Facebook is a social networking site that is enormously popular, but it can be a frustrating user experience. The design of Facebook leaves a lot to be desired and there are almost too many choices for things to do on Facebook. Also some of the more popular Facebook activities are trivial instead of useful – throwing sheep is an oft-quoted example.
Having said that, there’s no doubt that Facebook is a powerful social networking tool. So how can you best utilize it and find the good apps? In this post we aim to find out. We’ll be focusing specifically on social activities, rather than the many other potential uses of Facebook (work, brand management, etc).
Tip 1: Update Your Status Regularly
This is a simple thing to do to keep your Facebook profile active. Right at the top of the page there is a place where you can “write something.” Usually a comment about what you’re doing or thinking. Once a day, or even once every few days, is enough. But update it enough to keep your page interesting.
Tip 2. Use Groups (a.k.a. Lists in Facebook Terminology)
Groups are a core feature of social networking on the Web. To effectively use Facebook, we recommend you set up some groups so that you can filter content. One person who does this very well is our own Marshall Kirkpatrick. Marshall says that he generally scans his Facebook homepage first, then clicks to his groups for family and old friends from school. He noted that “this way most of my time spent on Facebook isn’t re-reading the same things I’ve already read on Twitter.”
There is a bit of a trick to setting this groups feature up. Facebook calls this feature “lists,” probably to differentiate them from its other Groups feature (which have been usurped by ‘Pages’ now). Confused? Get used to it, Facebook navigation is awful.
To set lists up for your Facebook account, go to your Facebook homepage and click the “more” link on the left-hand sidebar. You will see a link entitled “Create new list” at the bottom – click on that to create a new group.
Tip 3: Add Your Content From Other Sources (Carefully…)
In this day and age, you are likely creating content in more than a few places on the Web. This ranges from the extreme cases (early adopters who have personal RSS feeds coming out their ears), to those who may just use YouTube and a couple of other niche social websites.
Many early adopters use FriendFeed to aggregate their ‘lifestream’ of content from multiple sources. Facebook just bought FriendFeed, so expect to see it integrated into Facebook over time. As of now, if you have more than a few content sources and they aren’t necessarily the well-known ones like YouTube or Last.fm, then you’ll need to use FriendFeed or an equivalent lifestreaming product to aggregate those feeds. But if you find FriendFeed just a bit too geeky (and many people do), then you can adequately enrich your Facebook profile with external content.
One thing we’d caution, which this author took too long to notice: don’t pipe your FriendFeed content into Facebook if you aggregate a lot of content into FriendFeed! It quickly overpowers your Wall and will likely annoy the friends you have who also subscribe to your FriendFeed.
To add external content to Facebook, on your Wall page click the ‘Options’ link on the top right. Then click ‘Settings.’
You can then choose to “import stories” to your Facebook wall from a select number of sites: Flickr, Digg, YouTube and others.
You can add content from other external sources to Facebook by clicking the ‘application settings page’ link further down the page.
Tip 4: Brighten Up Your Profile With Photos and Videos
This almost goes without saying, but adding multimedia makes your Facebook profile interesting and attractive.
If instead of Facebook you usually use a specialist photo site (like Flickr) or video site (like Vimeo), then you’ll need to search around for ways to export your files. I use Flickr and didn’t find a satisfactory way to export photos from Flickr to Facebook’s Photo albums. But via my Twitter network I managed to discovered a plug-in for iPhoto, which allows Mac users to bulk export from iPhoto to Facebook.
Tip 5: Search Out the Best Facebook Apps
Ever since Facebook became a development platform back in May 2007, thousands of apps have been built to add to your Facebook page. As noted in the introduction, these range from trivial (e.g. sheep throwing) to very useful. The best tip here is to find apps that complement your interests.
Our advice is to search the directory for keywords of interest to you. The quality of apps varies greatly and often there are errors (at least I came across them several times when researching this article). When you find an app you like, you can add it to your profile. I added an Art app recently, for example.
You can browse a user’s apps by clicking the oddly-named ‘Boxes’ tab on their profile page.
Tell Us How You Use Facebook!
We hope this post inspires you to spruce up your Facebook page a bit. For more tips, check out Facebook’s own Influencers page.
Let us know in the comments what tips you have, or what you use Facebook for every day!