10 Facebook MUSTSFacebook is undoubtedly the United States most popular social media platform. As it approaches the 500 million user mark it is difficult to deny its impact, and potential for both personal and professional social networking. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, is essential that those of us who are users pay particular attention to its function and use.  Listed below are ten simple things every Facebook user should consider.

1. Create a Strong Password. Your user password should clearly be easy for you to remember, but not easy for someone else to guess or discover.  As a general rule I recommend passwords be at least eight characters.  You should avoid dictionary words, even if they have numbers attached. A truly secure password should include both upper and lower case letters and numbers. Please never use obvious passwords like your name, password or 12345678. They are a disaster waiting to happen and just plain dumb!

2. Hide Your Birthday. Identity theft is growing problem in the United States and one of the key elements sort by identity thieves is your birth date.  I recommend your profile birth date be set to “Only Me”. Sure you may not receive as many Facebook birthday wishes, but your true friends will know your birthday without Facebook’s help.  Follow these simple steps to hide your birthday:
a. Select “Account” in the top right corner, followed by “Privacy Settings”.
b. Click “Customize Settings”.
c. Select the down arrow on the button opposite “Birthday”.
d. Click “Custom” and then select “Only Me” under the heading “Make this visible to”
e. Select “Save Setting” and you are finished!

3. Don’t Blindly Accept Facebook’s Default Privacy Settings. Facebook’s stated mantra is transparency, but it’s your life and your profile.  Therefore you must take personal responsibility for what it is, and what is displayed and to whom.  It is simple personal responsibility to examine every aspect of your own privacy settings and make a decision about who can see them. Imagine how much care you might take if you wrote a letter, speech and article which could be read by 500 million people, and then apply that same care and concern to your privacy settings.

4. Do Not Post a Child’s Name in a Photo Caption. There are some sad people out there.  Please don’t make it easier for them by providing information about your or others children.  Similarly don’t tag children in posts or photos.

5. Home Alone. Sure you’d like your friends to know you are taking a well earned vacation in Hawaii, but Facebook is not the forum to tell them.  Posting a status update advertising your absence is like sending an open invitation to the wrong people to come calling while you are away.

6. Sex, Religion, Politics and Money. As a boy growing up in Australia I was often told never talk about sex, religion, politics or money in public. This advice has served me well throughout the years. In the United States we highly value freedom of speech, which I also prize. After all, the Internet thrives on free speech and our business is dependent on the Internet. Nevertheless, I recommend that unless you have a good reason for doing so you should avoid discussions of sex, religion, politics or money in the social media arena. What is a good reason you ask? Well, in my opinion at least, unless you have a professional reason for doing so, don’t!

7. Unsupervised Usage by Children. Although Facebook limits its members to ages 13 and over, younger individuals can access the platform. Insist on children using the platform in plain view, ensure they are your friends in order to see their posts and photos, and here is a novel idea, lead by example.  Let them see you do as you say!

8. Do Not Accept Friend Requests from People you do not Know. Not only is this not very sensible it can be dangerous. Spammers, identity thieves, viruses and other undesirables stalk Facebook’s hallways looking for unsuspecting victims.

9. Posting personal messages intended for one friend as a status update. Facebook has a very useful message system designed for one to one communication, use it!

10. A Picture Tells a Thousand Words. Not having a suitable profile photo is a red flag that you have something to hide. There is no excuse for not including a photo on a personal page.

Facebook is marvelous tool to maintain contact, engage in conversations and foster relationships. Don’t let it become an albatross which negatively impacts your visibility and credibility. Remember what happens on Facebook ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT stay on Facebook. Your Facebook interactions may result in real world consequences!