Brush Up Your Facebook
Useful tips for those wishing to set up a page or enhance the one they already have.
Three times a day, Molly Gordy, 58, logs on to Facebook. It’s become her lifeline to friends in the states and in Europe and the vehicle through which she’s resumed relationships with gal pals she thought she’d never see again. She also connects with nieces and nephews on Facebook. And one day, it may be the link to her grandchildren, too.
Molly, who lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, last year visited a friend in Washington, D.C. whom she had not seen in 15 years. They had shared pregnancies, weddings, and professional advice, but when her friend moved overseas, they lost touch. Three years ago Gordy joined Facebook, thinking it might be a good professional networking tool. Then one day she used it to track down her long-lost friend. “When we reconnected, it was as if not even five minutes of separation had passed. The chemistry of our friendship now is greater than ever. And using Facebook was a cinch.”
Even so, many adults who weren’t brought up on Facebook still balk at using it. Others want to set up pages, but don’t know how to do so. Bradley Bailyn, marketing manager for FirstPageSage Inc., a social media marketing firm with offices in New York, suggests starting slow, then ramping up. If you’re a newcomer, you will create an account by entering your e-mail address and your name, selecting a password and providing a few biographical details that will help the Facebook algorithm recommend friends who share some of the same details. (It’s your choice, of course, whether you want to make “Facebook friends.”)
Profile Page: Once you’ve created a Facebook page, you’ll find your name and a tag line under your name stating “Edit Profile.” This appears on the top right-hand side of your profile page. When you “Edit Profile,” you can add or change a few simple personal details. Some basic details, like the town in which you live, your birthday (but not the year) and your employer will appear on the top of your profile page unless you opt not to include them when you set up your profile. You can also opt, on your Profile page, to upload a head shot, a photo of your pet, a favorite image from a trip or an image of a piece of art—anything that suits your fancy. Some people download symbolic photos, since they don’t want their own photo to appear when people open their Facebook page. Others purposely want to add a personal head shot so that people will recognize them. You can change the photo as often as you like by clicking on your main photo on the left side of this page. (Facebook offers up a link that says “Change Picture” to amend the photo.)
Your Wall: When your friends open your page, they will see your “Wall,” located in the middle of your page. When you open your own Facebook, you will see your newsfeed (see next pp), but you can navigate to your Wall by clicking on your name in the top right hand corner. You can use your Wall to add daily information or photos that you want your friends to see; your Wall is also the place where you can read comments from friends who have posted on your Wall. Similarly, when you visit friends, you will be taken to their Wall, where you can post comments. You can also create photo albums for your “Facebook” by clicking on the Photos link on the left-hand column of your page. There are also half a dozen other links in that column. And as you become more familiar with Facebook, you can play around with them. For instance, If you don’t want to see your wall, you can select the INFO tab on the left and it will display the information you've entered there, like your favorite movies and books.
News Feed: When you open your own Facebook, you’ll see a "news feed" in the middle of your page. This is a listing of information and links your friends have posted on their own Walls. Facebook has created an algorithm to rank which tidbits to post first on your Wall, and second and so on. You can comment on the postings you see, which keeps the news feed a living and breathing document of the day.
Adding Friends: On the right side of your News Feed, you’ll find a link that says, “People You May Know.” Scroll down the list to see if you'd like to befriend anyone listed there. Once you’re a member of Facebook, you can also look for friends at the top of the Facebook main page by typing the proper names of these people in the search box. If such a person is also on Facebook, you’ll be taken to his or her Wall. On the top right hand side of the page, you can click the link that says “Add friend” and invite that person to be part of your Facebook. You can also send a message to the individual without inviting him or her to be a Facebook friend.
Other Activities: Facebook has a number of special features or “applications,” and they show up on the left-hand side of your News Feed. For instance, here’s the spot where you can create an Event—say a party to which you'd like to invite a few of your Facebook friends. Click on Events, then at the top of the next page that comes up, click “Create Event.” On the right-hand side of your “News Feed” view, you’ll also see a list of the birthdays of your Facebook friends each week. You can post “Happy birthday” messages to these people just by clicking on the birthday link.
And if you want to keep some information private—or available only to your true friends—you can easily do so. Click on your name in the top-right corner of your Facebook page. Next to the button that says HOME, click on the down arrow and navigate to “Privacy Settings.” From that page, you can adjust everything from who can post on your “wall” to who can send you “friend” requests.
A few words to the wise from Gordy: Do not whine on Facebook—even if things are bad, keep the tone positive. (Send private e-mails if you need to vent to a friend). Do not overshare. “This is not the place to discuss the details of your surgery, your sex life or lack thereof, or your finances,” Gordy notes. “Even though you regulate who's looking at your wall, it’s still a public forum.” And, she advises, “never criticize others. You'll regret it if you do.”
As for what Gordy gets from the social networking site, it’s social fun, she says. She’s looked for doctors and high schools for her kids by asking her Facebook friends. And she’s a multilingual Facebooker, exchanging posts in French, Spanish, and Italian with friends in Europe.
Emily Sachar is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated book author and award-winning journalist who ran the Web sites for Ladies’ Home Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, MORE magazine and Reader’s Digest. She currently writes for Crain’s New York Business and is the legal columnist for AARP Bulletin, among many other publications.