Facebook: Where It Is, Who Uses It, and Best Practices
Facebook was started as an exclusive social network for students at Harvard University in 2004. Then it branched out to allowing anyone at a college with a .edu email address.
In 2006, Facebook opened to everyone.
It’s worth keeping in mind that Facebook was not the first social network. MySpace had millions more users and was seen as the key player in social networks.
Facebook’s early success is often tied to 3 things:
Not everyone could get on Facebook at first. This made it all the more desirable. By the time Facebook started allowing more and more users, the exclusivity turned to inclusivity. Users wanted their other friends and family members to be on the network, to experience what they had experienced.
MySpace’s platform was flexible and allowed anyone who knew how to copy and paste HTML code to modify their profile page. Many users would use obnoxious colors, flashing GIFs, music, and tiled background images to try to make their profile more appealing. It turned out that all of that flamboyance was annoying to users who just wanted to connect. So users turned to Facebook which looked the same for everyone. The streamlined design also meant that all users knew exactly what to expect on each page.
As Mark Zuckerberg and his team were building out Facebook, they were constantly aware of the importance of keeping their website accessible to their users. They regularly added server space or updated the site to reduce any strain on their network. The result was the most reliable social networking site. Often, when one social network would go down, users would go to another social network. So every time MySpace or Friendster or Twitter went down, Facebook added more users.
As Facebook grew, it relied on mimicking their competition or co-opting ideas from companies that weren’t even seen as direct competitors to their core product. It was around 2010 when this happened more regularly, and it was marked by a shift in thinking at Facebook.
Facebook’s competitors weren’t just other social networks — it was any other place that a person might give their attention. So Facebook started adding features from other websites that were taking people (and their attention) away from their platform.
One of those borrowed features is the News Feed. Before Facebook had a News Feed, users would have to visit their friends’ profiles to see what they were posting. The News Feed created a place for those posts to appear.
Since very early on, Facebook has faced two major concerns: privacy and anti-social behavior.
In 2018, Facebook’s CEO was questioned by the U.S. Congress about privacy matters. And, while Facebook has started making changes to the data they collect, that data is also what drives the platform’s ad product — which, since Facebook is free to users, is how Facebook makes money.
As for anti-social behavior, there have been many concerns that Facebook makes its users more cut off from the outside world and real-life human interactions. While it’s been researched, it’s actually been shown that Facebook allows people to connect in the real world.
Facebook is a global company, and they have a billion users that live outside of the United States. While every country’s users may vary, there are a few sweeping statements that can be made about Facebook’s audience.
- Millennials are the largest age group on Facebook. And rightfully so considering they were the first group able to get on the network.
- Gen Z is on Facebook, but they don’t use it the same way. Some analysts say it’s because Gen Z doesn’t want to share a social network with their parents. Some say it’s because Gen Z has a greater concern for sharing their private information. In reality, Gen Z is exploring their options as they are the first generation to grow up in an Internet-connected world.
- Middle-age women are one of the largest growing groups on Facebook. These women are looking to stay in touch with their children and grandchildren. Beyond that, they’re looking for connection, and Facebook has either A) replaced the knitting circle and the book club, or B) is a supplement to those real-life groups — a place where the women can follow up regularly.
Tips & Best Practices
- Create a Facebook Page for your business. A Page is different from your Facebook profile in that your profile is about you and your Page is about your business. You don’t need to sign up for a new Facebook account for your business. Just use Facebook’s menu to create a new Page, and Facebook will walk you through the steps of setting up your new Page.
- Fill out all of the information you can on your Facebook Page. Be sure to include your address, phone number, hours of operation, and a description of your business. Those fields alone will make your business much easier to find online, and Facebook is more likely to show your business when people search for it if you have filled out that information.
- Be sure to put your website into your Facebook Page information, then add a link to your new Facebook Page on your website. This will help both your website and your Facebook Page to be more easily found by people searching on Google.
- Start posting updates right away. Focus more on posting regular updates than on how much they are engaged with. Start with posting once a day for your first week. Use pictures of your products or services along with captions that explain what you do — or, better yet, why you do what you do.
- Don’t worry about the exact timing of your posts early on. Facebook’s algorithm will try to show your post to a good mix of your audience over the course of a day or two. If you are posting timely information (like a coupon code that’s only good for this coming weekend), posting it as early as possible so that people have plenty of time to see it before the promotion is over.
- Be careful to establish a voice for your business on Facebook. Take the values of your business, and personify them. What do those values sound like? How do those values respond to questions from the public? How do those values respond to criticism? Since all replies will come from your Page instead of a person, it’s important to keep the business’s reputation in mind when responding to any criticism.
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