The Updated Unofficial and Smartass Guide to Using Facebook

When I originally wrote the Facebook guide, I didn’t expect it to be quite the “resource” it turned out to be. But, it ended up being one and I’ve had many requests to update the guide since a lot of features have been added since these Facebook instructions were originally published in March. So, here it is… the updated guide.

We all know that I am in love with Facebook. And more and more of my friends are coming into the Facebook fold. After watching a very technically inclined friend have difficulties with figuring out the Facebook culture, I figured I’d write up a little guide to using Facebook, Sugarrae style. ;-)

Profile pictures:

You have exactly ten minutes to change your picture from the question mark to a real picture once you sign up. Seriously, it’s Facebook, not question mark book. Having a question mark there annoys the shit out of other Facebook users. How are we supposed to know if you’re the person we know with that name if you don’t have a damn picture?

Secondly, make sure you are in the picture. You are not being “cool” if you use a picture from a movie or of some other famous person or animation. If you’re that bad looking or paranoid that you can’t show yourself, maybe social networking isn’t for you. Also, leave the company logos at home. Facebook is not a branding exercise – it is a social network. And if you’re a couple, for the love of God, do not upload the same damn picture for each of your profiles. It isn’t cute. You wouldn’t go out in matching outfits would you? (And if you would, then maybe you need professional help.)

Privacy settings:

Immediately after you sign up and upload a profile picture, head on over to your security settings and decide how secure you want your Facebook profile to be. Hit the My Privacy tab and get familiar with the options. Limited profile viewing, what can be seen by your friends, what can be seen by everyone – familiarize yourself people or don’t bitch when a picture of you licking the neck of a male friend and grabbing his chest during a 4 a.m. drunken stupor makes it onto your ex-girlfriend’s blog announcing that she now knows why you broke things off because she is in your network and can openly see your profile.

If you block someone, then that person won’t be able to see a damn thing about you. However, they will *also* become invisible to you (to quote a friend, “Just because I don’t want them seeing me doesn’t mean I don’t want to see them”)… sorry, but that’s the way it works. You will not be able to see them on Facebook, nor they you, unless they are in a photo along with a friend of yours who has also been tagged in the photo.

Profile information:

Here’s a tip: act like you give a shit. Fill out the aspects of your profile you’re comfortable filling out. Please remember that movies go in the movies section, television shows in the television shows section. For interests, put actual interests, not “lots of things”. This shit is searchable and if you ever want to make some friends, you’ll need people with like interests to be able to find you.

Depending on what you have set up in your privacy settings (and if you haven’t done this by now, then you apparently weren’t ever labeled a “good listener” in grade school) a note will be sent to your friends, your network or whoever you have it set to allow notifications to every time you make a change to your profile information.

You can pick a network in your profile and can even belong to several networks (such as your company network, college network and geographical network) all at once. However, note that you can only change your networks twice in a sixty day period (so if you plan on staling people you’re not friends with in other networks by changing to their network, be very careful… don’t ask how I know damn it – I test things).

Also, be sure to use your real name in your profile. If you signed up using your cool online alter ego, kill the account now and sign up for a new one using your real information before your profile gets too filled out. Not only does Facebook de-activate accounts they see are obviously not using real names, for those who don’t get caught, deciding to be normal and request a name change to your real name can take months or more to get done.

But, the most annoying of all of the profile features is the “relationship status”. Here’s another tip: If you have a drama filled personal life that involves splitting with your significant other every other day, then turn off the notifications for the relationship status, because the constant “is in a relationship”, “is no longer in a relationship”, “is in a relationship” makes you look sad. If you like the attention from that type of drama, then you need to call the folks at Jerry Springer and leave me the fuck out of it.

Your wall:

The most commonly misused feature. Your wall is a place for *other* people to write you notes, send you a video they’ve recorded on their webcam or share a link with you. When you see someone has written you a note, video or link on your wall, you then go to*that* person’s wall to respond. I guarantee you that posting on your own wall will cause even your best friend to question your intelligence if they’re a longtime user. Yes, even yours. ;-)

If you accidentally post on your own wall before reading this guide, delete it. And then delete the posting of the one or two friends who cared enough to tell you that you were doing it wrong instead of letting you walk around with your fly unzipped. And when someone posts on your wall, answer them. Don’t leave people standing there holding their wall post in their hands. Nothing will damage the security of a friendship faster than ignored wall posts.

Also, at times, you’ll see someone hit your wall with a chain wall thing. It will be some horrid graphic made from keyboard characters that asks you to pass it on. One, these are extremely lame. Two, these are like putting up plastic six foot pink flamingos on your lawn – they’re tacky – please take care of your Facebook home (or move to a tackier neighborhood).

At minimum, never encourage these types of acts by continuing them on by posting them onto other well maintained walls. If you really want to make a difference, delete it and send the poster a smack message to say not to post that stupid shit to your wall again.

Finding friends:

If you have a life and ergo, some friends, you’ll find that requesting one or two of your more active friends will cause an avalanche of friend requests of mutual friends they also are friends within the next week. Additionally, you can use the search feature to find friends (providing they have the ability to be searched ticked off in their privacy settings).

Try and at least get yourself to double digits, and then relax a little and add friends as you come across them during your natural explorations of the site. If you’d have to remind someone of how they know you, then prevent yourself from looking pathetic by simply not requesting them.

As a rule of thumb, having fewer than ten friends makes you look either lame or inactive. Having more than 300 friends makes you look like a Facebook whore and we all know not that many people personally care about you.

And if you’d like to tattoo “lame” on your proverbial Facebook forehead, go ahead and friend all the “celebrities” you find with Facebook profiles. (Yeah, because Angelina Jolie is really on Facebook with a public profile – actually, more than seven if you keep count – and even if she is, do you really think she is going to say anything of interest?)

Also, you’ll notice when you view your friends list that it sometimes only shows the profiles of a few friends. Do not have a panic attack. People do still love you (or at least don’t dislike you enough to remove you from their friends list)… Facebook has a habit of showing you only recently updated profiles when you click on your friends list. You’ll find a little drop down at the top of the page that allows you to choose between several options, including show all friends.

You also have the ability to state how you know each person on your friends list. For the sake of nosy people, please use it.

Photo albums:

The instructions for using these are pretty self explanatory, so if you can’t figure it out, I’m really not sure what to tell you. When you upload pictures, group them into albums and tag people in them, including yourself, otherwise they may not notice you have posted them (when you tag photos of a friend, those photos appear in the newsfeed on their wall).

All pictures that are tagged of you, depending on your privacy settings, will show up under your profile picture under the view more photos of me link. Additionally, they will show up in a “photos” link next to any picture of you that is tagged. If you don’t like a picture that a friend of yours tagged because your one eye was half shut during a Vodka binge, simply un-tag it. The photo will remain in their album, but will not be searchable by someone specifically looking for pictures of you.

And for the love of god, do not upload an album of two pictures. If you have a lot of random photographs not from a series, create a freaking random album please and save us some space. Thanks.

Another thing to note is that Facebook has created links to albums within Facebook so that you can share the albums with friends who are *not* on Facebook. Even if you have the privacy settings for photos or individual albums listed as only available to your network and friends, anyone can view the photos through the “public” link to the album – sans comments and name tags. The good news is that only you are shown the “public links” for your albums, so friends can’t give them out. The bad news is that your friends can give out a public link to a photo album containing you puking at the latest party.

Another weakness in the photo privacy is that if you right click on any photo and click “copy image location” and then paste the address into any browser, you can show *any* picture you can access on Facebook to someone outside of Facebook.

Videos:

Again, like with photos, if you can’t figure it out, you have way bigger problems than not being able to utilize Facebook. You can upload personal mpegs and videos, record videos directly to Facebook or upload videos with Facebook mobile if you have that feature activated (see below for more on mobile). However, be aware that anyone who has access to your videos can rip them (just ask the video stealing whore who sent me one of my videos posted on Facebook in email when I asked him if ripping them was possible).

Groups:

You’ll find a lot of random groups on Facebook and you should join any that are of interest to you. However, be sure to occasionally prune your groups list. What you thought was cool a month ago may not be now. Additionally, if you’re going to start a group, make sure one doesn’t already exist for the same damn topic please. Be original or bow down to the person who thought of it first.

Events:

This is likely one of the coolest features. Parties, dinners… whatever, you can create an event, invite who you want, make it public or make it private. Under the My Events tab, you can also view past events as well as friend’s public events. This way, if you weren’t one of the kids cool enough to get invited personally, you can barge your way into some free beer at the nearest public events.

Status:

I’ll be honest and say that status is a personal preference on update frequency, though updating a little too often makes you look addicted (and before anyone reading this opens their mouth on my status updating frequency to make a smartass comment, I’d suggest you put my ass on limited profile viewing first). Just don’t try and look cool by being so uncaring that you never update the thing. Either use it or turn it off.

If you’d like to be a complete junkie and stalk keep up with every change in your friend’s status as it happens, you might consider the Firefox Facebook toolbar. I may or may not be at the addiction level to have this installed – it’s none of your damn business. ;-)

Home page:

If you’re an avid visitor to your profile, you may find yourself bookmarking your profile page, thus skipping the homepage. There are several reasons a visit to the homepage each day is a must. First, it holds a collaborative news feed of all your friends so you can see what has been going on most recently.

Secondly, all friend requests, friend detail requests, event invitations, group invitations, and friend’s birthdays are listed in the right sidebar on the homepage. Unless you have email notifications on (click on account and then notifications to decide what actions send you notifications and what ones don’t), this is the only way you will be notified of these (and for birthday’s the homepage is the *only* way to receive “notification”), so check it or you might miss out on free alcohol or be the only asshole that didn’t say Happy Birthday on one of your friend’s walls on their big day.

Notes and shares:

Notes can happen via one of two methods on Facebook. You can either import your blog (for you paranoid SEO people, no spiders means no risk of dupe issues at the moment) or you can hand type them in. If you mention people in your note, you are supposed to tag them. If your note is a question or something you want seen by all your friends, you can tag anyone you want in your friends list and a notification will show on their wall.

Use the mass tagging feature sparingly. No one likes shit chain messages on their walls and no one likes that same shit entering their newsfeed because you’ve tagged them for the tenth time that month about how true friends are like doves.
Shares allow you to share a link with friends. The meaning for this is outside news stories and video items like YouTube as far as anyone with common sense is concerned. You can also share items like notes via this method instead of tagging friends inside of the notes. Again, use this with some common sense.

Mobile:

This feature rocks. If you’re like me though and on a non-supported carrier (anyone aside from AT&T, Boost, Cingular (now AT&T), Sprint, Verizon, Virgin Mobile and Nextel – basically, any major carrier *but* T-Mobile), you simply cannot be cool and have notifications delivered to your cell phone. However, you can still upload pictures and notes to Facebook from any cell phone using the designated address and can access a mobile friendly version of Facebook at m.facebook.com (which I do way… too… much).

*Since the first writing, I’ve since moved to a supported carrier (if you’re in Canada like I now am, then your supported carriers are Virgin Mobile Canada, Fido, Solo Mobile, MTS, Sasktel, Telus, Aliant, Rogers and Bell) and have found out some cool things about Facebook mobile. You can get an SMS every time someone writes on your wall, pokes you, comments on a mobile upload, photo or note of yours or sends you a message.

Additionally, you can set Facebook mobile to alert you every time [insert people you designate here] changes their status message (this may or may not officially make you a stalker). You can also set it to only send you text messages during certain time periods and limit the amount of text messages you receive per day (if you have a pesky provider charging you for all incoming texts).

Facebook marketplace:

Good idea, but I don’t think it is getting much traction. The marketplace is essentially classified ads for your network. Housing, items for sale, employment listings – whatever you see in a newspaper classified ad section, you’ll see here. However, because it is free to post, you’ll see a lot of bullshit “make 6,000 dollars a day” shit too. Until Facebook figures out how to have some editorial control over this application, it is one I’ll continue to ignore.

Applications:

For the *love of all fucking things people*!!!! Adding outside applications was definitely a double edge sword. An “outside application” is one that was developed by someone outside of Facebook utilizing the Facebook platform. Some of these applications are really awesome (I’ll use Scrabulous as an example of one since I personally like it and 36% of all Facebook users have it installed). Some don’t even work when they’re released. Some break their promises. And all, regardless of how you view them, have the potential to annoy the *living shit* out of your friends.

If you like an application, by all means, install it. Use it. Love it. Be one with it. Install every application on Facebook if your little heart desires. But, and this is important, so please read closely – leave me the *fuck* out of it.
If you wouldn’t take the time to send me a personal email making me aware of an application, do *not* send me an automated invite. Because chances are, I’ve already gotten and turned down 44 of those same invites. If I want fun wall or super poke, I’ll go and freaking download it. When there are almost one hundred thousand members of a group named “fuck off… I don’t want to be a pirate/vampire/werewolf/zombie”, application invitations have gone too far.

There are exceptions. I know a friend who is as big a UFC fan as I am, so I invited him to the UFC World Fantasy Pool. You can invite your friends to applications you know will rock their socks. You cannot invite them to applications that rock *your* socks… unless you want people to get so mad they eventually de-friend you and your smelly ass socks.

Now, while you can and should have all the little applications you desire, please turn off notifications of those non-Facebook applications in your mini feed. When I go to your profile, I want to find out about you and what’s going on in your life, not who you’re playing Scrabulous with or who you super poked.

Poke:

Lastly (at least on the features I give a shit about enough to tell you about) is the “poke” feature. No one really knows what this does or why it is there (though it certainly doesn’t stop some from being a poke whore). Basically, you can “poke” someone for no reason at will. You will eventually poke someone just to see what happens, I assure you.

Sorry to inform you that all that happens is that the other person receives a message stating “you were poked by” and asks if they’d like to poke you back. Yeah, that’s it. The least they could have done was given me an animated graphic of Mario doing Peach (warning, that link is not only tasteless, but not safe for kids), but I guess I’ll have to stick to MSN IM emoticons for that type of gratification (I will forever adore the nkotb boy for finding me that gif in the first place – long story).

However, one thing to note about the poke feature is that if you poke someone, that person will be able to see your full profile for one week, even if you previously had them on limited profile. So, if you’ve been blocking your boss from your notes where you rant about work and then poke him, he’ll be able to see your entire profile – unlimited.

So, there you have it – Sugarrae’s unofficial guide. Now you have no excuses to be a question mark face that defiles walls with chain mail that has a total of two friends who has never been brave enough to take risks, like the Poke feature, in life. And if you still fit any of those qualifications, you likely won’t bother me because I doubt I’d have your lame ass on my friends list anyway. ;-)

[note: save the hate mail – note the word “smartass” in the title and have a sense of humor – thanks]

About Rae Hoffman

Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae" is an affiliate marketing veteran and the CEO of PushFire, a search marketing agency specializing in SEO audits and link building strategies. She is also the author of the often controversial Sugarrae blog. You can connect with Rae via Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

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