What I Learned After 6 Years of Using Facebook

Howard Huang visiting Facebook

Today marks exactly 6 years of me using Facebook.  I remember the days when my friends were talking all about Facebook and how much better it was compared to Myspace.  I also remember the envy I had because I was one of the few who didn’t have an .edu account even though I was in college at the time.  When Facebook finally opened its doors to the public I was a little reluctant to sign up.  The exclusivity of Facebook had a slight backlash effect on me as I developed a bit of pride.  Eventually, I signed up simply because all of my friends were using it and it was obvious that Facebook was not going away anytime soon.

Recalling My First Impressions

At first, it felt very familiar to what I was used to on Myspace.  You import your email contacts and start finding friends that you already know.  You have an empty text field at the top to let you broadcast what you are currently doing.  I remember the Facebook experience being a little boring at first.  One could say I didn’t really “get” the difference between Facebook and Myspace.  For the first year using Facebook I still used Myspace as my primary network.  For many, the novelty of seeing someone comment on your update on your Myspace profile was excitement. No one saw this level of engagement before from an online community and it was very addicting.

It wasn’t until the second year of using Facebook when I realized that the novelty of incessant inbound and trivial notifications of Myspace was wearing off.  Connecting with my closest friends, seeing photos of what we did the night before, and real genuine comments was where it was at.  The psychological transition from Myspace to Facebook kicked into full gear.  By end of year 2 I was on Facebook as my main social network.

Using Facebook Professionally

In late November 2007, Facebook announced a new feature called Facebook Fan Pages.  Naturally, as someone trying to build an internet startup I got whiff of this new feature.  There were a few articles floating around the internet that a lot of companies were jumping on board, but I wasn’t convinced that it was a channel worth spending precious capital on.  Furthermore, I couldn’t envision how it could help companies.  As time passed, Facebook’s user base grew at unprecedented rates and once again I couldn’t stand idly by watching everyone flock to create a presence on this new medium.  Eventually I created MadeLoud’s Fanpage on July 27, 2009.

Building a professional presence on Facebook was all pure experimental.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it or how exactly it was going to help MadeLoud.  I did what anyone did who was clueless about this new channel which was to simply broadcast company announcements and news which I thought people should know about.  The fanpage growth was just ok.  Most of the initial fans were friends whom I sent the initial invitation but the growth was slow, practically no one replied to updates, and I could not attribute how it benefited MadeLoud.

After some time I saw these so called social media experts emerge from the industry saying that Facebook is bringing all sorts of traffic referrals to their site and how great it was.  Big brands like Coke, Toyota, and Nike had built hundreds of thousands of fans already.  I decided it was time to take this Facebook thing a little more serious.  I started to study the types of posts brands were posting to their fan pages.  I noticed that most all of them had a pattern to their posts.  All of them posted roughly within the same time period.  Sometimes it would be within minutes of each other.  Many brands also almost always included rich media in their posts such as a picture, video, or link.  If any brand were to just post a text update it was almost always in the form of a question or an update that had nothing to do with their product.

Conducting a makeshift corporate analysis of how brands were utilizing Facebook gave me a lot of insights.  I realized the trick to using Facebook professionally was to never directly mention your product.  You had to be relevant and engaging like the same way you would do on a personal Facebook page, albeit with more boundaries and focus of message.  The type of language you speak to your customers cannot sound like you’re pitching to them.  Invite them into your discussion and allow them to formulate their opinions about your product is what it is all about.

The MadeLoud fan page is now over three years old and has grown to more than 21,127 fans.  How I acquired them was a combination of consistently being active, posting fun updates that people want to talk/share, utilizing promoted ads/sponsored stories, and having it displayed visibly on the MadeLoud site.  It is now our top organically referred social network.

Future Facebook Usage

Today I spend more of my time on Google+.  My personal life is blending more with my professional life.  Google+ allows me to express that lifestyle better than Facebook can.  With that said, I will still continue to use Facebook as more of my private social network.  I sparingly post public updates and my list of intimate friends of 429 will only grow if I actually know the person.  I will naturally choose Facebook to share more intimate private matters. I’ll also continually to update the MadeLoud fan page when I can.  At times I wished that I could have done a better job of treating Facebook as more of an online journal.  Keeping accurate accounts of lifetime achievements all on a social network sounds like a really good idea, but then there’s also that whole privacy issue in the back of my mind.  Facebook knows so much about me that it is really really scary.  I’m not sure the insecurity of intimate private data living on Facebook will ever go away.

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