. Email is a poor choice for the purpose because each sender has to maintain her personal distribution list. Email or membership changes would require all lists to be updated, and mishaps are unavoidable. And, these days people are reluctant to share their personal emails because of spam. Facebook Group solves all those problems.

Typically, after a group is created, people ‘Join’ (usually vetted by group moderators), and then can post to the entire group without the need to know anyone’s email address. There are quite a few options available to moderators; and the members can tune up message delivery method as well. Most important, members can stop their group participation at any time (which is much better than email).

Except for a few owners and moderators, every member is ‘equal’ in a Facebook Group. Which means, every member can send a message to the entire group, and everyone can comment on the existing conversation. As a result, a Group is only efficient when the number of members is relatively small (or messages are rare). Otherwise, group communication would create too much noise for everyone.

Unfortunately, some people are joining Facebook groups for the sole purpose of advertising something (which is a modern way of sending spam). That’s why membership should be moderated, accepting only legit people.

Facebook Groups vs. Facebook Pages

Facebook Page is a corporate blog (accessible to all Facebook users), while a Facebook Group is a teaming tool for a small group of individuals joined for a specific cause.

For example, our swimming club has both Facebook Group and Facebook Page.

When we announce a new introductory swimming class, we post in the Page (we want to promote the message to reach as many people as possible, because we are attracting new members).

On the other hand, Facebook Group is for members only. If our pool is closed coming Wednesday, we’d communicate to the Group (non-members don’t need to know). Another good example for Group communication is organizing a Saturday branch or skiing event (we invite people who know each other).

As for promotions, you cannot promote a Group, but can promote a Page post - that’s why Page is a right marketing tool, not a Group.

Finally, the Page and Group are different because of privacy. In a Group, everyone can see member names, while people connected to a Facebook Page are unaware of each other. Exposing members’ names could bring in all sorts of risks, which is greater if the group is large and moderators don’t personally know who is joining. If a Group was organized around a hot-button topic, members may prefer staying anonymous. If a Group is composed of customers, the business would be better off hiding the membership from competition. I’ve seen an example of two windsurf rental businesses sitting side by side. One of them created a Facebook Group (instead of a Page), and invited hundreds of customers to join. The second rental shop could be tempted joining the group, access this customer list, and use it for it’s own promotions.

Levels of Engagement

As mentioned before, you can connect to ‘friends’ (by ‘adding a friend’), Pages (by Liking) and to Groups (by Joining). I keep surrounding the word ‘friends’ with quotation marks, because these are in most cases ‘acquaintances’, or people you just happen to know. There may be only few real friends on that list. All ‘Friend’ connections must be confirmed on the other end; joining a Group (in most cases) has to be approved by group moderators; linking to a Page is automatic.

Once you ‘connect’, there are several levels of engagement:

  1. Receive all posts from the connected entity via email
  2. Receive most of the posts in your news tape (in the Facebook web site or application)
  3. Receive few posts in your news tape
  4. Receive no posts but able to access the other party news tape

In Facebook lingo, options 1-3 mean Following. You can tweak the level of engagement by using the Follow/Following button. Once you add a friend, ‘like’ a page, or join a group, Facebook sets to some default level of engagement (depends on the type of connected entity). You can later tune it up or down to a desired level. The connected party cannot see your level of engagement and therefore cannot be offended by this change.

Facebook Messenger

Facebook Messenger in some ways is superior to email:

There is no spam (messages from a spoofed sender), which is good for businesses who want to deal with real customers.

Security

Don’t mistake security for privacy - two are related yet very different areas. Security prevents someone rather than you logging to your account. Privacy controls who else can see your personal information (birth date or email) and messages you post. Both security and privacy are important, but for different reasons.

If you manage several Facebook Groups and Pages, your compromised account could affect too many people to take this risk lightly. I would strongly recommend adding extra security level to your standard password login: second factor authentication (typically SMS code sent to your smart phone, or one-time password generated by your mobile application). And, avoid using the same password in multiple places.

Generally, it is a good idea - once a year - to browse through your security and privacy settings and tune them up.

Conclusion

It some ways, it’s better to learn about the world from those who you know and trust. It also doesn’t hurt to stay in touch with friends. Facebook - if used smartly - can do a great service in both cases. However, it’s ultimately up to individuals if they are willing to try it.

For a business though, there is no excuse for ignoring Facebook. This is likely the best way to help potential customers discover your services; and keep them aware of new products and promotions. Millions are spent on paper flyers, most of them going straight into the garbage. Can’t the same kupons be on Facebook?

It took me years to discover a great German bakery near my home. Why not advertise on Facebook? Inform us about holiday hours? Let us know about bread pre-orders? The list can go on and on. Missed opportunities, customers lost to competition. If you want your business prosper - engage your customers on Facebook!

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