Unless you’ve gone to a college in the last 10-15 years (and only when the book existed), you may not even know where the name Facebook came from. (In case you want to know, here’s a hint.) Facebook, originally known as thefacebook.com, was a service that connected college students to their classmates and to friends in other universities. The concept was based off a tangible book that incoming freshmen were given each year so that they can meet their classmates. Because of its original simple use (communication!) and its restricted access, people had no need to use any other names on the Mark Zuckerberg-created social network. You could find me by searching for my name (my maiden name, at least). You could find any college student who elected to join by using their first name and last name. They weren’t trying to be silly and they had no reason to self-promote. It was a closed service with almost instant and immediate trust.
It’s how social networks are intended to be used.
I’ve briefly touched upon a huge pet peeve of mine in my social media etiquette handbook, saying that you should use your real name and not represent anyone (or anything) else. If you do so on Facebook, your account will likely be terminated especially if Facebook receives reports of misrepresentation. Case in point: in 2006, Facebook removed the only Facebook friend I had who wasn’t a real person. That person was St. Augustine of Hippo, who has been dead for nearly 1500 years. Since Facebook wants you to use your real name and to be yourself, I totally understand and respected their decision to remove the account.
By removing this account, and I’d imagine dozens of others, Facebook set an example, but four years later, name abuse is running rampant on the service. Since Facebook’s user base is so big, and since their staff is clearly too small, they are unable to police this infraction as effectively as they used to. It’s a shame since some of us “purists” (if you will) are bothered by the lack of respect these individuals give to Facebook’s rules themselves, and most importantly, their peers.
Here’s my request of these individuals: Use your real name. Only your name. Don’t be ridiculous and start adding qualifiers (like Seo unless it’s part of your name). Facebook is a great tool for marketing your business, but only if you use it correctly. Sorry, there are eleventy billion SEOs on Facebook. There are probably many web consultants. These terms do not belong in your first name or last name. If you want to promote your business services in some capacity, use a Facebook Fan page.
Because it is still unclear to a large (unfortunately) percentage of people how to use Facebook, I’ve taken the liberty to explain what the different Facebook profile options are that are available to you. Don’t need this? Pass it onto the people who do. Maybe they sent you a Facebook friend request and you were too uncomfortable accepting it because of the strange associations implied when a person said he’s a pizzeria.
Profile Page: This is simple stuff, guys. You create a brand new account on Facebook. You enter in your birthday (yes, your birthday. The one on your birth certificate). You tell people about the schools you’ve attended, the degrees you’ve earned, the interests you may have. That’s for you, the person reading this. You shouldn’t create it for your dog or your 3 month old son (as much as I want to for my own child, I assume that in 13 years or so, if Facebook is still around, he’ll want to create his own account with a real birthday). This account is for you. If you already have an account, don’t create another one. This is a personal profile for a reason.
Facebook makes the bold claim that they have 400 million accounts, which is a great number to a potential advertiser or business looking to jump on the bandwagon. Truth be told, that may even be why Facebook has stopped canning abusive accounts. However, that number simply isn’t accurate because most Facebook users don’t follow the rules. Still, it puts Facebook ahead of MySpace.
Official Fan Page: Are you the owner of Gary’s Ice Cream on Main Street? Do you represent Sylvester’s Soccer Shop down the block? Excellent. You’re authorized to create a Facebook Page. This is a page you can use that is publicly available (for the world to see and find via search engines) to help your customers find you. It’s the greatest thing for you as a business owner; you need not go out and start befriending people to let them know you exist — once you create the page, just tell your customers about it, and the word of mouth will spread.
Community Page: What if you love something but you have no direct affiliation with the product/service, can’t find the official page, and worse, discover the page doesn’t even exist? Community Pages are the most annoying thing Facebook has given us, but I see their point. In an effort to make Facebook data more public, Community Pages let people share ideas, thoughts, and their interests in a fully open forum. Sadly enough, most people don’t know that their content is public; a wonderful example is seen below. Did anyone know that this was going to be made public? Of course not.
Groups: Facebook Groups still exist, but I wouldn’t encourage using them unless you’re looking to maintain a fully closed and private community in the confines of the service. Normally, Groups exist to let people congregate around a common interest. Maybe you went to the same summer camp in 1992 and want to share photos with your old camp mates. If that summer camp doesn’t exist anymore, a Facebook Group may make sense. (And if it does still exist, a Facebook Page may make sense.) There’s a lot of overlap between Facebook Groups and Fan Pages, but Facebook Groups is very limited in terms of functionality (Facebook has had Groups since the beginning of time).
There you have it: personal profiles versus Fan Pages versus Community Pages versus Facebook Groups. And perhaps, now you know a little more of how each “community” on Facebook is intended to be used. Heck, most of you get it. But in the last few days, I’ve run into:
- One of my favorite new restaurants using a regular Facebook profile, which I only learned about because it showed up in the box of 6 friends on one of my friend’s profiles. Restaurants aren’t things I feel comfortable being friends with. They’re things I Like. On principle, I just cannot add this restaurant as a friend. It’s just awkward.
- A religious institution using a personal profile which uses default privacy to broadcast information about its offerings. Too bad it’s not public; nobody can actually see these updates unless they actually are your friends.
- A local photographer who not only has a Facebook account which totally is named after her business, but she also watermarks every single photograph she uploads to her Facebook album. It’s overkill.
- Contributions on a Facebook event wall that come from a social media aficionado whose name clearly isn’t on his (her?) birth certificate. Even social media “purists” aren’t really that pure.
Okay, yeah, perhaps these minor details aren’t the end of the world for some people, but when I’m friends with real people with real names, having a friend who looks like the odd one out just seems wrong and exploitative. (Yes, exploitative: “Facebook hasn’t stopped me yet so I’m going to sell my services as overtly as possible in my username. Maybe a friend of a friend will need me one day.”) Yet, over the past few months, I’ve been befriended by some “www dot domain dot com” types and refused on principle, but I realized that so many of my friends who do not even know them are accepting the requests blindly simply because there are other mutual friends, not because they agree with this tactic. Hold your moral ground!
What Facebook needs is a way to convert profiles — full fledged ones that include “religious affiliations,” “marital status,” and the like — to Fan Pages. People who have already established a fan base on their personal profiles don’t want to start anew. But in the absence of that, for now at least, it’s advisable to change your name where you can or just create that Fan Page. You wouldn’t want the months or years of work you’ve invested to disappear into thin air one day because your account got terminated due to abuse of policies.