In a world where we regularly hear about ‘data breaches’ and identity theft it’s no wonder you may hesitate to share too much on Facebook. It’s scary to think people can learn so much about us.

The reality, however, is that Facebook already knows a lot about us.

In addition to the information we give Facebook when we create our personal profile, Facebook also learns about us by following us around on the app. We’ve all been ‘pixeled’, which is just a techy way of saying Facebook gathers details on the information we engage with.

Do you watch a lot of cat videos? Facebook knows this. Have you been choosing to ‘hide’ over-the-top political posts? Facebook knows this, too.

Even if you have strong privacy settings around your personal information, meaning the public does not have access to it, Facebook still has these details and they use them. Why?

Knowing Us Is How They Make Money

When businesses use Facebook to advertise, the businesses do not get access to our personal information. Rather, they pay Facebook to place their ad in front of the ‘right’ people, which Facebook determines based on the data they have collected.

Businesses pay for this precise targeting, but they never have access to our personal information. But it’s not all about Facebook making money. Let’s face it. We benefit a lot from using Facebook.

In my opinion, Facebook is one of the best inventions in our lifetime. Where else can you stay connected with friends and family across the world in real time? Promote your business globally for mere pennies? Find and participate in communities of like-minded people no matter where they are in the world?

What better platform to learn what’s going on in the country? Stay informed about your neighborhood? Buy and sell items in a flash? Or, just have a good laugh watching a goat yoga video?

We Can Make Facebook Work for Us

Facebook has become the world’s ‘meet-up’ and source of information. Staying off Facebook puts you in the dark compared to everyone else who is on it, that is, approximately 2.19 billion people as of early 2018.

The most amazing thing about Facebook, a fact that’s often clouded by privacy issues, is its ability to customize our experience. We can make Facebook work for us. We just have to be willing to let it. This is where what we share plays a role in our Facebook experience.

Your Facebook Profile

A personal Facebook profile, or a ‘Profile’ as it’s called, is the starting point for all things on Facebook. It’s the first point of contact Facebook has with us and it’s the first information about us that Facebook gathers.

Even businesses must have a ‘personal’ profile before they can create a Facebook Business Page.

Your Facebook Profile is exactly what it says it is. It’s your calling card, of sorts. It tells people – and Facebook – about you: where you live, where you work, what business you own, your birthday and your interests. Sound like too much information? Well, yes and no.

You decide exactly what’s in your Facebook profile simply by including certain information, or not, when you create your profile. You can also determine who sees what is in your personal profile by the privacy settings you choose.

The only thing you are required to share publicly is your real name. If Facebook finds you’re using an alias, your profile will be deleted. It’s considered sort of ‘Peeping-Tom-ish’. You get to see what everyone else is up to, but you remain in the dark. Not a good move.

But, I’d like to make the case for sharing more than just your real name on Facebook.

Why Sharing More About You on Your Profile Is a Good Thing

Your Facebook profile isn’t just the space where you tell fellow Facebook viewers about you. It’s also where the Facebook algorithm begins to learn about you. This is important.

The ‘algorithm’ is everything in Facebook. It’s the behind the scenes mechanism that determines what shows up in your personal News Feed – the space where you are taken each time you log into Facebook. It’s where you spend your time ‘scrolling’.

What shows up in your News Feed is important to both Facebook and you.

Facebook knows you won’t spend much time there if your News Feed doesn’t interest you, if it only shows you posts about monster truck rallies when you really want to see gardening and art stories.

Facebook’s goal is to show you stories that grab your attention and keep you on Facebook as long as possible.

Of course, what’s in your News Feed is important to you because you are choosing to spend some of your precious time there. It darn well better deliver interesting information, right? Not just monster truck rally stories.

Here’s the kicker. The only way Facebook knows what to put in your News Feed is by learning about you.

It learns about you in a few ways. It analyzes what you’ve put in your profile and it studies the type of content you engage with. Then, it tries to put interesting content, based on what it’s learned, in your News Feed.

If you’ve included very little about yourself in your profile it’s going to take Facebook longer for the technology to understand you and what you want to see. You’re going to be stuck with monster truck rally stories for a while.

Why Make Facebook Work So Hard?

Yes, we want to protect ourselves and our privacy, but is telling Facebook you love gardening and live in Vancouver really putting you at risk? I don’t think so. I am not saying publish your address on Facebook, but rather, give the technology something to work with. You benefit in the end.

Don’t’ forget you have complete control what others see in your profile. Just because you’ve included information in your profile does not mean you need to make it public. The Facebook algorithm can use the information and you can keep it private from the world.

Finally, I’d like to mention the obvious. Facebook is a social media platform, ‘social’ being the primary word. We are there to connect and interact with other people. Think of what you share on your profile as the same as if you’re introducing yourself to someone at a party.

What to Share on Your Facebook Profile

When creating your profile think about how you can help Facebook get more content that interests you in your News Feed. Don’t keep them guessing.

Why not mention your city so you get fun information about what’s happening around town? Mention where you worked or where you went to school – find those long lost high school buddies. Share your birthday so all of your friends can help you celebrate on the big day.

Still on the fence?

I get it, but at the very least, I would suggest including the following:

  • Using a profile picture of you versus an avatar. It’s so much friendlier to interact with a person than a picture of a flower or cat. I understand the ‘shy’ factor, but keep in mind Facebook is about interaction and engagement between people.
  • Use the ‘Cover Image’ space (the large, rectangular space at the top of your profile) as your personal billboard. Have fun and ‘advertise’ who you are. Show us your family portrait. Show us you on your last ski vacation or in your garden. You can even tell us about your business (yes, this is a sneaky way to promote a business on your personal Profile).

So, help Facebook give you the best experience possible. Share as much as you’re comfortable sharing. Set your privacy levels to a degree that makes you feel secure.

Facebook will eventually uncover your love of cat videos or amazing chocolate recipes. You may as well help them find this out sooner rather than later, so you can have information you love in your News Feed… and not just stories about monster truck rallies.

Are You Not on Facebook?

PS: Not on Facebook yet, but you’re ready to join the 2.19 billion other people who are?

  • Go to www.facebook.com
  • Complete the ‘Create an Account’ form.
  • Share as much as you’re comfortable with and start enjoying your Facebook.

How engaged are you on Facebook? How much personal information do you share on Facebook? Do you have a business page on Facebook? Join the conversation and share your Facebook Profile tips.

Colleen KochannekColleen Kochannek is the founder of The Scrappy Frontier: An entrepreneurship school for women over 50. She believes the best is yet to come and there’s nothing better than creating a simple business of your dreams. Facebook is one of the many tools she teaches to grow a business.

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