The short answer is, I don’t. I had a friend write this morning because she is working on a project for school and she is writing about how people use Facebook. She asked how I use it professionally, and my response gave me an opportunity to reflect on how I actually DO use it. I’m including some of those thoughts here.
The reality is that I use Facebook quite a bit, but is usually something I tend to use more for personal communication. I’ve never in my life been capable of keeping up with the latest happenings in the lives of family members, people I was friends with decades ago, and occasional acquaintances I don’t really know at all as effortlessly (and regretfully with an much meaningfulness) as I have been able to since Facebook. That being said, I do experiment with features like groups and pages to understand how they work in the event a faculty member expresses interest in using it for their class. It doesn’t happen a lot though. I’ve heard of instructors using pages or groups in their courses successfully, but I haven’t seen it first hand.
It seems to me that some of Facebooks features like Groups and Pages are where the most promise are for really accomplishing anything as a community. FB Pages are well suited to serve people’s professional interests. I’ve seen companies blogging and conducting outreach to their customers using pages – and even groups. Saucony, Academic Earth, and AlaskaPhotoGraphics come to mind for this sort of use. I’ve also seen some interesting uses of groups, such as the Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market, who are announcing events and connecting to community members on FB. More of a grassroots effort in this case and FB seems well suited for it.
There are a few educator groups I’m a part of but I don’t participate in, simply because there isn’t enough time in the day. One of them (Blended Learning and Instruction) sends out regular announcements about synchronous workshops they conduct about various aspects of teaching online. They always sound interesting, and I assume someone is getting use from them, but I haven’t ever dropped in. I’m sure I’m missing out.
I’ve just recently started a new page called Winter Running just to test out the features of Pages. I’m curious how they might be used in conjunction with other platforms and where, if at all, they generate feeds (RSS) that can be pulled into other spaces people may already be using – such as re-feeding Notes posted on a FB Page into a blog somewhere else. I’ll post more about what I discover about that later.
Facebook is great for keeping visibility on a large number of interests, but I find that I have so many that I rarely follow up with any of them on FB. It seems to me to be a much less formal space and I find it very easy to ignore the traffic there for higher priority professional tasks in other spaces.
The most successful groups/communities I have seen on FB have all had great, active, and energetic community leaders who are constantly posting new content, coordinating events, and contributing back to the network. Facebook is just a tool that links people together – it is the value people bring into it that makes it useful to others, that grows communities, and that in the end, may even accomplish a goal. Without contributing, participating people it just becomes a time sink for entertainment and vampire mafiozi farmers harvesting their virtual crops.