A screenshot of my personal page on Facebook
Facebook? I have lots of friends who are on it and we all enjoy the spontaneous access it gives us all to our humor, insights, links, photos and whatever else we want to share with each other. From the ones that aren't there, I get groans, moans, disgust or misinformation. "I don't want the whole world to know what's going on in my life!" Facebook has definitely transformed how we communicate with each other, replacing email for many of us. It's a household name that has millions of avid fans and as many avid enemies...
The problem with Facebook is that the way it is set up assumes that the users know how to use it. Most don't. Most figure out how to add new friends, respond to updates, add photos and links, and that's about it. Those are all nice tools, but they just explore the tip of the iceberg. Learning how to use it well can really help artists and businesses get the kind of exposure they long for. This post is for those of you who use Facebook minimally or not at all. In the end, I hope that you will also want to join in and become part of this Facebook revolution.
Yep. Being on facebook does mean having a public persona. Social networking is a pretty recent phenomena, but it has become such a part of life on cyber space that it's hard to remember the days before we had all these venues where we could, for better or for worse, put ourselves out there. Social networking falls under one of the many tools we now have under the umbrella of "Social Media". Do you look at videos on YouTube? Have a blog? Tweet? These are just a few of the more popular venues that people use to connect with each other, but there are many, many more. Wikipedia has a good history and list. Basically, social media has replaced the face-to-face interaction we had with our neighborhood shops and hang-outs. As these tools developed, the mainstream marketplace was forced to adapt and include customer feedback, reviews and other interactive tools. Unbelievably, Facebook was created by a Harvard student in his dorm room in 2003. (see Wikipedia again) It was one of those creations that came along at the right time and place. The market and the people were ready. When something catches on like this, it is said to have viral qualities and that is what artists and businesses hope for when they join facebook. How exactly does this work then?
I've taken a bunch of screen shots to walk you through the different features Facebook offers which I think are important. Click on the images to see a larger image, or you can go to my public page, Rayela Art, to follow along, or to your own page, if you have one.
First of all: How do you get friends? You can have Facebook check your email address book and it will tell you who is already on there. You can then choose who you want to invite to become your friend. Then, once you have friends, you can check their friends and see if there is anybody you know. The search bar also brings up names and if there are too many, you can narrow the search by location, school or job. Somehow people start finding each other and last year was marked as a wonderful reconnecting for me with friends from that past that I had lost contact with. Mine are grouped into family, Brazilian friends, missionary kids, high school and college, peer artists, Chicago people, and so on. A creep from the past wants to be your friend? Just say no! Most of my re-connections have been treasures, but there are a couple that have raised my eyebrows. "You were such a nice boy! What happened to make you so bitter?" Believing in diversity, I try to find the common ground we share rather than keeping my friends limited to the same code of ethics, but I've noticed that some have "unfriended" me, which is just fine. Not everyone wants to have a bleeding heart liberal flower child type in their midst...
Comment, Like and Share: the virus effect on Facebook.
Everybody who joins Facebook has a profile page where you can link to another website, upload a photo or video, or make a comment. If this person has any "friends", those friends can comment, like or share, giving a reaction to what was posted. Comment is straightforward. You type some kind of a response. If you like what you read, you click on that and you will be able to follow what other activity happens on this post. You can set your settings to receive emails whenever any action like this happens on your page. Now, the third option, Share, is the most important as far as achieving that viral effect. When a friend clicks on that, that post goes to their Home page and all their friends see it. The hope is that those friends will also like it, click share, and on and on. This is the viral effect of Facebook. In theory, one post could have thousands of viewers. However, this only happens on links or images that have public settings. All personal comments get deleted in the sharing and the friend can say whatever he or she wants to about that link. If you say something silly and you have private settings, the comment cannot leave your page. Make sense? Hopefully, this concept will become clear as we move along.
Friends, Fans and Members
There are three kinds of pages on Facebook and each has a different relationship.
- You have your personal profile where friends are accepted or rejected.
- Personal pages can have sub-pages that are created for the public. These are usually small businesses, special interest, artist, or music pages. I have three: Rayela Art (for my business), Afghan Tribal Arts (for a friend's business that I manage) and Falamos Portugues (a just-for-fun page for Portuguese speakers). Pages are public and anyone interested in the content can join as a fan. An icon of that page pops up on that person's profile page and they will receive updates in their home page.
- The third type of page is for groups. Larger organizations, families, teams, museums and non-profits would normally select this option. This is also a public page and whoever joins becomes a member and receives updates in their home page as well. Groups joined are listed in the personal info page.
Now let's look at some of the features in each of these structures.
Whenever I start using a new site or software, I click around on the tabs and links and look at what happens. Usually, I can figure out what they mean and if I don't get it, I will ask friends or use the search or help functions. I numbered the most important parts of a profile page:
Key spots on a Facebook profile page.
- Your latest comment or post shows up here.
- The space where a new comment can be posted. The small icons under it mean that you can attach a photo, video or link. Videos have to be ones that you made. If you post a youtube video, use the regular link option with the video's url as the address.
- The all-important Share button.
- Recent activity. This shows up differently to different viewers depending on your privacy settings.
- At that bottom, left-hand corner, some little icons lead to applications and other functions.
- Chat function.
The top bar shows that this is the profile page. If you click on "Home", you see all the activity that has been posted by your friends or the pages and groups you have joined. Click on "Friends" to find one of your friends and on "Inbox" to send a private message to one or more friends.
The "Home" page on Facebook where you see all the activity of your connections.
The home page is the one you will check and your profile is what others will look at when they want to see more info about you. I normally check my home page in the morning and at night. I do a quick scroll down and screech to a quick stop if something interesting catches my eye and then I'll banter with a friend, watch a video, or give feedback on something that was posted. One could spend hours and hours doing this, but I try to limit how much time I spend here, even though I do enjoy it. Most of my friends are actual people I know, family,peer artists, and the organizations or pages that I follow are ones that I am truly interested in, so the content does interest me.
Those who have videos have a special page for them, too. I'm just learning how to do this, but have a couple. Business pages and groups also have these features.
Friends who are diligent about loading photos make their page more interesting. It's a great way to see new artwork, view the kids who are growing up, see rehab projects and just get a better mental picture of what is happening in their lives.
Facebook has hit on the most interesting and vibrant way of sharing news and information. I am terrible at making phone calls, often do this non-business stuff late at night, so I can browse and comment when the rest of the world is asleep.
Business pages have many of the same functions as a profile page plus a few others. You can include photos, videos, discussions, and events.
Screenshot of Rayela Art
One of the things that I like about Facebook is the clean template and consistency among pages. I had only seen My Space before and hated the chaotic jumble of images and glitter. But, you can still personalize your page with photos, logo and how much information you add on.
Screen shots of Afghan Tribal Arts.
A great tool for artists who do a lot of shows is the events page. Your customers and fan base can keep track of you and try to attend a live performance, sale or opening. I use it to post an occasional event that is happening locally in Paducah or a festival that I wish I could go to.
List your events on your business page on Facebook!
Many of your friends on your personal page will probably be interested in your business. You can invite them to receive your updates. Click on "Suggest to Friends" and a window pops up with icons of your friends. If the image looks cloudy, they have already become a fan. This is so much better than spamming people who don't want to receive your emails! These people choose to follow your business, become a fan and get your news because they are interested. Your job, then, is to come up with information that is interesting enough to make them want to share it with their friends.
Messages can also be sent through Facebook's Inbox (your messaging system on Facebook). This should be used sparingly. It can be really annoying to get multiple messages from one of the pages you became a fan of, especially if those messages aren't even in a language you understand. Again, you can always leave a business page that gets on your nerve an "un-fan" yourself.
A nice feature when you become a fan of someone's page is that you can add them on as a favorite on your page. I've added like-minded pages to Rayela Art because I think my fans will also find them interesting. Of course, the hope is that these businesses will reciprocate and give you some floor space on their page, too. If you click on the "See All" in the box, you can scroll down and see larger icons and names of the pages.
The one big complaint that I have of the business pages so far is that you cannot become a fan using your business. So, when I fan people that have similar businesses, I show up as Rachel Biel instead of Rayela Art. I would much rather drive people that I do not know to my Rayela Art page than to my personal one. In the same way, I would like to know if my fans have businesses that I can interact with professionally, but if I click on their icon, it will go to their personal page. It would be nice if Facebook would give you options of how you become a fan or how you join a group.
Groups are organized in a similar but slightly different manner from the other pages on Facebook. I won't go much more into them, except to say that one can find any topic or theme under the sun on facebook. When you do a search for groups, the results will show you which groups your friends have joined and what the latest activity is on the groups you belong to. Once again, that viral potential in action.
Group search on Facebook will come up with endless possibilities.
Applications are little independent programs that interface on facebook. Some have to do with business, family or school connections, many with general silliness brought to life by people with too much time on their hands. It's important to understand how to find and use applications as they can be useful tools. The first icon at the bottom left-hand corner is where you will find them. Click on it and a box pops up:
If one of the applications you are looking for is there, click on it. Otherwise use "Browse More Applications" and a new page will open up. This is where you go to create your pages that we discussed above. "Networked Blogs" is an important application for any of you who have blogs. You join the application, are given a profile page with public snippets of your blogs and recent posts. Every time you create a new post on your blog, it shows up in your news feed where all your friends can see it. I have it set up so that the posts will also go to my pages. Most applications will give you an option to create a box or tab on your profile page, too. Interested friends can then click on that tab and see your blog posts and sign up for them.
Networked Blogs on Facebook, an important application.
Applications can also bring on a nightmare of games and stupid stuff. If you do open that applications page, you will see that there are business tools, education, lifestyle, sports, and the dreaded games and just for fun. The two top games that my friends enjoy are Farmville and Mafia Wars. They are addictive and they go on and on and every time they do something new on it, it shows up on our personal page news feeds. I just have no interest in knowing that so and so just bought a new pig for their farm or however it goes. I've got a couple hundred friends right now and just imagine if 30 or more of them are playing these games! As my group of friends got bigger, the number of games increased and my annoyance level grew. I was about ready to quit the whole thing and get off Facebook, when one of my friends told me that if I hovered my cursor next to the application, a box pops up that gives you the option to hide that person or that application. Ha! Well, I still wanted the other stuff from that person, just not the games. Once you hide the application from one person, it is hidden forever! Good-bye farmville! Relief! Facebook became fun again for me.
Farmville and Mafia Wars, application nightmares on Facebook...
One of the greatest fears many people have about Facebook is whether their privacy will be protected. This is a legitimate concern according to the Wikipedia article I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Hopefully, they will continue to improve this, but meanwhile, just make sure that you will not post things that might shame you later and check your settings so that they reflect the level of privacy you want to have. I keep my updates so that only my friends can see them, but allow my photos to be seen by friends of friends. If you have friends on your photos, you can tag them and that photo will show up in their photo page as well, so I figure that it's nice for their friends to be able to see them as well. You might want to make an art album public to anyone. The settings options can be accessed on the top bar, next to the search box.
Linked accounts and privacy are the two important settings to check whenever you have doubts about who is seeing what. Many of my friends kids are on Facebook and they revel in silliness. I think about how it will be for them, if they still have the same accounts in 10 years, where they will have mountains of records of how they behaved as teens... Will they want to delete it or look back on these times with a smile? Who knows where the world will be then, but never before has our private life become so public.
Pages also have settings that should be monitored. You can decide how much fan input you want to have: whether they can submit comments, post photos, participate in discussions and so on.
As if all of the above is not enough to convince you that Facebook can be a powerful promotional tool for your business, there is one more feature that I really like. Increasingly, Facebook is linking with other social media so that updates and information can be shared back and forth. As an Etsy seller, I was thrilled when they became linked to each other. There is an Etsy application that pulls items from your shop on an Etsy page that has its own tab in your profile page. Click on an item and it takes you to the Etsy shop.
I have my Etsy shop application on both my personal profile page and on Rayela Art and Falamos Portugues. I created one for Afghan Tribal Arts which is on the Afghan Tribal Arts page on Facebook.
When you post something on Etsy, there is a Facebook icon which you can click and send that item to your Home Page's stream. Again, I wish this went to my business page instead of my personal one, but in time, maybe it will.
Twitter is also linked in. I don't have the patience to post on Twitter, but know that I have to be there, too, so I was relieved to find that I could set up my Rayela Art Facebook posts to go there, too. And, they go to my Linked In page. All of it helps, all of it has viral potential, the sneeze we all want for our businesses!
There is much more, I am sure, but hopefully, this tutorial has helped you understand how to make use of Facebook your tool to fit your needs. As a final tip, I would like to point to the Search box. This is such a great tool in itself! Once you become friends with someone or join a page or group, start typing the name and it pops up. This is how I travel between my pages. You can also search using any key word and all related pages and entries will pop up, giving preference to the ones your friends have created or posted. Here is an example using the keyword "textile":
It's free and interesting. I advertised there over the Holidays and got a couple thousand hits on my Etsy store. It's not cheap and I don't know if it generated any extra sales, but my Google Analytics tells me that both my Etsy store and my blog are getting more and more traffic from my presence on Facebook. As my fan base grows, it can only help my other endeavors.
Of all the social media efforts I engage in, I find Facebook to be the most valuable use of my time. Get on there and expand your base. You never know who will want to be your friend!