Maybe a Facebook invitation showed up in your email inbox and you’re trying to decide whether to join the site. Maybe you were alarmed when you heard your kids mention poking each other on Facebook. Maybe the Wall Street buzz caught your attention when Facebook—a whippersnapper of a website that didn’t even exist until 2004—clocked in at a breathtaking value of $15 billion. Or maybe you caught the blockbuster movie (based on a bestselling book) about Facebook’s founder, or noticed that Facebook mentions are regularly making it into your favorite local and national news programs.
However you heard about it, everybody seems to be talking about Facebook. And for good reason: In an astonishingly short period of time, Facebook has grown from an online yearbook for college kids to an Internet juggernaut with an estimated 500 million members.
So what is Facebook, anyway? It’s a free-to-use, wildly popular social networking site—which just means it’s a way to connect with other people—that combines the best of blogs, online forums and groups, photo sharing, and much more. By tracking the connections its members make with each other, Facebook makes it easy to find and contact people—everyone from old friends and roommates to new customers, new bosses, and even folks you’ve never met before who share your interests.
If you’re thinking that Facebook sounds a lot like MySpace, you’re right. The difference? In a word, positioning. Facebook does pretty much the same stuff as MySpace, but in a cleaner, more controlled, more professional way. MySpace’s blinking, flashing, online teen haven now boasts far fewer members than Facebook. And over half of all new Facebook members count themselves among the 25-and-older crowd, so it’s not just for college kids anymore.
First, you type in your personal and professional information—as much or as little as you’re comfortable sharing. (Most folks add extras such as photos and video clips.) Then, you establish connections with groups of Facebook members, like everybody who went to your alma mater, or everybody who works at your company. Finally, you add individual connections to other members, such as the guys on your soccer team, your next-door neighbor, and the two or three old flames you’re still speaking to. Bingo: instant access to the personal and professional details of all the folks you’re connected to, the folks they’re connected to, and so on. You can think of Facebook as a 500-million-plus-entry searchable Rolodex—on steroids.
The two parts of the site you interact with most often are:
Your profile. Your profile is the page that other Facebook members—friends, relatives, coworkers, long-lost roommates, potential bosses, and so on—see when they look you up on Facebook (you can, of course, view your own profile, too). The Wall part of your profile makes it easy for your friends to see what you’re up to. The figure below shows a sample profile.
Your Home page. The majority of your Facebook Home page is taken up by a News Feed that chronicles your friends’ Facebook activities. The right side of the page shows stuff you might want to act on: upcoming events, requests your friends have made, suggestions for new friends, and so on. To get to your Home page, click either the word “facebook” or “Home” at the top of any Facebook screen.
Like all social networking sites, Facebook blurs the line between personal and professional: Your boss is just as likely to be on Facebook as your kids. Still, most folks focus on either professional or personal stuff when they’re on the site. The following sections list some of the things you can do on Facebook.
Look up (and be looked up by) long-lost pals. Facebook wouldn’t be very useful if no one used their real names—you wouldn’t be able to find anybody! But since it’s fun to find people and have them find you (and because Facebook’s official policy requires truthfulness), members tend to provide their real names, photos, and personal details. Chapter 4 teaches you how to search for people on Facebook.
Make new friends. Facebook makes it easy to search out and contact folks with similar interests, whether you like Pedro Almodóvar movies or are frustrated with Geometry 102. And because your personal info is available for other Facebook members to see, you can learn a little about someone before you decide to contact or befriend him. Online special-interest Groups (Chapter 7) let you exchange views with like-minded Facebook members, and Events (Chapter 8) let you arrange face-to-face meetings with other members.
You get to control how much regular, garden-variety, not-yet-friends-with-you Facebook members can see about you, and vice versa (Chapter 14).
Keep in touch with far-flung friends and family. Other Facebook members can sign up for regular updates from you. For example, you can send out party updates to fellow students stuck in study hall, or share photos of your new granddaughter. Likewise, you can sign up to get updates about what your friends and family members are doing. Chapter 6 teaches you all about automatic updates.
Make yourself heard. Facebook’s blogging feature (called Notes—see Creating Notes (Blogs)) lets you put text and photos on your profile. Think of it as a beefed-up online journal.
Play games. Gaming is a big part of the site. According to Facebook, more people play games through the site than through Wii, Xbox, and PS3 put together. Check out Chapter 13 for tips on finding and playing Facebook games.
Right now, you play games on Facebook by installing game applications (Chapter 13). However, rumor has it that Facebook will soon come out with a special website devoted to games called a gaming portal.
Buy and sell stuff. Marketplace (Chapter 9), Facebook’s answer to classified ads, lets you buy and sell stuff online using a credit card.
Keep tabs on your kids. Facebook started out as a way for students to meet online, and it’s still big with college and high-school kids. Getting acquainted with Facebook not only helps you understand the language your kids are speaking; it also gives you a frank look into their online social lives.
You don’t have to be out of work to benefit from social networking. While business-oriented social networks like LinkedIn may be more popular with serious get-ahead types, more and more professionals are turning to Facebook to mingle, headhunt, advertise, and work together effectively. Here are some of the work-related things you can do on Facebook:
Find a gig. The resumé you post on Facebook can be as extensive as you want (headhunters use Facebook, too), and there’s always the want ads in Facebook’s Marketplace (Chapter 9). But because jobs often go to the best-qualified friend-of-a-friend, Facebook’s ability to show you who’s friends with who can be even more useful—maybe one of your friends knows the hiring manager, say.
Find an employee. Facebook can help you recruit—and even vet—new hires (see Chapter 10).
Keep up-to-date on team projects. Subscribing to feeds (Subscriptions) and Notifications (Customizing Your Mini Feed) keeps you in the loop regarding upcoming deadlines and other details, such as whether team members on the other side of the building are still online or have left for the day.
Collaborate. Use Facebook’s Walls (Writing on Walls), Notes (Creating Notes (Blogs)), and Groups (Chapter 7) to exchange ideas, photos, and more; Messages (Breaking Up: Unfriending Friends) to send email; and Events (Chapter 8) to schedule meetings and lunch dates.
Market yourself, your products, or your company. For relatively little scratch, Facebook gives you a couple ways to promote things:
Pages are special, interactive profiles for companies, bands, celebrities, and nonprofit organizations that you can create for free.
Ads can include graphics and text; they appear in Facebook’s ad space (the lower-right part of any screen).
Big-bucks sponsor companies have even more marketing options. Chapter 12 explains all your choices.
Facebook is a terrifically fun and useful site, and compared to a lot of other websites, it’s remarkably easy to use. But that’s true only if you already know what you want to do on Facebook, and—most important—why.
That’s where this book comes in: It’s the book you should have been able to download when you registered for Facebook. It explains what kinds of things you can do on the site and how to go about doing them. You’ll find tips for diving headfirst into Facebook without looking like a newbie, keeping in touch with your friends, expanding your social circle, and using Facebook as a poor-man’s business-collaboration tool. This book also guides you through the staggering forest of privacy options so you can get the most out of Facebook with the least amount of risk (see Chapter 14).
This book is designed for readers of every skill level, from I-just-plugged-in-my-first-computer-yesterday to Internet expert. Concise intros lead you into step-by-step instructions of how to get stuff done. The Notes scattered throughout the text give you alternatives and additional info, and the Tips help you avoid problems.
You can find Missing Manuals’ own home on Facebook by typing Missing Manuals into the Search box at the top of any Facebook screen. Use the Page’s Wall (Writing on Walls) or click the Boxes tab and use the Page’s discussion board (Facebook Pages: Profiles for Bands, Brands, and More) to post feedback about this book or any Missing Manual. And the Page is a great place to meet other folks who are fans of Missing Manuals—or to declare that you like the series, too!
At www.missingmanuals.com, you’ll find articles, tips, and updates to Facebook: The Missing Manual. In fact, we invite and encourage you to submit such corrections and updates yourself. In an effort to keep this book as up-to-date and accurate as possible, each time we print more copies of it, we’ll make any confirmed corrections you’ve suggested. We’ll also note such changes on the website, so that you can mark important corrections into your own copy of the book, if you like.
Also, on our Feedback page, you can get expert answers to questions that come to you while reading this book, write a book review, and find groups for folks who share your interest in using Facebook. And don’t forget to check out this book’s Missing CD page, which includes a clickable list of all the web addresses mentioned here. Head to www.missingmanuals.com/cds to find it.
We’d love to hear your suggestions for new books in the Missing Manual line. There’s a place for that on MissingManuals.com, too (www.missingmanuals.com/feedback). And while you’re online, you can also register this book at www.oreilly.com (you can jump directly to the registration page by going here: http://tinyurl.com/yo82k3). Registering means you’ll be eligible for special offers like discounts on future editions of Facebook: The Missing Manual.
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