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I may not know it all, but Facebook I do know.

I was never a MySpace girl. Ever since its introduction a few years ago in the midst of my University career I have been hooked. It is easy to do so, and frankly the looks I received after deactivating it for one week (see puzzled, perplexed, disbelief, mystified in a picture dictionary for reference) made me wonder what’s the deal with Facebook?!

We all complain about it, that means you – creepers! We do. But truth be told everyone is still checking it, posting and tagging pictures, as well as adding the latest and greatest applications. The thought of living without this social network cannot be fathomed by its users, however there has to be a way to get around the complaints. We have to be able to brand ourselves better, just like the pros! PR technicians are using Facebook to brand products, yet figuring out a way to brand ourselves tends to be intricate.

For me and my close comrades, my fearless femme fatales, also known as my fellow professional cheerleaders, we tend to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. Actors, athletes and really any public figure have the same problem. How can we brand ourselves properly, keep our privacy, while maintaining the fun of Facebook?

PR tends to fix crisis’ or issues, so why not use it to “fix” the book.
Let’s start a new chapter, turn a new page and write a story on how to use Facebook to the best of our branding abilities (sorry for the pun-intended book references).

Here are 10 Best Practices for using Facebook in order to brand yourself as a professional cheerleader (actor/public figure/local celebrity/athlete):

1. Decide whether or not you will be using your real name – it isn’t for everyone. If you are in the public eye and want to keep a personal page, use initials. If not, stick with your name and be proud of your content. Privacy settings are there for a reason, so use them, but keep your name clean (XXXShanXXX K-Dawg doesn’t look good).
2. Use an appropriate profile picture – regardless of the other pictures you post, this one is for all to see and attributes certain qualities and statements to your page. First impressions are key in business, well they are also key in Facebook. This is your first opportunity to set a standard for your page!
3. Choose your networks carefully – this says a lot about who you are. Picking a network gives others access to your personal information and dictates what information may be sent your way. If you do not want to add education information, stay away from joining their network. This also gives others who do not have you as a friend, pertinent life information (ie: where you are attending post-graduate studies).
4. Add some personal information – that’s what Facebook is for. It is a social networking tool that allows people to get to know their friends and acquaintances. Education and work information should be current and appropriate. Adding the last job you were fired from is probably not a smart choice… and no it is not common knowledge saying that. 🙂
5. Stay away from crazy pictures – by crazy I mean the drunk stammering on the floor pictures. Point blank, keep it classy.
6. Keep your applications to a minimum – once someone is your friend, they can ‘creep’ on whatever you have. It also appears on their news feed. Remember that applications you add says a lot about your interests. Adding the “weed application” may not be such a great thing for your employer to read on their news feed. In a blog post The Top 5 Viral Facebook Technique, it is mentioned that a news feed is a way of viral marketing. If you wouldn’t stand on the street selling weed, don’t sell it on your Facebook news feed.
7. Decide whether or not to have a wall – it may not be a bad idea to get rid of it. I deactivated my wall for two months. Truthfully the reasoning behind it was that the “wall” is the one thing you have 0 control over. Anyone can write anything on your wall – remember that. Until Facebook decides that you need to confirm or deny a wall post, it is a very tricky component that relies on the user to be alert.
8. Keep your groups to a minimum – joining groups determines who you are affiliated with. It is just like writing a good release; keep it clear and concise. Having 10 groups reads commitment, having 100 reads congested.
9. Use your privacy settings and limit friends – there are a million of them so experiment. If you are that worried about having access, you can block users, deny users the ability to search you and of course put certain friends on limited profile. Remember that anyone you add as a friend has the ability to quote you, access your photos and do some damage. Pick friends and privacy settings wisely.
10. If all else fails, create a professional page – numerous well-known individuals (or local celebrities!) have two profiles; one for their friends and family, the other for work. If the above tips seem challenging than this may be your best option. This is still questionable by PR practitioners (read PR Squared: Public Relations and Facebook), yet it is an individual decision and just like the rest of the tips – it is only a suggestion.

For everyone (including those who are celebrities in mind only):
Facebook is a social networking tool and none of these tools should inhibit anyone from getting down and dirty in it. However, just as children, we need to play nice in the sandbox. Facebook is one big playground, but this time you can block the bullies! Use it to make friends, keep friends and even brand yourself – just play nice.

Side Note: Thank you to my former Cheerleading team, coach and our Communications Director for the insight and inspiration to write this blog post.