Steve Coulson is a partner at The Advance Guard, a new media company that creates radical marketing programs using disruptive technologies, community platforms and social media.
If you're like me – a tinkerer and tweaker – you might be interested in ways to fine-tune your profile for maximum affect. So here are five tips to optimize your activities on Facebook, including the right way to create profile and thumbnail graphics, how to show different content to Fans and non-Fans, creating DIY vanity urls, and how managing what and when you post can lead to greater success.
1. Creating the perfect profile picture
Facebook specs recommend that profile pictures should be 200px wide, while height can vary as needed. What is less documented is how the thumbnail that Facebook uses across the system is generated from this picture.
You'll find the system crops images when generating a thumbnail, losing information around the edge. After some initial testing, we've determined that there's a "title safe" area within all images. So when you create your profile image that's 200px wide, allow a 12 pixel border around crucial information (such as typography or a logo) to allow for automatic cropping.
Also bear in mind that regardless of the shape of your profile image, Facebook thumbnails are square (with rounded corners), and sized based on the length of the shortest side of your image. So when designing rectangular profile pictures, make sure to keep your desired thumbnail imagery within a square boundary.
2. Optimizing your website's Share Preview
A key strength of Facebook – especially for the new Public Profiles – is the viral spread of shared links into news feeds, using the Links application. When anyone links to your site using this, the application presents the user with a number of images from the page that can be chosen as a thumbnail to accompany the link. But if your site is mainly Flash-based, or has no suitable graphic components for a thumbnail, you should define a custom Share Preview image.
Facebook provides specific information on how to do this here - with a snippet of code to add to the HEAD of your website pages that points to your desired image.
Again, no guidance is given as to the perfect size for a Share Preview, but we've found that a 100 pixel square preview is optimal. This not only requires no resizing by Facebook, but also provides a suitable shape for Digg (), which uses the same code to pull its own Share Preview (albeit reduced down to 48px square).
Note that the Facebook Links application will also pull the "Description" Meta Tag from your site into the news feed, so ensure that you have made this sufficiently explanatory. (You can also define the media-type icon that Facebook uses in feeds for your site e.g. blog, news, picture, video, etc – full details to be found at facebook.com/share_partners.php )
3. Displaying different content for Fans and non-Fans
Public Profiles now allow separate default landing areas for Fans and Non-Fans. This allows brands to display a "Become a Fan" incentive in an FBML box or Tab. A common request we've heard from brands is "Is there a simple way to display different content for Fans and non-Fans?" This allows for some interesting scenarios, from displaying a simple "Thank you" to people who become Fans, to incentivizing visitors to "Become a Fan to see exclusive content/promo code/offer."
So here's a quick hack for creating an FBML box that can be used on the Wall or Boxes page (or in its own Tab) that displays different information to different users, depending on their Fan/logged-in status:
1. Create a 1 cell borderless table, with a fixed height and width; for example, 100px.
2. Create and define a background image for that cell to the same dimensions, which contains the information you want NON-fans to see.
3. Create a same-sized image that contains the information you want Fans to see and insert that into the cell.
4. Use the following FBML tag to surround the cell contents - <fb:visible-to-connection><img src="insert your image URL"></fb:visible-to-connection> .
This FBML Tag only displays its content to Fans who are logged in. So what we're actually doing here is creating a table with a background image, and then covering it up with another one IF you're a Fan. It's a bit of a hack, but only takes five minutes to do.
Here's some example code if you want to try it:
<table width="xx" height="yy" border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0"><tr>
<img src="http://www.yourdomain.com/linkto/fans.jpg" height="xx" width="yy" />
4. Creating your own vanity URL
While it's rumored that Facebook will eventually open up vanity urls to all brands, for now only preferred partners get these (eg: http://www.Facebook.com/mashable). Until then, you can create your own with a domain redirect. If you own your own domain (and frankly, who doesn't), set up http://facebook.mydomain.com to point to your profile. Easy to remember, easy to share. Obviously, the same tactic applies to profiles you may set up on Twitter (), LinkedIn (), etc, but this is most useful with those tricky Facebook URLs.
5. Defining a publishing schedule for your content
This isn't really a tip, but more of a best practice. By creating a calendar to guide your updates, you will achieve the following benefits:
1. You can spread updates out so that you carry on a persistent but unobtrusive dialog with your Fans. Post too often and your page updates will start being hidden, or you'll lose fans. Too seldom and you'll be forgotten. Try to mix up different update types – a status update, a Link, a Note, a Photo or video update.
2. By creating a calendar, you can also schedule moderation periods for comments if you feel this is necessary for your brand. Most Interaction activity (including comments) will occur within 24 hours of an update before it drops out of Fans' news feeds.
3. By recording all activity on a schedule, it's easier to map it against exported stats data from your page's Insights. This can show you Total Interactions around different content types to gauge which gets the most traction/conversation, and track Removed Fans against certain update types.
Steve Coulson is a partner at The Advance Guard, a new media company that creates radical marketing programs using disruptive technologies, community platforms and social media. He is also the author of About Face – a free white paper that steps businesses and brands through setting up their Facebook Public Profiles.