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Facebook Tips: How To Use The Social Network Like A Pro

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 03/05/2012 6:17 pm EST Updated: 03/06/2012 10:22 am EST

When it comes to social networking, Facebook boasts some of the most impressive usage numbers. According to a study recently released by comScore, the site reaches 3 out of every 4 U.S. Internet users, each of whom spent about 7 hours browsing the social network in December 2011 -- a 32 percent jump from the previous year.

So, whether you're an emerging start-up, an up-and-coming musician, or just an average user, Facebook can be one of the best and easiest ways to both connect and engage with a large audience.

Many well-known businesses have already realized Facebook's potential to improve relationships with consumers via brand pages. (Side note: The social network announced at its first-ever marketing conference last week that it will outfit all brand pages with the new Timeline layout by the end of March.) But you don't have to be a big-name business or a popular celebrity to score points with the audience you're trying to reach. Posting the right things at the right times will help you make the most of your Facebook experience and prevent you from being "that guy" from whom friends or fans would be more than happy to unsubscribe.

According to Facebook, which recently released a Best Practices Guide for businesses, posts between 100 and 250 characters in length (or less than 3 lines of texts) are often the most effective, garnering about 60 percent more likes, comments, and shares than ones that are longer. In addition, Facebook pointed out that, in general, user engagement for the 18-24 age demographic is highest between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Facebook also revealed some fairly common sense tips from its study of internal data. Fans are more likely to engage with topics that are already top of mind, such as current events, holidays or news," according to Facebook's Best Practices guide. "For example, posts mentioning Independence Day on July 4th generated about 90% more engagement than all posts published on that day."

Settling on a specific voice for your Page or profile may also prove an effective tool for engaging your audience, the social network advises. The Best Practices guide also suggests using keywords that are unique to your brand or personality. Active engagement with users through exclusive offers, feedback requests on certain products, and calls to action (asking them to like, comment, share, etc.) is key in connecting to users on a new and perhaps deeper level. For example, Facebook notes that "Fill-in-the-blank posts generate about 90% more engagement than the average text post."

Other sources outside Facebook offer helpful tips for Facebook page administrators looking to boost user engagement and reach.

Social Media Examiner lists some best practices for dealing with irate fans. Instead of deleting the angry commenter's posts or blocking the person from your page (which SME suggests only as a last resort), admins are encouraged to respond to the fan and patiently address his or her concerns, perhaps even contacting the person privately. (Visit SME for more tips.)

PCWorld offers several practical pointers for Facebook users. For example, PCWorld advises not to overwhelm followers with updates, particularly updates about mundane details. Rants about politics or personal issues should be avoided, as should cryptic messages and images that may be NSFW. PCWorld also includes a list of topics that users should feel encouraged to post on Facebook. Click here to view them all.

A study released in August 2011 titled Engagement and Interaction: A Scientific Approach to Facebook Marketing claims that pages should work to find a balance between posting too frequently and too rarely. "As you might suspect, fewer posts reduce the chances users will see them," according to Entrepreneur.com's analysis of the study. "And while unsubscribe rates go up after three posts per day, they level off at higher frequencies. The secret is to find that balance between optimizing interaction and managing unsubscribes, which is going to be different for every business."

The same study also advises page admins to post on the weekends and during the hours of 2 p.m. through 5 a.m. on weekdays, as users tend to engage with those posts more frequently than with posts written during normal business hours.

And how can you track the effectiveness of your Facebook posts? The social network's beefed-up Page Insights feature allows page administrators and developers to view stats for the page's posts. "Basically, Insights allows all Page administrators and developers access to the Page’s metrics so they can see how their posts are performing across the site. Admins will be able to see how many Facebook users a post reaches, how many users it engages, and how many people then begin a discussion about it," writes WebProNews in its overview of the expanded feature.

For more Facebook tips, check out the slideshow (below) for a list of 13 things you should never post on Facebook.

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  • Your Birth Date And Place

    While it might be nice to hear from Facebook well-wishers on your birthday, you should think twice before posting your full birthday. Beth Givens, executive director of the <a href="http://www.privacyrights.org/" target="_hplink">Privacy Rights Clearinghouse</a> <a href="http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/110674/6-things-you-should-never-reveal-on-facebook">advises</a> that revealing your exact birthday and your place of birth is like handing over your financial security to thieves. Furthermore, Carnegie Mellon researchers recently <a href="http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/07/social-insecurity-numbers-open-to-hacking.ars" target="_hplink">discovered</a> that they could reconstruct social security numbers using an individual's birthday and place of birth. Rather than remove your birthday entirely, you could enter a date that's just a few days off from your real birthday.

  • Your Mother's Maiden Name

    "Your mother’s maiden name is an especially valuable bit of information, not least since it’s often the answer to security questions on many sites," writes the <em><a href="http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/12/what-not-to-tell-facebook-friends/?src=tptw" target="_hplink">New York Times</a></em>. Credit card companies, your wireless service provider, and numerous other firms frequently rely on this tidbit to protect your personal information.

  • Your Home Address

    Publicizing your home address enables everyone and anyone with whom you've shared that information to see where you live, from exes to employers. Opening up in this way could have negative repercussions: for example, there have been instances in which <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/17/please-rob-me-site-tells_n_465966.html" target="_hplink">burglars have used Facebook to target users</a> who said they were not at home.

  • Your Long Trips Away From Home

    Don't post status updates that mention when you will be away from home, <a href="http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/15/dont-tell-facebook-friends-that-youre-going-away/" target="_hplink">advises</a> <em>New York Times</em> columnist Ron Lieber. When you broadcast your vacation dates, you might be telling untrustworthy Facebook "friends" that your house is empty and unwatched. "[R]emind 'friends' that you have an alarm or a guard dog," Lieber writes.

  • Your Short Trips Away From Home

    Although new features like Facebook Places encourage you to check in during outings and broadcast your location (be it at a restaurant, park, or store), you might think twice even before sharing information about shorter departures from your home. "Don’t post messages such as 'out for a run' or 'at the mall shopping for my sweetie,'" Identity Theft 911 <a href="http://identitytheft911.com/company/press/release.ext?sp=11132" target="_hplink">cautions</a>. "Thieves could use that information to physically break in your house."

  • Your Inappropriate Photos

    By now, nearly everyone knows that racy, illicit, or otherwise incriminating photos posted on Facebook can cost you a job (or worse). But even deleted photos could come back to haunt you. Ars Technica recently <a href="http://arstechnica.com/web/news/2010/10/facebook-may-be-making-strides.ars" target="_hplink">discovered</a> that Facebook's servers can store deleted photos for an unspecified amount of time. "It's possible," a Facebook spokesperson <a href="http://arstechnica.com/web/news/2010/10/facebook-may-be-making-strides.ars" target="_hplink">told</a> Ars Technica, "that someone who previously had access to a photo and saved the direct URL from our content delivery network partner could still access the photo."

  • Confessionals

    Flubbing on your tax returns? Can't stand your boss? Pulled a 'dine and dash?' Don't tell Facebook. The site's privacy settings allow you to control with whom you share certain information--for example, you can create a Group that consists only of your closest friends--but, once posted, it can be hard to erase proof of your illicit or illegal activities, and difficult to keep it from spreading. There are countless examples of workers getting the axe for oversharing on Facebook, as well as many instances in which <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/16/arrested-over-facebook-po_n_683160.html" target="_hplink">people have been arrested</a> for information they shared on the social networking site. (Click <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/26/fired-over-facebook-posts_n_659170.html" target="_hplink">here</a> to see a few examples of Facebook posts that got people canned.)

  • Your Phone Number

    Watch where you post your phone number. Include it in your profile and, depending on your privacy settings, even your most distant Facebook "friends" (think exes, elementary school contacts, friends-of-friends) might be able to access it and give you a ring. Sharing it with Facebook Pages can also get you in trouble. Developer Tom Scott created an app called <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/24/evil-facebook-app-exposes_n_587144.html" target="_hplink">Evil</a> that displays phone numbers published anywhere on Facebook. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/24/evil-facebook-app-exposes_n_587144.html" target="_hplink">According to Scott</a>, "There are uncountable numbers of groups on Facebook called 'lost my phone!!!!! need ur numbers!!!!!' [...] Most of them are marked as 'public', and a lot of folks don't understand what that means in Facebook's context -- to Facebook, 'public' means everyone in the world, whether they're a Facebook member or not."

  • Your Vacation Countdown

    <a href="http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/110674/6-things-you-should-never-reveal-on-facebook" target="_hplink">CBSMoneyWatch.com</a> warns social network users that counting down the days to a vacation can be as negligent as stating how many days the vacation will last. "There may be a better way to say 'Rob me, please' than posting something along the lines of: 'Count-down to Maui! Two days and Ritz Carlton, here we come!' on [a social networking site]. But it's hard to think of one. Post the photos on Facebook when you return, if you like. But don't invite criminals in by telling them specifically when you'll be gone," MoneyWatch <a href="http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/110674/6-things-you-should-never-reveal-on-facebook" target="_hplink">writes</a>.

  • Your Child's Name

    Identity thieves also target children. "Don't use a child's name in photo tags or captions," <a href="http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2010/june/electronics-computers/social-insecurity/7-things-to-stop-doing-on-facebook/index.htm" target="_hplink">writes</a> Consumer Reports. "If someone else does, delete it by clicking on Remove Tag. If your child isn't on Facebook and someone includes his or her name in a caption, ask that person to remove the name."

  • Your 'Risky' Behavior

    CBSMoneyWatch.com <a href="http://moneywatch.bnet.com/saving-money/blog/devil-details/6-things-you-should-never-reveal-on-facebook/2360/?tag=content;col1" target="_hplink">writes</a>: <blockquote>You take your classic Camaro out for street racing, soar above the hills in a hang glider, or smoke like a chimney? Insurers are increasingly turning to the web to figure out whether their applicants and customers are putting their lives or property at risk, according to Insure.com.</blockquote> There have been additional <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/22/facebook-twitter-users-co_n_471548.html" target="_hplink">reports</a> that insurance companies may adjust users' premiums based what they post to Facebook. Given that criminals are turning to high-tech tools like Google Street View and Facebook to target victims, "I wouldn't be surprised if, as social media grow in popularity and more location-based applications come to fore, insurance providers consider these in their pricing of an individual's risk," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/22/facebook-twitter-users-co_n_471548.html" target="_hplink">says</a> Darren Black, head of home insurance for Confused.com.

  • The Layout Of Your Home

    <a href="http://identitytheft911.com/company/press/release.ext?sp=11132" target="_hplink">Identity Theft 911</a> reminds Facebook users never to post photos that reveal the layout of an apartment or home and the valuables therein.

  • Your Profile On Public Search

    Do you want your Facebook profile--even bare-bones information like your gender, name, and profile picture--appearing in a Google search? If not, you should should block your profile from appearing in search engine results. Consumer Reports <a href="http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2010/june/electronics-computers/social-insecurity/7-things-to-stop-doing-on-facebook/index.htm" target="_blank">advises</a> that doing so will "help prevent strangers from accessing your page." To change this privacy setting, go to Privacy Settings under Account, then Sharing on Facebook.

  • How To Remove Yourself From Facebook Ads

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