How-to: Begin on Social Media – Facebook

Welcome to FacebookFacebook is the largest (if not the first) social network. It took over from Friends Reunited, MySpace and Bebo a few short years ago and now has 800 million users and counting.

As a social network, people create profiles and pages, exchange messages and post status updates. It is a broadcast network in that everything on your profile homepage (your ‘wall’) is publicly visible and searchable. You can use Facebook as your homepage on the web if you want to.

Thanks to its huge user base, Facebook has graduated as a social network to being an indispensable commercial tool, used for brand exposure, advertising and public relations. Companies are finding it’s great for announcements and competitions, crowd-sourcing content, not just comments, although keeping a corporate profile spam-free is getting more difficult. It’s also not so search-engine friendly, as Facebook restricts the content and pages that can be crawled for indexing (the ongoing spat with Google not helping matters).

Starting on Facebook
Register for Facebook on You have to create a personal profile before you can create anything for a company or other organisation. Companies can only have pages, not profiles (it’s in the Terms and Conditions). It’s an attempt to tie content to individuals rather than faceless corporations.

Create your Facebook profile including the name you’ll be known by. Use your own name or your business name but make it something memorable or easy to type, preferably a name connected to you, your company or what it is you do. The shorter the better.

If you’re creating a presence for a company or other organisation, create a Facebook Page associated with your profile that will contain the content you want. Make sure to include publicly visible links to your website(s). Add photos, video, events and post status updates frequently.

Join groups on Facebook that are relevant to you or what you do.

Gather friends; let people know you’re on Facebook via a button link from your website and post your Facebook name to your website and to any other social media platforms to which you belong. Edit your account profile pages every where you can that has a Facebook name field. Secondly, find people you know and start sending Friend Requests.

Likes and Pokes
You can Like almost anything on the web these days; not just Facebook users’ posts within the site, but posts on other websites; most have Facebook Like buttons. Put a Like button on your site to start racking up favourable reactions.

You can choose to post publicly or just to your circle of Facebook friends. Be careful though, as several data privacy issues have been raised over the re-posting and sharing of content outside friends circles. Controls are not as tight as they could be.

The Facebook Poke feature is not as widely understood as it should be.

A “poke” is basically someone trying to get your attention, for instance, you can poke your friends to say hello. You can only poke a confirmed friend, someone that is in a shared network, or a friend of a friend.

When you poke someone, they’ll receive a poke alert on their home page. The poke feature can be used for a variety of things on Facebook. If you poke someone not in your network and they poke back, you can view their profile even if your not their friend!

Facebook is another broadcast media; most conversations are in public and are mostly searchable, so don’t say anything private or libellous you wouldn’t say in the street or in a letter to your local newspaper. This is the Internet, data persists. You may be able to remove Facebook posts, but data is remarkably persistent and it’s not unknown for posts to re-appear when Facebook’s engineers change or upgrade the site. Don’t forget you Facebook friends and members of shared groups can also share your posts and messages to a wider audience, so don’t assume any privacy or anonymity on the site.

Privacy has been a big issue on Facebook that last couple of years. The privacy policy has changed numerous times, and with it, the controls over user content. The opt-in and opt-out mechanisms are frequently confusing, so judge carefully what you want to post on Facebook and for whose eyes it is intended. AJS

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