Thing 9 2014: Facebook

Facebook is a social network service that builds online communities of people by connecting people who share interests and/or activities. Facebook elicits mixed reactions from groups of people. Some love it; some loathe it. Even those who love it often loathe particular elements. You do not have to sign up to Facebook to complete this Thing, although we suspect many of you have already and we encourage you to do so in order to see what it’s all about. Instead, we’ll ask you to think about Facebook’s purpose and how it might be used.

Facebook is the world’s biggest social network, with over 1 billion active members. Most people use Facebook to socialise with friends and families by sharing photos, updates and news. But researchers can use Facebook to connect to their audiences by:

  • Building a personal/professional profile
  • Creating ‘pages’ (rather than personal accounts) for brands, businesses, institutions, and campaigns
  • Bringing people together via a group.


If you’d like to join Facebook and haven’t yet, it’s fairly easy to sign up from the homepage and create a profile. You might want to take some time to explore Facebook’s privacy policies, as they’re an area of concern for some. You can use your privacy settings to ensure that only friends or only particular people see what you put up. This is useful – and highly recommended – if you’re using Facebook in a purely personal way.  If you’re new to Facebook, take some time to find contacts and play with its features. Facebook’s Help Center is quite good and can help explain things like the Timeline.

As mentioned, Facebook has both personal ‘profiles’ and organisational/institutional ‘pages’. Whether you’re new or a seasoned user, go to the Engage: Social Media Michaelmas page and ‘Like’ it. To find our page, do a simple search in the search box at the top. When you like a page, information posted on it will appear in your news feed on your Facebook home page. The same is true of those you are friends with.

Other pages (all of which can be viewed with or without Facebook membership) in which you might be interested are:

You may also consider the use of groups in social media. These have proved successful in bringing together research or class groups to discuss or share content. If you don’t have access to WebLearn, Moodle, Yammer or Sharepoint, a closed and private group can be an easy way to foster discussion – and many involved will already be on it.

Exploring further
If you’re really interested in creating a page for an institutional department, or in taking your Facebook use further, feel free to take a look through this presentation by Liz McCarthy of the Bodleian Libraries on ‘Facebook pages that work’ (note: 2013 version, so some slides may be out of date).

Blog post

Feel free to talk about all of this week’s things in one post, as they lend themselves to comparison and discussion. Do you think Facebook is useful or not, and why? If you use it, how do you use it, and what do you get out of it? Is Facebook more valuable to you as a place to build your public research profile or as a place to build or join networks? If you don’t want to use it, why not? Tag your post ‘Thing 9’.

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