Reaching Audiences Through New Media: Lessons
We Are Learning From the International Year of Astronomy
What It Is
Facebook is a free, electronic “scrapbook” in which users post information about themselves and updates of their activities, share online photo albums, and interact in and out of real time with friends in a variety of ways, including messaging, games, giving virtual gifts, and defining which Star Trek character you most resemble.
Who’s On It
Facebook started at universities as a way for college students and faculty to connect. Because of this, Facebook tends to have a higher education demographic. MySpace is similar to Facebook, but serves a younger audience that, in general, has a lower education level. According to iStrategyLabs, the largest audiences on Facebook are the 18–24 year olds (17 million), followed by 25–34 year olds (11 million) and 35–54 year olds (7 million). The number of users on Facebook is growing, with the 35 to 54 year olds showing a growth of almost 300% in a six-month period in 2008 (20% growth for 18–24 and 100% growth for 25-34 year olds). According to Pew, the median age of a Facebook user is 26 .
How It Might Be Used
Maintain a Facebook page as a scrapbook of your project or mission, by posting photos and updates of project progress, and announcing events. Facebook might also be a strong tool for communicating information with a smaller group, such as formal educators who are ambassadors to your project, etc.
Go to: Facebook to set up an account. You will be asked to provide your name, e-mail address, password, gender, and birthday. The final component is considered by Facebook to be a safety precaution (no one under 13 can establish an account) and a means of preserving the integrity of the site. You will be able to hide this information from your profile if you wish.
The “Help” button on the bottom of the Facebook page offers hints for getting started with setting up your profile and information about finding friends, loading photos, and accessing applications such as mapping where you have traveled in the world, and sending Facebook messages to/from e-mail or your iPhone.
For a comprehensive alternative tutorial, take a gander at Facebook Tutorial: How to Create a Facebook Profile video.
In Facebook, you must agree to be friends before anyone can follow you, which offers a level of protection. This means that you will need to “friend” numerous individuals in order to reap the benefits of Facebook as a tool to share your project activities and respond to public inquiries.
If you are going to share personal information and images, it is best to set up personal account and keep it separate from your work account.
If you are representing a project or mission or instrument, set up a business account. There is an “educational” option. Remember that you will want to have a page that represents the mission in a purely professional manner. Consider having your project/mission tweets feed to Facebook; this maintains ongoing communications, and saves you the time of having to post in two (or more) places.
You may want to set up a Facebook Group for team activities, such as mission ambassadors or informal education trainers, etc. This allows team members to access information that others cannot.
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