FaceBook: A Beginners Guide

Facebook is a social networking service that lets you connect with friends, co-workers, and others who share similar interests or who have common backgrounds. What makes Facebook different from other social networks are its extensive privacy controls, its development platform, and its large and quickly growing user base. Compared to many other social networks, Facebook gets new features and improvements almost daily.

Setup

Facebook is all about getting in touch with others. Facebook has created some simple ways to find your friends using your e-mail address, or the buddy list from your AOL instant messaging account. You can search by name, or pull up listings based on your computer’s address book.

Find your friends with Facebook’s built-in friend finder.

To start adding friends to Facebook use a multipronged attack. Use your most active Web mail account and your AIM buddy list, which in some cases could pull up nearly everyone you know. Since everyone needs an e-mail address to sign up with Facebook, giving Facebook permission to use your existing address books should make it possible to track down everyone with whom you communicate.

Once you’ve added the people you know or remember, one of your first steps should be filling out your own profile. You can do this before tracking down your friends, but you’ll find that people are constantly making tweaks to their profile, so nothing is set in concrete.

The two things that are important are a personal picture, and your contact information–both of which Facebook highlights when you’re setting things up. For profile pictures you can simply upload an image from your hard drive. Filling out the rest of your profile is as simple as completing any Web form. You’re not required to include anything about yourself, so don’t feel too inclined to fill out information you don’t want others to see; which brings us to the topic of privacy

Privacy

Privacy is one of the key differentiators of Facebook from other social networking services. Facebook gives you the option of controlling what others see, right down to individual photo albums, pieces of personal information such as your address, phone number, and so on.

Privacy controls you’ll find on the profile edit page.

To control or limit the flow of information to others–including your friends–Facebook has set up some simple controls to adjust privacy. When setting up your profile, you’ll notice some small blue locks under your contact information. You can adjust each one of these for the information to be visible to everyone, just your friends, or no one at all.

Those small blue locks are just beginning. To dig deeper, beyond just contact information, click the privacy link on the top right of Facebook. This will take you to a control panel where you manage various elements of your profile, including: what users see when searching for you; what actions Facebook reports to others; and which people get limited, or no access to your profile. While you can change any of these, the two most important ones are the profile settings (what parts of your profile people can see), and your news feed and mini-feed, which is a running ticker of your activity on the service. Some people are happy to allow everyone to know what they’re doing, but if you don’t feel like sharing this information with people, it’s worth taking a minute to tweak.

Saying hello

Once you’ve got your profile set up and you’ve linked with several friends, there are a handful of ways to communicate with others. The first is the Wall, which is the place to leave a note on everyone’s profile page. It’s completely public, so whatever you write, others will be able to see. You can leave attachments on people’s Walls, including photos, videos, and all sorts of rich media items that have been integrated with Facebook applications.

Facebook also has its own e-mail service.

One thing that makes this internal messaging service attractive is its conversation threading, similar to Gmail. Like Gmail, you begin typing in a friend’s name, or pick the “send FRIEND a message” from the list of commands under their profile picture. This will open up the message composition page, where you can write and add attachments, similar to what you’re able to do on their Walls. Writing on a Wall is a public affair. People can see what you wrote, and visa versa.

Sharing

You can post items to your profile or send them to your friends on and off the service. Anyone you’ve shared items with can then leave comments and discuss the item with others.

There are two easy ways to share links on Facebook. One is to copy and paste a link to your sharing page. The other is to add the “share on Facebook” bookmarklet to your browser’s bookmarks bar. I f you intend on sharing things on a regular basis, add the bookmarklet, it gives you a one-click option to share something and continue browsing. Either way, once you’ve fed in a URL, it will scrape the page to grab any related pictures and a brief description. You can go in and add your own text. Once you’re finished tweaking, you have the option of posting it to your profile, or of sending it to others on or off Facebook.

Applications

One of the biggest draws of Facebook is f8, a platform for developers to make their own applications that integrate tightly with Facebook. Your friends can see what applications you’re using and vice versa, taking some of the effort out of finding what’s cool and what’s not. Applications reside mostly on your profile, for others to see. Many applications are like little Web sites that run right inside the service.

To find applications, there’s a built-in directory on Facebook. This directory shows the newest and most popular applications, along with a counter of how many people are using them. Once you’ve found one you like, you can simply add it to your profile. There’s no software installation required–you’re simply telling Facebook you want access to it. Likewise, if you find one of your friends using an application, you can click the link to its name to find out more about it.

While personal style is an important part of social networking, adding too many applications to your profile can render things distracting to friends, who simply won’t bother visiting your profile page.

Social timeline

You may have noticed that every time you add a new friend on Facebook, you have the option to give a small amount of detail about how you know them. Many of these options include things such as when you had a job together, if you went to school at a certain time, and so on. All of this information is made available in your social timeline, which can be found under Friends > Social Timeline. Assuming filled out this information, you’ll be able to keep track of all sorts of life events.

To add on to the timeline, just pick a friend who you want to add details about, and choose the “How do you know FRIEND?” link when browsing or searching in the Friends tab on the top menu. It’ll pull up that same assortment of boxes you get when you first add a friend.

Facebook toolbar

You’ve already mastered profiles, messaging, and more. In fact, you’re doing it so regularly you’d like to add the service to your browser to skip a few steps. Lucky for you, there’s a toolbar you can install in your browser which gives you a handy Facebook search bar and a notifier for when you get new message or when friends change items on their profile. There’s also an integrated share button to post whatever you’re looking at, similar to the bookmarklet mentioned earlier.

Facebook Photo Album Downloader

Facebook lets you upload and share your photos with others. A Firefox extension will pull down an entire album for you. One installed, just right click on the link to an album, and it will fetch all the pictures and download them to your desktop.

Facebook events to Google Calendar

Facebook’s built-in events feature is a neat way to create and keep track of upcoming social events. If you’re a Google Calendar user, you don’t have to rely on yet another calendar with this script for Greasemonkey, a popular Firefox add-on. Facebook events to Google Calendar does just what it says, by giving you a new option next to a Facebook event that lets you send a copy straight to your Google Calendar.

Other resources:

Get productive with the best Facebook Apps: Lifehacker.com

Facebook Powertools: 150+ Apps, Scripts and Add-ons for Facebook: Mashable.com

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “FaceBook: A Beginners Guide

  1. hey, this is great information have any more websites that i can go to for more great info? thanx

  2. Nice in-depth guide. Thanks!