Last week in Aging With Geekitude, Erica talked about the best tablets for newbies – read about it! This week, she’s sharing her tips for building your group of friends on Facebook. (For step-by-step on how to use Facebook’s friending features safely, read our Tech Tip.)
Like a lot of people who are home a lot, my social life happens more on Facebook than face to face.
Facebook is my virtual water cooler, coffee klatch, networking tool, family updater, information gatherer, cute kitten viewer and general window on the world. I’ll hang out in the morning to discuss the Season 3 finale of “Downton Abbey”; find out what to do about my dog who won’t stop barking; read about the latest Obamacare horror story/success story; check on my homebound friend Dianne; see my daughter’s latest glamorous selfie; speculate about where I think the Malaysian plane wound up (“Twilight Zone” and “LOST” scenarios are popular) and get the latest witty update from a semi-famous friend whom I probably will never meet IRL (in real life).
Another great thing about making new friends on Facebook is that you might actually meet. I was complaining one day in my status update that I didn’t have enough friends IRL (in real life), and a lovely woman who lives near me asked me to lunch. We plan to meet again.
We are Taking Over Facebook
If you’re wondering whether to join Facebook or Twitter, there’s no contest IMHO (in my humble opinion). According to a new study, in the past few years Facebook has shown a complete age turnaround. Since 2011 the number of teenage users has tumbled 25 percent, while there’s been an 80 percent surge in 55-up users.
Kids love Twitter because it lets them off the hook – they don’t have to write more than 144 characters. Celebrities love Twitter because they can reach all ten million of their fans. We older folks like Facebook because we don’t have ten million fans and we love to schmooze. Facebook encourages schmoozing.
And the more you expand your circle of friends on Facebook, the better the schmooze.
The problem is, initially Facebook can be very frustrating because, unless you have a ready-made following, you can feel pretty rejected when no one comments on your status updates.
My friend Loni has a page but gave up posting because she said no one ever responded to her status updates. I told her it takes time, patience and different techniques to build a Facebook following.
Here are some of mine.
How to Build a Network of Friends on Facebook
To get friends you have to “friend” people: Go to their Facebook pages and hit the “add friend” button in the upper right corner, then wait for them to confirm you. People who want to be your friend can do the same thing; you’ll see the that little icon on the upper right with the shape of two torsos is active.
You may wind up with people wanting to friend you when your posts show up on your mutual friends’ Newsfeeds and they decide you’re interesting enough to get to know, but I find it’s best to be proactive and not wait to be discovered.
1. Friend everyone you know
Just friending your kids and grandkids will make your Facebook experience pretty boring pretty quickly. You want to find interesting grownup friends, so start with people you actually know, then branch out. Using the search box, look up old high school and college buddies, friends you used to work with or bird watch with. I wound up with a Facebook friend I’d worked with 30 years ago.
One caveat: Avoid old boyfriends/girlfriends unless you and they are single. There can be a world of pain down that road.
2. Friend your neighbors
Put your town in the search box and then send friend requests to people in your area. I friended everyone I could find in Woodstock, NY where I live. Most accepted. Now when I need to find a good local restaurant or a plumber I ask on Facebook and someone usually responds.
Warning: Don’t friend too many people at the same time or Facebook will send you a nasty note telling you you’re friending too many people you don’t know and are to stand in the corner with your face to the wall and not send friend requests for seven days.
3. Friend people with shared interests
I also use the search box to find and friend writers, and as a result I have many writer friends on Facebook who I would never meet otherwise, which is great not only for networking, but also for writing tips and publishing gossip. Whether you’re an engineer, filmmaker or teacher, do a search for those occupations and friend interesting people who do what you do. It helps if you have some mutual friends.
When you send friend requests, Facebook will generate a list of similar people who you might want to send requests to. Glance through the list. There are usually a few on there who you actually know and want to add.
4. Try to friend strangers you’d like to get to know
Don’t bother friending big celebrities, but if you’ve always wanted to communicate with a favorite non-famous artist or musician or writer, send a message with a friend request letting that person know why you’re friending them. If you say something like “I loved your latest album,” you may be surprised to find that they’ve confirmed you, especially if your page looks at least somewhat interesting. Be aware that your message will wind up in their “other” folder since you’re not friends yet, but they’ll probably see it eventually. (The “other” folder is next to the messages from your friends.)
Now that you’ve built a bigger group of friends, you’ll need to start conversations that other people who you don’t know (ie: your friends’ friends) want to jump in to.
5. Comment on your friends’ statuses
The whole point of Facebook is to make friends and garner comments on your own status, but to do that you have to comment on other people’s. The more you comment on your friends’ statuses, the more those friends will appear in your Newsfeed, and the more you’ll appear in theirs. If you want to make new friends, being active on threads with people you’d like to be friends with will make your name familiar to them and make it more likely they’ll accept your friend request.
6. Avoid bacon and eggs
Don’t just tell everyone what you had for breakfast. No one cares. However, if you like to cook and made a fabulous quiche or blueberry gluten-free pancakes, do share. Post the recipe and take a picture of the dish with your phone, and then hit the “share” button to post on Facebook. (On an Android phone it’s the one with the two little branches on the top of the photo screen). People love recipes.
7. Share interesting news stories
If you read the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal online every day, share articles that intrigue you, and make a comment that invites responses. Specialize in posting whatever interests you. I have one Facebook friend who shares obscure but fascinating articles about what’s going on in the Jewish world. I rely on her for my Jewish news updates.
8. Be outrageous
A local writer who is known for her outspoken opinions both in person and on Facebook has almost 5,000 followers. A recent status was: “Am so over Pistorius and his vomiting. It’s like he didn’t have any idea what they might bring up in court.” She posts things that other people are thinking but wouldn’t have the nerve to say in public.
9. Ask questions
People love answering questions. Whenever I ask for dog advice I get flooded with answers, often contradictory, which gives rise to heated arguments, which makes me seem more interesting. A recent query about what designation older people prefer – elder, older, senior, etc. – led to a lot of contentious responses and even a spinoff on someone else’s page who disagreed with me.
10. Don’t use Facebook for self-promotion.
If all you want to do is promote your business on Facebook you will not gain a following. People will resent you, in fact. You have to engage people personally to get and keep friends. Once you’re a known quantity, it’s OK to post information about your business or announce events or promotions because your friends will be interested in what you’re up to.
11. Post fun photos and videos
I don’t do enough of this, because I’m a lousy photographer, but a post with a photo is likely to get a bigger response. Here’s your opportunity to brag about your adorable grandchildren. Post their photos and watch friends respond with “how cute.” I would post pics of my adorable dogs if they’d just sit still. You can make your own videos if you know how to do that, or find them on YouTube. Cute animal videos are a guaranteed attention-getter, but you may not want to sink that low.
12. Friend me
Remember to send a message so I know you’re a Senior Planet reader. Once you’re my Facebook friend, start commenting on my statuses and you’ll make some new friends.
Erica Manfred is a journalist, essayist and humorist who writes about everything from dentistry to divorce to fantasy fiction.