Love it, hate it, but you will use Facebook. comScore released a report yesterday saying that we use Facebook 19 times more than Twitter and an astounding 135 times than Google+. And while our average time on Google+ was down to 3.3 minutes for the month of January, we now collectively spend about one in seven of our online minutes on Facebook.
So why not use Facebook better?
Like I did last month when I wrote my guide to pimping your LinkedIn profile, I combed the Internet and took feedback from power Facebook users about what they do to get the most out of the service. Some of the ideas are fun and some of the ideas are practical, but none of the ones listed here will include yet another article on how to make your timeline look funky.
Do Better Than The Generic Facebook Birthday Greeting
I'm not a big fan of birthdays, and even less so since Facebook has guilted me into wishing everyone I ever knew a lame, generic Happy Birthday on their special day. I avoid that clutter on my own profile by not sharing my birthday on Facebook, figuring if you're a friend and not a "friend," you know that information. And, if you don't, no hard feelings.
But in terms of using Facebook to wish others a happy birthday, it comes up short. You only get a day's notice in the events section of your news feed - far too late to do something like send a card or buy a gift. That's why I love the idea of being able to export my friends' birthdays to my calendar.
As explained in this Mashable How To, you can, rather quickly, export all of your friends' brithdays to Apple iCal, Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendar. From there, you can go through the list and set reminders for the people who are most important to you (I've set mine to email me 10 days ahead of time for family and close friends, which is enough time to make plans, get and mail a card or purchase a gift, depending on the person).
A few drawbacks to keep in mind:
- You'll need to remember to update it every now and again to make sure you get the new friends in there.
- There's no easy way to pick and choose whose birthday you see and whose you do not see once you import it into the calendar. At least in Google Calendar, I have been unable to delete individual birthdays.
- It does take up a lot of screen space: The average Facebook user has somewhere in the range of 150 to 200 friends, which means you'll see about three or four birthdays per week. In Google Calendar the import creates a separate calendar which you can hide, but that sort of defeats the purpose.
- By default, you will not be emailed reminders for birthdays imported into Google Calendar. I found the process of manually sifting through each birthday to set reminders for the important ones time consuming but, ultimately, worthwhile.
Call Out People Who Unfriend You
You may need a thick skin for this one: Unfriend Finder installs itself on your Facebook profile and will send you an alert every time one of your friends deactivates their profile, declines your friend request or removes you from your friends list.
Outside of vanity, why is this useful?
Because if you're partially using your Facebook profile to promote yourself, your work or your business, a sudden rash of unfriends could mean you're overdoing it. Or you may find out that harmless joke, taken out of context, actually did some harm. You can then tone it down, ask for feedback or, if necessary, reach out with an apology.
At the very least, you may want to know how it works before your friends call you out for unfriending them: Unfriend Finder's developer claims that 43 million people have already downloaded the app.
Facebook's Timeline took some getting used to, but most people seem to have come around and are embracing the new format. That said, one of the bigger drawbacks is it makes it much easier for people to scroll back and see what you were like a year or five years ago (or even further back if you choose to fill in life events from before you signed up for Facebook, as Zuckerberg et al. hope you will).
The introduction of Timeline has prompted many people to edit their history for the very reason we don't want our next boss or our next significant other to see photos from that lost weekend in Vegas or that sappy, public proclamation of love to a half-forgotten ex.
Make Use of Has a solid primer on controlling privacy in Timeline, but it's worth highlighting one in particualr: controlling who can see past events in your timeline.
From the Home Screen, click on "Privacy Settings" and then click on "Limit Audience For Past Posts." Follow the prompts for the "Manage Past Post Visibility" link and change the setting from "More Than Friends" to "Friends"
Be sure you want to do this: as MakeUseOf noted, it's not easy to undo. And keep in mind it only applies to past posts.
The Movie of Your (Facebook) Life
Like I said, some of these are fun, but this one also may tip you off to some of that content that you posted five years ago and forgot about but now want to hide.
Timeline Movie Maker is simple: authorize the app, wait a few moments as it scans your timeline and your movie will play automatically. After you've watched the rough cut, you are given a chance to choose theme music (Nostalgic, Romantic, Playful, etc.) and replace photos and video clips that were included in the automatically-generated version.
Here are some other tips worth considering, with links back to the sources and instructions on how to use them: