Today we begin our exploration of some of the key social media platforms that can help you communicate with others and grow your online visibility. First up, Facebook. Today, we’ll cover some basics without discussing whether you should or shouldn’t use Facebook for your business. Let’s just get a feel for Facebook first before we rush to the decision-making.
Facebook is a social networking site where the emphasis is on building community through social interactions. Facebook connects friends, families, classmates, colleagues, and people who share similar interests. Users communicate with their contacts, called friends, via short posts, called updates. These updates are typed into a box that asks, “what’s on your mind?” and can be found on a user’s home page or their timeline (profile page). Users can upload photos and videos, and share links to articles and other interesting stuff around the web. They can also play social games, take polls and quizzes, and interact in other ways, too. These interactions are fed into the news feed—a collection of events and updates from a user’s friends—and are visible on a user’s home page.
Facebook currently has over 900 million users worldwide. That represents about 1 in 12 people on the planet. If it were a country, it would be the third largest after China and India. Out of those, 500 million people use Facebook every day. This makes Facebook the largest of the social networks by far.
Among the reasons for Facebook’s enormous popularity is how easy it is to use. The ability to check Facebook from mobile devices while on the go makes sharing updates, links, and photos that much more immediate and engaging. Another reason for its popularity is its addictive quality. According to this article on Mashable, the average American Facebook user spends about 15 minutes a day on the site.
It’s hard to avoid the fact that Facebook has become a major way people communicate. Of course, size alone isn’t reason to jump on the Facebook bandwagon. It’s just as important to know who is using Facebook, and how.
Who Uses Facebook?
Facebook was started in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg in a Harvard dorm room. It was originally a closed network connecting Harvard students, but soon it allowed students at other universities to join. Facebook eventually opened up to anyone with an email address. Key to this bit of history is the fact that from its inception, Facebook has been about social interactions.
Considering Facebook’s start in a college dorm room, you might be tempted to believe that Facebook is only popular among young people. That would be a big mistake. The averageage of Facebook users is about 38 and seems to be rising, not dropping. People 45 and older make up 46% of Facebook users. More women (57%) use Facebook than men.
How Do People Use Facebook?
All communities develop a culture, and Facebook is no different. On Facebook, the emphasis is on the personal. We use Facebook to reconnect with people we’ve lost touch with, to interact with friends, or to keep up with family members who live far away. It’s all about our relationships.
Facebook comes down to people sharing and responding to the events and stories of their lives. Just like posts in a blog add up to a story over time, so do updates and “likes” on Facebook. Our timelines become a record of who we are, who we know, what we like, what we think is entertaining, and what we believe in and support. Like digital scrapbooks, timelines create a portrait of our lives for the world to see.
Scary? Absolutely. In fact, Facebook privacy issues are a real concern. Before you join Facebook, learn how to control your privacy settings. Personally, I prefer to assume that anything I post online is potentially visible to the entire world. That way, I minimize the risk of posting anything that I’m not comfortable with strangers seeing.
But despite the privacy risks, this ability to interact with others and share our stories is also exciting. It’s what makes Facebook so appealing and compelling.
Now, just so there’s no mistake about it, Facebook itself is a commercial enterprise. They make money by placing advertising on their site, which is essentially driven by user-generated content. That’s the content WE generate. In other words, our stories, our lives.
Is Facebook using us? Um…yes!
But we’re also using Facebook. Let’s not forget that. And if we’re going to continue using Facebook, we can at least try to be smart about how we go about it.
What Facebook Means For You and Your Business
Facebook gives businesses the opportunity to tell their stories via Facebook business pages. We’ll get into business pages in more detail next week. For now, it’s important to understand that even on business pages, the emphasis is on genuine sharing.
People gather on Facebook in much the same way they’d gather in a town square, at a garden party, or around a relaxing game of golf. They want to interact, not be sold to. But we all know a lot of business gets done on a golf course precisely because of a magical mix between social, personal, and business interactions.
To get the balance right, keep the focus on your audience rather than on yourself. Share useful information, such as content you create on your blog or articles that you come across. Engage your fans in conversation and respond to their comments. Be helpful, and be yourself. In short, follow the same basic guidelines for interacting and sharing you follow on your blog.
Then, if you occasionally toot your own horn about an award you won, your 500th Facebook follower, or being invited to speak at a prestigious event, no one will hold it against you. In fact, they’ll cheer you on! Why? Because they’ve come to trust you and think of you as a person or business who cares. Yes, you can let your page fans know about your services or special offers you may be running. Just make sure the balance is right.
Facebook Summary & Further Resources
Here’s a quick summary of the key points in today’s post:
And some more Facebook resources below:
- Sign Up For Facebook
- Create a Business Page
- Understand Facebook Features
- How To Control Your Facebook Privacy Settings
- Two Point Uh Oh! Facebook page
Next week, we’ll take a more in-depth look at Facebook business pages. How do you feel about Facebook so far? Are you intrigued? Or turned off? Let us know!