This is the sixth in a series of short articles that are intended to help grassroots activists better utilize social media websites. These are the definitive and comprehensive guides for progressives. Every week after the Intro, there will be a new guide published about how to more effectively use Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Other Sites, and on Advanced Strategies.
Facebook (FB) is the largest social networking website in the history of mankind. There are over 800 million users (expected to breach 1 billion in August), while its once great rival MySpace is down to 130 million and falling. With a community this large, it is extremely important to focus in on the key groups and not get distracted by all the noise to have a sharp impact.
To be influential on FB as a progressive internet activist, you need to establish a good rapport with key members of the community, be interactive, and have good connections in active political groups. This takes time. While the official policy requires people to use their real name, enforcement of this has been relaxed so some anonymity conscience folks use their activist callsign or a fake names that sound real. Either way, your actions will determine your influence far more than anything else.
A quick word of warning before we continue here. FB is notorious for snooping into your personal information and sharing that outside the site. FB has made a deal with the FTC where they have promised to cease this and submit to external audits but take that as you will. Also note that while you can use a proxy for a limited amount of protection, strong anonymity programs like TOR will set off a “suspicious IP” alert on FB, requiring some tedious steps to log in every single time. If you use Chrome, install the Facebook Disconnect extension. In any case, spend some time customizing your privacy settings and create a personalized url for your profile page. FB has also just had the largest IPO in history, and how this will affect privacy and the site in general in the future is yet to be determined.
Fleshing out your Info page is a great way to start. Fill in the blanks, demonstrate your interests and passions, put in your profiles for other social media sites in the Websites section, show that you are not a robot. Start to add other progressives to your friends list right away (list of starters below), but do so at a steady pace (no more than 20 per day on average). If you try to add too many too quickly, disciplinary action could be taken. FB limits you to 5000 followers (you can turn yourself into a ‘page‘ after that if you wish), but it will take a year to reach this many quality folks, so don’t cross this bridge until you come to it. Group your new friends into lists as you go depending on their primary interest.
Expanding your influence requires a legitimate presence and knowing where to focus your efforts. There is a lot of room for expansion here, but as always, the quality of your content is more important than the quantity of your posts. Hit the ‘like’ button on other people’s posts and comments liberally, but note that more than ~500 likes per day can trigger a temporary disabling of the ‘like’ feature. Visit various pages and groups (below) everyday and contribute. Use FB on the go with the brilliantly designed Facebook mobile app.
When posting status updates on your wall, there is a certain weight that the site puts on it depending on where it was posted from. Things posted from Facebook itself have a heavier weight (and thus will make the rounds better) than those posted on FB by other means (like Shareaholic, Hootsuite, Disqus, etc.). This is probably a worthy sacrifice considering the time that can be saved by using those tools, but for really important posts, keep this in mind and post directly from Facebook itself.
Pages and Groups
With a community this large, finding progressive pages and groups is not the problem. The difficulty is in deciding which ones to expend your precious time and energy. Clicking ‘like’ on a couple hundred pages is a good starting point. This is the best compilation of pages on Facebook, they are a focal point of other folks’ efforts to push real change and reform in an organized fashion, and an excellent source of content discovery. Also note that the Facebook rules only allow one profile, and some folks may chose to just create a page in which to conduct their activism. While you can still interact with other pages this way, the downside is that you lose a lot of functionality in terms of being able to seek out and connect with actual individuals.
Groups differ from pages in that there is more of an emphasis on group interactivity. Many are open (anyone can join), but they tend to attract trolls that stifle real conversation. Closed groups require asking to join, but have far better quality discussions. You will eventually find some secret groups (unlisted, requires an invite) that have the most honest, in depth conversations. It is usually a good idea to turn off notifications and chat on all but the most intimate groups to avoid being pestered. A few select groups to get you started:
Participating in the FB community requires commenting if you wish to have any real sway. Posting links is fine, but without interaction, your broadcasts will soon fall upon deaf ears. Locate other strong progressives of various causes by their comments. Ignore or block all trolls. They are never worth your time.
Feel free to speak your mind on Facebook, but take note that the right wing has openly declared political warfare there (like what they did on YouTube a few years ago), and will use every dirty trick in the book to silence progressive voices. If you post any ‘questionable’ content or comments, they will mass report you. Sometimes they mass report left-leaning folks who haven’t even posted anything remotely objectionable, which can cause remote-controlled disciplinary actions by Facebook. Don’t let this discourage you from speaking out, just recognize if you start to get attacked, you must be hitting a nerve, and double down on what you’re doing.
Top Progressive FB Users
With a community 800 million strong, assembling the very top progressive users is an impossible task, but the list below is full of solid activists, and should get you started.