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This chapter is from the book

Building Your Wall through Status Updates

An empty, blank wall is kind of boring, which has inspired generations of graffiti artists, going back even to Roman times and before. You don't want your Facebook Wall to be blank even when your earliest visitors come, let alone after your page has been up for a while. But what kind of content should you put on it?

Figure 8.1 shows the Wall for Transition San Francisco, a sustainability group with its own Facebook Page.

Figure 8.1

Figure 8.1 It's all just bricks in your Wall.

Text Status Updates

Status updates are usually most of what ends up populating your Wall. They're meant to be kind of offhand remarks sometimes, and important bits of news other times.

When something important happens, always enter a status update: a new employee starts or a current employee leaves; your holiday hours change; you get in a new item or offer a new service; and so on. Buffer the "newsy" updates with interesting ones about a customer encounter, an inspirational thought, or something funny an employee said.

The daily flow of news helps make your Facebook fans feel a part of your business and gently keeps you in their limited span of attention—so that, when they need to buy something you offer or to recommend someone to a friend, they think of you first. These little notes also serve as a valuable record of your daily activity.

There's another kind of status update, though, which is the more important kind for adding depth and personality to your Facebook presence. This kind of status update is more personal and interesting but shouldn't be too personal or too interesting. It's a balance. These kinds of updates should be easy to write, but sometimes getting them onto the screen can be quite a challenge.

Here are a few suggestions to help prevent writer's block when you're staring at those two little words on your fan page, "Write something":

  • What are you doing? Make a note about what you're doing, even if it seems quite banal. "I just had the worst cup of coffee ever," can be pretty funny to someone who is sitting having a cup of coffee of his or her own. This immediacy is a core part of the appeal of Facebook, so use it on your Wall.
  • What just happened? We all hear tons of news every day, but what are the things that are interesting and important to you? "I heard on the news today about the protests in Egypt," is mildly interesting; "I heard from my Mom in Cairo just now about the protests in Egypt," is compelling. This kind of update will reflect both your business and personal interests.
  • Tell me something great. Share when something cool happens: "Best. Service. Ever. I just got my $20 back because the barber took off a little more than I had asked him to."
  • Tell me something awful. "If you can't say anything nice about anyone, come sit by me," the saying goes. Don't insult anyone, but share something that really annoyed or irritated you.
  • What do you think? Fish for comments without being heavyhanded about it. "What do you think?" "Has this ever happened to you?" "Share your best/worst customer service story." These kinds of prompts may help get interaction going.

Photos on Your Wall

For many of your visitors, photos are the best way to make your site lively. Reactions vary—some people are very words-oriented and won't bother much with photos; others are image-oriented and will hardly stop to read your pearls of wisdom. So you have to have both in order to reach all of your audience. (Younger people tend to be very photo-oriented, and you won't reach most of them if you don't include images.)

A good way to think about words and pictures is that the words are the body of a cake, and the photos are the icing. To take the analogy even further, links are whipped cream, and video is the cherry on top!

The best way to get photos into the Photo tab is to add photo updates to your News Feed. That is, just keep taking photos relating to your business, then post them into your News Feed using the Photo link. (The four kinds of status update, shown at the top of your Wall, are Status, Photo, Link, and Video.) If you have a retail store, for instance, every new display or new item is worth a photo. You can do silly things like count people as they walk in or buy something, and then take a photo of your 100th customer of the week—or some similar fun update.

Link Updates

Web links are a really cool thing to share on Facebook. They're a way to deepen the discussion—or to add something fun or funny—without putting too much "stuff" into Facebook itself.

To add a link update to your Wall, follow these steps:

  1. Find an interesting page on the Web; select the URL of the page from the top of the browser window, and copy it.

    Copy the URL of the specific page that you want to refer to, not the overall website address, such as www.nytimes.com, because you want to send someone directly to the page you're looking at.

  2. On your Wall click the Link icon.

    The status entry update area changes to show the letters http:// and an Attach button.

  3. Post the URL in the status entry update area.

    Part of the information from the web page shows up in the status entry area. In some cases, typically news stories, a photo will appear; and, in some of these cases, you can click arrows to move through a series of photos.

  4. If there's an option, click the arrows to select the photo you want.

  5. In the comment area, which has the words "Say something about this link," enter your comment.

    It's really important to enter a comment. People can find stories on the Web on their own; what they're interested in, when you post a story, is what you think about it.

  6. Click the Share button.

    The link is added to your News Feed, as shown in Figure 8.2, which also shows another Link update in progress. (In the figure, the link to the Transition Albany news has been entered, but it won't go out as a status update until the Share button is clicked.)

    Figure 8.2

    Figure 8.2 Link updates are a fun way to bring the Web to life among fans of your fan page.

    When you do a link update, or any kind of status update for that matter, try to have some idea of what would be more appropriate for your business page than for your personal page. Over time, you'll develop a voice that's appropriate for your business and a different but complementary voice for yourself as an individual.

Video Updates

Sharing videos is just like sharing photos. You can upload them from your hard drive or record them directly with a webcam.

Using videos is really powerful because video is so evocative. Video tugs at the heartstrings for some messages; for others, it adds personality and richness that just aren't there with text or even with a photo.

Technical standards for video shared among friends on Facebook are very low, so don't worry too much about quality. Just have a little fun and keep it short—two minutes is an eternity for a Facebook video. Try for 30 seconds or so for most videos. (There's a reason 30 seconds is the standard length for a TV ad.)

Webcam videos are a bit more dubious for business use than videos shot with a separate camera. Young people love webcam videos, but the angle, lighting, and so on make most people look really awful. Experiment to find a way of using video that works well for your business.

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