I have been managing Able2know for over fourteen years.
It is a generalized Q & A website and the members are all volunteers. I have learned a few things about handling yourself online during this time.
There are few emergencies online. Take your time. I have found, if I am in a hot hurry to respond, itching to answer, it usually means I am getting obsessive.
When it’s really nutty, step away from the keyboard. I suppose this is a corollary to the first one. Furthermore, I pull back when it gets too crazy-making, or try to figure out what else may be bothering me, e. g. I haven’t worked out yet, something at home is annoying me, etc. Being online, and being annoyed, does not equal that something online caused the annoyance.
All we have are words (emoticons do nearly nothing).
I like to make my words count, and actually mean exactly, 100%, what I write, but not everyone hits that degree of precision in their communications. I’ve learned to cut about a 10% degree of slack.
Not everyone gets you. You might be hysterically funny in person, but bomb online, Netizen. Or you might feel you’re a gifted writer, but you write to the wrong audience. You may be hip for your crowd, but hopelessly out of it in another. This is not, really, a personal thing. You can either waste your time trying to get everyone to love you or you can recognize that you didn’t convert one person and move on from there. Choose the latter; it’ll save your sanity every time.
Keep Chilling Out
Be Zen. E. g. I’ve found the old, “oh, you go first” kind of thing smooths the way a lot. I am not saying to not have your say and let everyone else win all the time. It’s just, ya kinda pick the hill you wanna die on, e. g. what’s really important. Stick to those guns. The others, not so much. E. g. getting into a shouting match and kicked off a site due to your hatred of the Designated Hitter Rule – even on a sports or baseball site – falls in the category of you’re probably overreacting and being really, really silly. I doubt that that is a hill most people would try want to die on. But defending your beliefs, fighting prejudice, etc.? Those are probably better hills.
And the corollary to #5: controversial topics are controversial for a reason. They get under people’s skin and make them squirm. Be nice; don’t do that all the time. So try to engage people in other ways, Netizen. There are plenty of people on Able2know who argue a lot about politics. I am not a fan of arguing politics. But we also get together and play Fantasy Baseball (talk about your Designated Hitter Rule). Or we swap recipes, or pet stories, or the like. But then, when a forum member gets sick or becomes bereaved, people who just argued till they were blue in the face turn around. And they virtually hug and offer tributes, prayers (or positive, healing thoughts) and words of comfort. And this user multidimensionality warms the heart. Over the years, people have gotten better at it. If someone’s really bothering you, it’s possible that, in other contexts, you’d get along. You might want to see if you can find some common ground, and other contexts.
Sing Along with Elsa and Let. It. Go.
Know when to stop, or even let others have the last word. When I am really angry, I usually just withdraw. However, this isn’t a surrender. Instead, I’m tired and life’s too short. You do not become a smaller, or less worthwhile person, and you haven’t lost (whatever that really means, particularly on the Internet, fer chrissakes) if you walk away and wash your hands of things. Netizen, you are entitled to call it quits on an argument or discussion.
Finally, I hope you learn from my insanity and my mistakes. Life’s too short to let it get to you too much!
Podcasting can get you to a wider audience. It’s a different medium from what you might be used to. And it offers practice and the opportunity to polish some skills that you, the writer, might not have realized you needed, such as thinking on your feet and being an interview subject.
Alas, I currently no longer podcast. But these tips don’t go out of style.
Getting Started with Podcasting
What do you need for podcasting? This image is a pretty good summary of what you need –
The good news is that you have most of this stuff already. In fact, you don’t even need everything that’s in the image.
It doesn’t seem to matter too much which type of computer you use. You really just need an Internet connection. You will need some speed, so dispense with dial up if you’re still using it (someone out there is, right?). I would, though, recommend using an actual computer as opposed to a phone for podcasting, as the resultant file is going to be huge.
The image shows a studio-style mic, but the truth is, you don’t need to get quite so fancy. My own microphone is part of a headset. It works just fine and most importantly, the mouthpiece is adjustable. You want adjustability because, inevitably, you’re going to sneeze or cough, or the phone will ring or whatever.
To be able to talk to your fellow podcasters on your show, or to your guests, you’ll need some software. Essentially what you are looking for is chat. My team and I liked to use TeamSpeak. I imagine you could do as well with Yahoo! or Facebook chat. Just make sure that whatever you are using is private. Oh, and turn any sound notifications off.
If you’re going to put your podcast on YouTube (I think this is generally a good idea), you’ll need software for that, too. I use software that came from my school, Screencast-o-matic. The school also uses TechSmith Relay but I prefer Screencast-o-matic. Either way, you want software which allows you to record a fairly long video.
You may not think that you need any sort of visual art software, but I beg to differ. At minimum, your podcast needs a logo or at least a slide that you can slap onto the front of your YouTube video. Photoshop or Gimp is ideal, but Paint or even Microsoft PowerPoint can do in a pinch.
If you are going to use an image that you didn’t make, check the license! I like to use Wikimedia Commons as a lot of their images have open licenses or they just require an attribution and nothing more. But remember – just because an image exists online and you can right-click and save it, does not mean that you have permission to use it! When in doubt, use one of your own images. I like to use scenery images if I don’t have a logo. Scenery can even be something really tiny, such as one flower bud.
For sound editing, the beauty of TeamSpeak is that it allows for sound recording. But you will still need to trim something or other. I have Audacity though I admit I don’t use it for much (I don’t do the sound editing for our podcast). But Audacity is otherwise useful.
You should practice before you try to go anywhere with podcasting. It doesn’t need to be long or involved. Get to know the software. For example, TeamSpeak allows for a push to talk feature. Use it! This will help a lot when you are recording, as you need to consciously press a button for any sound to come out. Practice using this until it’s second nature.
Use Audacity, and record yourself saying something simple and scripted. It can be a nursery rhyme or the like. You don’t want to be doing this for more than a minute or so.
The idea here is to listen to playback. Can you be understood? Are you too breathy? Does your accent push through a bit too much? Do you talk too fast? Every single one of these issues can be fixed, including the accent.
Fix Your Audio
Generally, you will need to slow down and enunciate. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun, but at least in the beginning you’ll want to talk more slowly, in particular if you have a thick accent.
If you’re too breathy-sounding, try bringing the mic farther away from your mouth. As for outside noises, you’ll need to close windows and doors, put pets outside, and turn off fans and space heaters. Set your phone on mute.
When you work with co-hosts, practice with them at least once. Remember to not talk over them and, if you’re laughing at their jokes, you need assure that even your laughter is being recorded.
Hosts and Guests
Consider your subject and your potential audience. On the G & T Show, we talked about Star Trek and Star Trek Online. This included the novels and cosplay. We would also branch out to talk about other gaming and other science fiction. Having this broad a topic but with its own limitations made it fairly easy to come up with show ideas. As for guests, our hosts networked at conventions, in the STO game, and on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
A co-host is an extremely good idea, as otherwise you’re talking to yourself a lot. While you could carry a show by yourself, it’s a lot easier if you don’t have to. Three hosts tends to be a really good number, particularly if the third is not too active. You’ll quickly find your hosts unconsciously dividing into three groups:
The talker – this person won’t necessarily stay on topic all the time, but they can fill dead air.
The organizer – this person understands creating a theme and keeping the show on target. This person often remembers to thank the guests.
The utility infielder – this person can chime in and also cover if either of the first two cannot podcast. Along with the organizer, this person often performs research and gathers potential podcast material in advance.
As for guests, consider your circle, both online and off. You can podcast without guests, and you will most likely need to get a few under your belt before anyone will want to visit.
However, when you do get guests, the usual details apply, e. g. be polite, give them ample time to plug whatever they want to plug, and prepare questions for them in advance. If your guest writes, for example, you might want to talk about the themes in their book, where they get their inspiration, how long they’ve been writing, and how they first became published.
Think outside the box and consider guests a little removed from your basic subject. Hence if your subject is books and writing, why not have a cover artist on as a guest, or a professional editor? Maybe feature a literary agent or a representative from a publishing house.
At G & T we had a Streaming page and used a minicaster. This also included a hosted chat room – the show broadcasted live and the audience could listen and follow along in the chat room. This was not necessary, but it’s fun.
We also blogged about the show, which meant that we took notes (in our case, the utility infielder did this). The blog was a great place to get the URLs in that we may have talked about but our audience might not have gotten the first time we mentioned them. With the blog, we could just make clickable outbound links. We also made sure that a player was embedded into the blog, so that a reader could listen to the show if they would prefer that.
Podcasting and Distribution
We always uploaded our podcast to not only iTunes, but also MixCloud and YouTube. These spread our broadcast even further. We used a regular logo card as the image accompanying our YouTube videos. For special interviews, we made different images, usually with our guest’s provided headshot.
To introduce new segments, we used bumpers. These are just short (less than half a minute long) introductions to various segments (e. g. Star Trek News). Ours consisted of our utility infielder’s niece giving the title of the segment and then some introductory music that we had permission to use (always get permission or make sure that music is public domain!).
Bumpers help because they provide a smooth transition between segments and they can cover up any ragged transitions. We spliced these into the completed file. Our announcer girl also recorded our intro and our credits portion (with music we could use), so we added these as a part of post-production. Again, these provided recognizable transitions for our audience.
Promotions and Podcasting
We promote our show on social media, with mainly our YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. We also have Tumblr, and Pinterest accounts but use them less. Our main promotions come from YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. We also promote at conventions, including a table at Star Trek Las Vegas for the past few years.
Why Not Podcasting?
So what are you waiting for? Why not give podcasting a try?
Some of the respondents saw less harm in a relationship where the parties never actually, physically, met. Others saw it as being more or less the same as a physical affair, or at least an emotional one.
Hannah performed the research for her book, The Telling Error. She says,
“The thing about Twitter is that everything is on there, so whatever you’re interested in is there. But it is capable of being incredibly nasty. I noticed that whenever somebody either does something wrong or offends somebody, Twitter will form a kind of aggressive, vindictive mob and start slagging off that person. Almost always, the punishment is worse than the crime.”
For bored and isolated people, social media can often serve as a godsend. Yet with worries such as this, spouses might do well to be cautious. Not necessary jealous, but at least to be wondering a bit, if someone spends seemingly forever online. It does not help that a lot of online behaviors encourage an almost addictive obsession. Because we crave the latest tweets.
We can’t wait to read the next gem from the Huffington Post, or take the latest meaningless quiz from Buzz Feed, or try to prank our friends with the most recent fake news from The Onion. And do not get me started on Candy Crush.
Hence the opportunities are all too ample for vulnerable, lonely people to end up typing a little too much with someone else, and for it to turn into sexting and worse.
(someone just like you, perhaps), what sorts of judgments would you make? What seems off? What’s being suppressed, which should be promoted, and vice versa? Is the picture clear or fuzzy?
The gist of that article is, take control of your information, keep it as a uniform brand and check it every month or so. The corollary to this is one from Shama Hyder Khabani, which is, essentially, don’t spread yourself too thin. Concentrate in only a few places.
My Own Information
Absolutely agreed. When I google my own last name, 32,900 hits come up. And, fortunately, my own website is in the top 2 spots (Yay, SEO!). My Entrepreneur profile (writing I do for work) comes up as third. Fourth is Twitter. Fifth is my LinkedIn profile. Further down the first page yields my two Facebook profiles, then my Amazon author page. And then something from a site called MuckRack (huh?). Finally, there’s my author profile at Businessing Magazine.
Putting my last name into quotation marks yields only 8,420 hits. All of the same usual suspects come up on Page One of the results. And nothing is too weird or scandalous. Even MuckRack, which essentially just scrapes for your name, doesn’t have anything bad. Hey, Yahoo! Finance published me!
How Accurate is the Information?
To my mind, checking and rechecking every single month might just be a bit excessive. Is there a need to keep your profile accurate? Sure. Flattering, or at least not damaging? Yes, particularly if you are looking for work. But to keep it sterile and perfect, as you scramble to make it perfect every moment of every day? Eh, probably not so much.
I would like to think (am I naïve? Perhaps I am) that potential clients and employers will see the occasional typo and will, for the most part, let it slide unless the person is in copyediting. I am not saying that resumes, for example, should not be as get-out perfect as possible. What I am saying, though, is that this kind of obsessive and constant vigilance seems a bit, I dunno, much.
Will the world end if I accidentally type there instead of their on this blog? And, does it matter oh so much if I don’t catch the accident immediately? Even when you consider that I’m a writer. After all, I should know better, yes?
I mean, with all of this brushing behind ourselves to cover up and/or perfect our tracks, and all of the things we are leaving behind, where’s the time and energy to make fresh, new content and look in front of ourselves?
Clean Up Your Presence
To me, there is little joy in reading a blog post or website that looks like it was put together by someone who’s barely literate. But there is also little joy in reading sterile, obsessively perfect websites and blog posts. A little imperfection, I feel, is a bit of letting the ole personality creep in there. Genuineness – isn’t that what the whole Social Media experience is supposed to be about, anyway?
I refuse to believe – I hope and I pray – that a bit of individuality isn’t costing me potential jobs or the company potential clients. And if it is, then that saddens me, to feel that, perhaps, there is a lot of lip service being paid to the genuineness of Social Media but, when the chips are down, it’s just the same ole, same ole.
Genuineness is great. One you can fake that, you’ve got it made? Gawd, please, say it ain’t so.
Social Media Continues its Relentless Pace to Try to Make You Stay Put
It’s a relentless pace out there. And much like the holidays accelerate the end of the year, and we suddenly look up on January 7th or so and wonder just what the hell just happened, social media is continuing to not so much reap the whirlwind as to be the whirlwind. But at the same time, there’s an effort afoot to slow down and control the whirlwind.
Twitter’s Relentless Pace
Case in point: Twitter‘s recent changes are designed to keep people on as long as possible. They do this by embedding media more directly and making it so that you don’t have to leave Twitter’s embrace in order to enjoy a clip or a photograph. So far, so good. But shortened URLs allow for more malware exploits. It’s like one step forward, a step back and another one to the side.
Facebook’s Relentless Pace
Facebook, yet again, looks to change its layout. The profile is going to become richer and provide more information. This may or may not be useful to users but it will certainly keep them on longer. At least, that will happen in the beginning, when it’s a novel concept.
LinkedIn’s Relentless Pace
Long ago, LinkedIn tried adding Signal to make it easier to track even more of the social media avalanche – and, of course, to try to keep people on LinkedIn as long as possible.
Currently, they are using status types of communications. Sounds a lot like Facebook, eh?
The Common Thread
What these changes had in common, other than, perhaps, novelty for the sake of novelty, is the desire to keep people on site as long as possible. Put some tar down, and have us all stick, at least for a while.
So while the internet spins ever faster, and social media sites attempt to keep up, their overall strategies seem to try to slow us all down. Will it work? Is it a foolish dream to think you can keep people around with such tricks, such slick bells and whistles?
Lack of Content
What disturbs me is that there’s not a lot of content happening. And it would, could, should make me want to hang around. Instead of hiring writers to improve things, or rewarding good current content providers, each of the big three sites is instead pursuing a software solution. But what’s the sense in hanging around a site if the content isn’t compelling? Or are we, instead, merely getting the sites that we, perhaps, deserve?
Hence here’s what happens if my Facebook friends list is dominated by people I went to High School with over thirty years ago. Their status updates and my wall have a lot of news of their birthdays, their children and their careers. But isn’t that what we would expect? And if I instead tip my list in a different direction, and it’s suddenly dominated by the people I work with or diet with or do artwork with, the news is going to be different.
In particular, politically, you can see very different versions of each site, depending on your bubble. After all, a lot of us prefer to see people we like and agree with.
Comparison to Reality TV
One thing about Reality TV is that it’s anything but real if it’s at all successful. Because people just, generally, don’t lead terribly interesting lives (yes, you too, gentle reader). We pick up the dry cleaning. Or we bicker over the remote. We forget to buy sausages and make do with hot dogs. And around and around and around we go. And all three of the big social media sites, when we are not following celebrities and businesses, are really just a big agglomeration of Post-It Notes whereby we tell each other to grab milk on the way home. For “Reality” to be compelling at all, it’s got to be unreal, and scripted. It must become this fight or that rose ceremony or this other weird pancake-making challenge.
The big three older social media sites, when you strip away the celebrities and the companies, can be a boatload of errands or a standard-form holiday letter. You know the kind, where you learn little Suzie has taken up the clarinet. Over and over ad infinitum.
No wonder we need software solutions to keep us there. The relentless pace continues.
You’re doing it. And you’ve got your resume up. You’re answering questions. And you’re joining groups. You’re even meeting people offline. But you aren’t getting an enormous number of invitations to connect.
Or, perhaps, you’re blogging and tweeting. But you’re not getting a lot of readers in either medium. And you’d love to get some of your LinkedIn buddies to read some of your stuff. Maybe you want to use your writing and social media skills as a part of your overall job search strategy.
So the most obvious place to look, and to fix, is your Profile page.
Just like with a resume, a news story, or even if you were trying to sell your home, it pays to spruce up the first thing people see. Hence special care should be taken, as this is your first (and it may very well be your only) chance to make an impression. There are any number of things you can do to assure that this impression is a positive one.
And, you can even use it to help you drive a little traffic to your own website and/or blog. Here’s how:
Make sure that you make use of all available fields, and customize these as you are able.
Next, list your blog.
and I also recommend adding Twitter.
So assuming that your resume has been integrated in its entirety, your next task should be to update the summary and specialties sections in your profile page. First of all, the specialties section is essentially just for keywords, so load them up. However, the summary section should be more grammatical. So don’t make it an old-fashioned and generic personal statement. Instead, highlight your main differences here.
Finally, with a little polish, your front door (profile page) can look mighty inviting to all.
Community Management Tidbits – Going From a Collection of Users to a True Community
What is a True Community?
I’ve written at least seven obituaries.
That is, perhaps, an odd thing to confess. But when Jill, Kevin, Paul, Joanne, Olen, Joan, and Mary all passed on, it was up to me to write something, to not only commemorate their lives, but to try to help comfort a grieving community.
I am not saying you will write as many, or even if you will ever write even one. And I certainly hope you will never have to, as they can be gut-wrenching. But it was with the first one – Mary’s – that it became manifest (if it was not already self-evident) that, to paraphrase the old Brady Bunch theme, this group had somehow formed a family.
How Can This Happen to Your True Community (Without the Tragic Part)?
But no one has to cross over to the other side in order for your collection of users to coalesce into a Community with a capital C. The secret is very simple, although many companies don’t want to hear it: it’s going off-topic.
Let us assume, for example, that your community is a corporate-run one. And the product is a soft drink. Corporate tells you to stay on topic, on message. However, your users are saying something very different.
For it is easy, as you’re talking about the soft drink, to slide into discussing foods eaten with it (frankly, for such a community you’d almost have to go off-topic. Nobody but a truly dedicated corporate marketer can talk about a soft drink 24/7). Food slides into a discussion of recipes. Recipes turn into a talk about entertaining. And then suddenly you’re off to the races and talking about family relationships.
Corporate tries to pull you back on topic. Yet your users pull the true community ever further away And they pinball from family relationships to dating, raising children, and elder care, if you let them.
The Community Manager’s Role
Here is where you, as the Community Manager, can talk to Corporate and forge a compromise. Corporate needs for people to talk about the product, tout it, and virally promote it. And they need people to make well-ranked (on Google) topics about it. Corporate may also realize that they need to hear the bad news about the product as well. The users need to talk.
So make a compromise. Create an off-topic area and move all off-message topics there. And be fairly loose with your definition of what’s on topic. In our soft drink example, the recipes topics, even if they don’t use the product as an ingredient, are still close enough so you can consider them on topic. Also, don’t be surprised if the corollary is true. Hence topics that begin on message veer off it, even by the time of the first responsive post. That’s okay. Those topics should still be considered to be on message. Because Google is far more concerned with a forum topic’s title and initial post than with its tenth response.
The Benefits of the Off-Topic Section
Don’t be shocked if your off-topic section becomes a large one. And recognize that you and your Moderating staff (if you have one) may need to make on message topics in order to continue creating germane content. But your true community will be talking and the site will be a lively one. It’s a party that’s going nonstop, your users will stick around and from this you can build a marketing database. And that is one of the standard corporate aims behind creating a community in the first place.
So when your users start talking about life events, such as births, school, divorce, moving, jobs, marriage, children and, yes, deaths, it matters. And when they start supporting each other through each of these phases, it marks a bright line distinction between a haphazard agglomeration of users and a true team of like-minded individuals.
Finally, that team, that family, that army, is what being in a true community is really all about.
Here’s what they mean. A Ghost Town is, essentially, either a more or less empty community or one without deep engagement. People may come in after an initial push and then just abandon the place. Now, the converse to this is people who hang around forever and never seem to convert to paying customers of any sort. In a commercial enterprise, that’s no good, either. But definitely you need for people to hang around, at least a little bit.
Land of 1,000 Flowers
Land of 1,000 Flowers is where there’s perhaps a little bit of everything but there is little connectivity. Some of the problem could potentially be alleviated with a very good search engine, e. g. if people see that the question about who wrote Peter Rabbit has already been answered, they might just go to that answer, rather than asking it again. Of course the downside to this is converting potential participants right back into lurkers.
Drama Central Without Management
Drama Central, ah, yes, this bit of juvenalia in a community without management. This is a byproduct of having a smaller community/one that is not too active. If there are 100 members, and one acts out, that one will loom large. With 1,000 members, that person’s impact diminishes.
And with 1,000,000 members, they barely register as a blip on the screen. And, even in a smaller community, if there are 100 members but also a good 1,000 topics are created every month, the one Drama Queen’s attention-grabbing me me me topic can be more or less swept under the rug. However, if your users create only five or so new topics every month, guess what’s gonna be front and center?
A Circling Storm
In A Circling Storm, there are a lot of entrenched factions, hostile to one another, when your community goes without management. Even in a well-moderated community, this can still happen in a Politics section (and, to a lesser extent, in a Religion section). Hence people form strong opinions and don’t want to back down. How to handle it? I say let them argue, for the most part, but intervene if newbies are being chased off or it becomes too personal.
A Clique Without Management
A Clique, of course this is a niche or fringe group that grabs and hogs the spotlight. This can be whiny teenagers (you know who you are), organic gardeners, birthers, I dunno. They can absolutely create a self-fulfilling prophecy, e. g. if the only people they welcome are from Omaha, then those will be the ones who stick around. And then eventually people from Poughkeepsie or wherever don’t stick around and suddenly your board is filled with Nebraskans.
What to do? Well, it may seem obvious, or it may not. Manage the site! Don’t just leave it to chance!
Light Touch with Management
However, don’t go overboard with management. Heavy-handed community management can stifle. So find a balance, and do your best to follow it, all while respecting the community and its interests, but nudging it in the proper directions if it threatens to go off-course. You don’t just have to let the boat go wherever the currents take it but, at the same time, you also need to leave the dock.
Life, Liberty … And Facebook for All – Your Home Page
Your home page is vital. Log into Facebook, and it’s the first thing you see. It’s your Home Page. So here’s what’s in it. You can divide it into what look like columns.
NOTE: Facebook constantly A/B tests. Features move around, change, are renamed and resized, or disappear all the time. These are rolled out in stages; your neighbor may have a different-looking Home Page from yours. And this is 100% normal.
Home Page Links
So first of all, column one (left side, top):
Then shortcuts; this is a section you add to or subtract from.
Then column two (center):
Status messages on friends’ pages
Other friend activities
Anything your friends or the pages you follow are sharing
Then column three (right, top):
Groups You Might Like
People You May Know
A list of friends available on chat (at the bottom)
Let’s start with Column One:
So this is a list of the groups you have joined.
These are pages you are following.
So pretty obviously, this is a way to access your entire list of friends.
So you can create groups for any reason. And this includes to support a beloved entertainment figure, promote your business or just complain about people wearing Crocs. So I’ll get into the specifics later.
These will rotate as you access more games, depending upon recency.
Status Messages on Friends’ Pages
So this is the actual News Feed itself. And you can comment on others’ statuses (statii?) or posted links.
Other Friend Activities
First of all, you are served everyone’s activities. Facebook can be a tsunami of data. However, a lot is aggregated; you are usually shown that six people joined a group, rather than separate messages on all half-dozen.
So if you’ve got upcoming events and you haven’t RSVP’d, they’ll show up here, but you can jettison them by clicking the x on the right side. Note that you’ll be invited to all sorts of stuff, including sponsored activities and openings by commercial ventures. And RSVP’ing is not strictly necessary. However, as an event organizer, I have to say it’s appreciated so as to at least get a handle on headcount (and know who not to expect). You need not RSVP for commercial store openings or whatnot.
Whether they’ve made the year apparent is their own business. But if they’ve got the month and day up on Facebook, birthdays will show up here. And of course you’re under no obligation to wish people a Happy Birthday, but it is kind of nice.
People You May Know
So this is based upon some sort of an algorithm whereby Facebook looks at things like your current friends list, their friends, your location and possibly also your school(s) and workplace(s). However, I don’t believe the latter are included at this time. So if you have any mutual friends, Facebook lists them as well. Facebook does not always get this right, or it gets it wrong in interesting ways, e. g. Facebook says I “may know” the spouse of someone I attended High School with. Well, unless I went to High School with the spouse (over 30 years ago), then there isn’t much of a likelihood there.
Hence there are times when this list is bewildering. Hey, Facebook is doing the best it can.
Targeted Advertisements on Your Home Page
Well, they’re as targeted as Facebook can make them. This apparently has a basis in your click activity, your likes, your friends’ likes and whenever you click on an ad to get rid of it. Again, sometimes Facebook can get this wrong in rather spectacular ways; for example, when I wrote this post originally, it showed me an ad for Toyota. And I have neither owned nor contemplated owning one, ever.
A list of friends available on chat
It should go without saying that you should never click on links from chatters you don’t know well. And you’re under no obligation whatsoever to answer anyone’s instigated chat.
So a big part of the Facebook experience is not only playing games but also sharing them with others, or sharing status or links. The way you see and can participate in this sharing is via your Home Page. It is, essentially, a bulletin board between you and your pals. But keep your own wall the way you want it. If you don’t want people to swear or argue politics, etc., that is 100% within your rights.
Life, Liberty … And Facebook for All – Your Profile Page Part I
Let’s look at your profile page part 1.
If you’re a member of Facebook, you’ve seen it dozens, if not hundreds, of times – it’s your Profile Page.
There is also a Home Page, but I’ll cover that in the next segment. Right now, let’s just concentrate on your Profile. Here’s mine.
Profile Page Part 1: Basics
So at minimum, the Profile page consists of the following:
And it also contains:
A space for your profile picture
Information on any mutual friends you might share with anyone peeking at your profile
A small subgroup of your friends
and Your Photos
A share button, and,
On the right side, there are advertisements
NOTE: Facebook is the biggest A/B tester on the planet. They constantly move things around in order to try for an improved user experience. Hence this means you may see buttons moved, resized, renamed, or even eliminated. And it also means your neighbor might see an entirely different configuration.
Let’s start with the tabs.
Up at the top, you can put in your status. There doesn’t seem to be a true limit to how long a status message can be, but after a few lines, it’s excessive. People put all sorts of nonsense in here – including not only statements of their adoration for celebrities but also mundane minutiae such as the scintillating fact that they’re about to go pick up the dry cleaning. If you want to use Facebook at all for your business, your status messages should really be short, somewhat on point and inoffensive (this is also true if you are looking for work and are not using Facebook for any of that – potential employers are watching!).
Below is the wall itself, where friends can post replies to your status (they can also reply directly to the status), send you greetings, send you game requests, etc. You can always delete or hide these messages, which can be a good idea if they are becoming something you’d rather not share with others. People routinely answer all sorts of dumb questions about me (e. g. Do you think Janet Gershen-Siegel has kissed a boy? Gee, I’ve been married since 1992. You make the call.) and I usually just hide or delete those.
You can also hide notifications from various applications so, if everyone you know is playing Farmville, and you don’t care about it, right-click on any Farmville notification and select the hide Farmville notifications button. However, be aware that there are any number of similar or satellite applications (gifts, new gifts or whatever), so you may be doing a rather similar task more than once. Still, understand that you don’t need to ask people to stop sending you requests. Just block the app.
You can add any number of tidbits here. At minimum, you should at least list your marital/dating status, your birth date (the year is optional) and your current city and/or home town. This will draw people in and make it easier for them to find you, particularly if you have a rather common name. You want friends and business associates to figure out that they want you, the Mary Lou in Hicksville, New York, versus the Mary Lou in Mars, Pennsylvania.
Marital status isn’t strictly necessary (and I’ve found it doesn’t stop guys from sometimes hitting on me – eek), but I personally think it’s a nice thing to include. However, of course, no one can force you to do this and naturally it is illegal in the United States for a potential employer to demand this information.
Birth date is kind of nice to have, partly as an identifier and partly to give another piece of information out that’s just pleasant to see. It’s a minor revelation (particularly if you only give out the month and day) and is essentially harmless. And an American employer cannot legally ask for the year. However, employees do have to be of a certain age in order to work full-time at all. Still, if you get that far along in a job application, an employer won’t use Facebook to confirm your age – the employer will instead use official governmental records like your birth certificate for that.
Adding your birth date also means the inevitable onslaught of Facebook birthday greetings.
Biography is optional and, if you use Facebook for business, keep it short, on point and inoffensive. Work history is also not necessary but it can be helpful if you need for people to find you (are you the Mary Lou in Hicksville who worked at AIG, or at the Dairy Queen?). Plus that can add to the networking vibe but keep in mind that Facebook for networking remains a poor substitute for LinkedIn.
Educational information also helps to identify you. Graduation years are not necessary. Likes and interests will show up in part by your typing in here and also by you “liking” various pages. Keep in mind that this can be found, so “liking” a page with a profane name is going to be something that can be picked up by potential employers and clients.
Profile Page Part 1: Photos
These are pretty self-explanatory. Any photographs that you’re tagged in them will show up here. You can collect photos into albums, of course. Also, if a photograph is unflattering, compromising or just plain not of you, you can always untag yourself. Before my parents were not on Facebook, I was sometimes tagged on my mother’s photos so I would be able to find them. I don’t mind this. My profile has enough photographs of me that it’s obvious I’m not her. But you might. So, if this happens, talk to whoever’s doing this. There are other ways of sharing photographs and albums which might suit your needs better.