Facebook’s Secret Weapon Unveiled – Ann Handley!

As the excitement is building today about Facebook’s promise to (once again…) transform social networking with a slew of new and sparkly features, the Connection Agent has gone under the interface layer to discover the real secret lurking beneath the impending drama.

It’s Ann Handley.

Facebook has secretly acquired Marketing Profs figurehead and Content Rules co-author Ann Handley, and embedded her within the FB platform. It is the first time a human being has been coded into a social network, though there have been persistent rumors that Twitter’s middleware may contain DNA fragments from Peter Shankman.

Starting on Friday, the status update box on Facebook will now be the iconic question, WWAHD? (What Would Ann Handley Do?). Users are expected to consider carefully how Ann might update, and then type their status accordingly, leading to a uniformly higher-quality of on-line content.

Facebook will also incorporate a context-aware ANNvatar, which will pop up and give advice about what you are reading and writing, delivering critiques as to style, grammar, and re-purposable content. The ANNvatar will speak in Ann’s voice, pulling words and phrases from the Content Rules book, which will now be the official Facebook Help Menu. Users will be able to choose AH levels, from mild snark all the way up to to ultra-Boston-style-insulting.

It is rumored that there will be a C.C. Chapman FB upgrade in the future “for the guys” but this is not yet confirmed. There is also speculation that each FB status will be auto-converted into a QR-code for people who prefer to use a smartphone for each and every form of communication.

The new Ann Handley FB version will be Prodigy and MS-DOS compatible because, after all, that’s what Ann Handley would do.

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Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Clearing Clouds: Recovering from Depression (free e-book)

>> Trend Currents in Social Media

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10 Can’t-Miss Predictions for 2011

I don’t usually do year-end prediction posts, but after reading so many enlightening missives from brilliant thinkers, I was hit by a sudden flash of inspiration – a massive and luminous outpouring of the blindingly obvious. So, here goes – my can’t miss social media marketing predictions for 2011.

  1. More people will search for stuff on-line in 2011. It’s been growing every year for quite a while now, and the big surprise is, that this behavior will continue to occur.
  2. Mobile is going to be big. Really big.
  3. E-commerce will explode onto the scene. As people discover that they can buy things on-line, they will do more of it. Books, music, toys, pet food – you name it. Disintermediation is the key word here. Big for 2011.
  4. Apple will introduce flashy new versions of its hardware and software products. And people will buy them. In fact, some people will wait in long lines to buy them – and others won’t.
  5. A lot of people will do a lot of stuff on Facebook, which will have more users in 2011 than it has now in 2010.
  6. Very important people will be profoundly embarrassed by revelations made about them via the Internet.
  7. Market valuations for software vendors will go up and down while fluctuating during the year.
  8. Companies will try to sell stuff using social media, and social media purists will be so upset about it, they’ll whine on Twitter and blogs.
  9. Everyone will hate SxSW’s method of choosing panels by popularity contest, but a million bloggers will beg for votes on Twitter anyway, while saying how much they despise doing so.
  10. People will discover that if you join smartphones with location apps with coupons you can cause a lot of people to make a lot of noise on-line about it, and generate stoopid company valuations.
  11. (Bonus) Content will rule. There may even be a book about it (hey – had to get a plug in there for CC and Ann!)

What about you? What are your profoundly insightful predictions for the exciting year ahead?

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See prior spoofs :>}

Facebook taken over by TSA

In what has been described as a “friendly, sort of” takeover, the social networking site Facebook has been merged into the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The announcement was made in Terminal C of Newark Airport. After reporters and their personal items were screened, they were allowed to line up 12-deep to hear the head of the TSA, John T. Pistol, announce that Mark Zuckerberg had arrived at an “understanding” after several hours of enhanced frisking and being run repeatedly through a high-intensity X-ray machine.

“It was obvious that our attempts to protect the American people were simply not enough. Senior citizens were sometimes boarding planes without being subject to public humiliation, and once a right-wing blogger named Benjamin Jefferson Washington actually boarded a flight in Milwaukee before he showed up on our ‘No Fly’ list.

“Now, with Facebook, we’ll be able to extend our protective arms well beyond the airport, and monitor virtually all Americans in real-time. Except young males from certain Middle Eastern countries, of course – that would be social profiling.”

Changes to the Facebook interfaced were already evident this week, with subtle wording changes (Edit my Profile is now Profile Me) and random pop-up interrogation boxes for those who upload any photos. Also, each Facebook user is required to undergo a hands-on patdown by a TSA employee before changing any user information on their profile. “Instead of a captcha, we’re going to use a gotcha. Way better!” said Pistol.

The most controversial change involved the threat of uploading naked pictures taken in TSA scanners to user profiles. “We’ll have all your full-body X-ray pictures stored and matched to your Facebook profile, and if any user does something wrong, we figure we’ll just randomly expose 1,000 others by changing their profile picture to the bare view for 24 hours. That way, we won’t be profiling any individual or group, while still maintaining a focus on the privates of the individual.”

Asked about the issue  of violations of privacy, Pistol stared blankly ahead for a few moments, then replied, “Why do you think we chose Facebook, anyway?”

Scanner image credit

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See prior spoofs :>}

Why I Won’t Stop Blogging

Steve Rubel announced last week that he was going to stop “blogging” in favor of “lifestreaming” (the sharing of more immediate snippets of micro-media), and this opened up some interesting discussion among bloggers, well-summarized here by Louis Gray (and I agree with Louis’ perspective).

Now I do admit that I am re-examining the tools for on-line sharing of networked communications, spurred in part by the expanded capabilities of the new iPhone, which will allow for simpler sharing of photos, video, and audio. I’m playing with Posterous as a way to have a one-stop media  distribution center (digital sharehouse?), and some of this definitely falls into the “lifestream” category.

But stop blogging? No way.

There is value in sharing a beautiful picture, or a quick audio, or an interesting link, or a snippet of thought. The conversation and easy banter on Twitter and Facebook is enriching, no doubt. But for development of thought, more detailed analysis of ideas, ongoing discussion of topics, and 360-degree expression of personal and/or business message – you simply cannot replace a blog.

We live in an increasingly fragmented world which encourages the development of shorter and shorter attention spans. I don’t see that as necessarily a good thing. Writing a blog, and reading a longer-form post by others, forces us to think, to develop a train of thought, to react to more detailed explanation and argumentation. I hope we never lose that. A life stream is one thing. A well-crafted blog, over time, becomes a thought-river.

UPDATE: Robert Scoble writes an interesting piece on the enduring value of a blog vs. the more ephemeral entries on micro-blogging sites. Plus, Chris Brogan on Strategic blogging. Both of these perspectives make it clear why blogging is not going away.

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Good-bye, Social Media – Hello, Networked Communications

So, today Steve Rubel announces that he is done “blogging”, and now is fully committed to a more full-faceted path called “lifestreaming.” His post is titled So Long, Blogging, Hello Lifestreaming!

What he’s doing is, in fact, not that radical – we’ve been moving rapidly in this direction for a while. Because the fact is – the real issue isn’t whether we “blog” or “micro-blog” or “Tweet” or “Facebook” or whatever. Those terms and brands are temporary labels we have for the early-on way we’re now using technology to…share. To express ourselves, and connect with others.

We’re evolving rapidly in ability to share, not just via long-form formats (books, blogs), but also quick thoughts, pictures, videos, music, and whatever else. Each of these things ended up with their own terms, and have been ranged roughly under the moniker “social media.”

I’d like to adapt Steve’s title to say good-bye to social media. The term, that is; which really isn’t adequate to describe what we’re doing. For some professionals, the term “social” is an immediate turnoff. And we’re sharing more than media – we’re communicating/connecting/collaborating in multi-faceted ways. There is a social element to it, of course, and media is part of this gig. But the term isn’t scalable.

So….hello, Networked Communications. That, in fact, in all facets, and no matter how it evolves, is what we’re doing, on both personal and professional levels. Whether it’s community-building, tweeting, sharing media, marketing, lifestreaming – it’s all networked communications (which, by the way, includes the off-line component of how we relate to one another).

We’re going to burn through existing and new platforms over the coming years, and they’ll get more sophisticated in their abilities to let us network and communicate. Whether it’s Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Posterous, blogs, Flickr (perhaps even my dream platform, Metamee) – the bits and pieces  don’t really matter, they’ll evolve and converge. Each of them is an Expression and/or Connection Engine, all enabling our brave new world of networked communications. Which is same world of networked communications we used to have, amped up on tech steroids.

We’ve always communicated. We’ve always had and built networks. Now we have quickly-evolving tools that will let us more effectively express ourselves and connect with others, for marketing, for fun, for socializing, for enterprise efficiency, for help…for whatever we do.

Good-bye, “social media.” You were a nice first love. You’re not going to die, you’re becoming bigger and better. But with upgraded capabilities come better titles. I’m moving on to Networked Communications. ‘Cause that’s what we do.

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Free eBook: Getting Started with Social Networking

Why I Follow…Craig DeLarge

Once again, we come to a Friday on Twitter, and once again, I abstain from making a de-contextualized (is that a word??) list of recommended followers in favor of simply putting the spotlight on one.

Today – fellow pharma social media guy Craig DeLarge (@cadelarge on Twitter).

Thus far, it is rare to find people within pharma companies who openly and transparently network on-line. In fact, I can count the ones I know on one hand. Craig is one of the first I met, and he has been networking quite generously for a long time.

His blog (WiseWorking) is full of interesting ruminations. He tweets as well, but he’s one of those folks whose on-line presence is strongest on Facebook. I kinda use Facebook. Craig knocks it out of the park.

But the best thing is meeting him. He’s a wonderful conversationalist, a smart guy, full of ideas, and very personable. He lives out loud on-line – sharing very openly – and he’s that way in real life too. I had dinner with Craig and another fellow this week and we could have gone on for hours. I’m better off knowing Craig, and I expect that you will be, too. [Oh...and yesterday was his birthday, Facebook tells me. A belated Happy Birthday as well!]

Prior FollowFriday posts

Let’s improve Follow Fridays!

Getting Started: Social Networking

It can be a little bit intimidating for many folks, getting started with social networking. What’s a blog? How can I use LinkedIn? Should I be on Facebook? Does Twitter matter? How do I start?

Cover_smEvery active networker had to just…start…at some point. Maybe we can make things a little easier.

Here is a free e-book(let) download for those looking to get involved (or more deeply involved) with social networking: Getting Started with Social Networking. A condensed slide show is also available here on Slideshare.

The e-booklet is only 15 pages, but it’s packed full of helpful links and advice. Briefly, the What and Why of social networking is covered, then in a very practical step-by-step fashion, the How. Plus, there is a bonus Appendix with worksheet to help you define your “personal brand” and refine your message.

There is also a special Appendix with resources for pharmaceutical professionals.

Many thanks to those bloggers who provide such valuable/linkable content, as well as those who helped with suggestions, reviews, and edits;  Chris Brogan, Angela Maiers, Kirsten Wright, David Armano (cover graphic), Robin Broitman, Ann Handley, Mike Sansone, Doug Meacham, Tom Clifford, Ross Teasley, Jonathan Richman, Marina Martin, the Mashable team, the Commoncraft team, Molly Infolode, Jennifer Berk, Byron Woodson, Liz Scherer, Dawn Foster, Dan Schawbel, Brian Solis, Guy Kawasaki, Nick O’Neill, the Butterscotch team, the eHow team, Alison Driscoll, Kirsti Scott, Dave Fleet, Darren Rowse, Paul Chaney, Gavin Heaton, Liz Strauss, Lisa Hoffmann, Beth Harte, Karen Swim, Mack Collier Shwen Gwee, John Mack, Deirdre Breakenridge, and Ellen Hoenig Carlson (hopefully I haven’t forgotten anyone!)

Feel free to share the link, or forward the .pdf file, freely to any who may benefit from it.

AND – if you want more (free e-book) starter guides, check out this one by the always-helpful Amber Naslund, and this broader view from Antony Mayfield.

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Five in the Morning 021909

Before we begin, may I just take a moment and say how much I enjoy interacting with you, my readers, in these early-morning excursions through the blogosphere? It’s fun to find a few goodies each day (so much to choose from!), but it’s even more fun to dialogue with you about stuff you found helpful or interesting.

OK, on with the show…

The Four Horsemen of the Startup. Brief and to the point. Four attitudes to avoid if you’re an entrepreneur starting a company. From the wise and friendly Doug Karr.

Animated advertising icons – the power of strong branding in advertising. Watch this quick clip. From BrandFreak blog.

In Business Week, a profile of social media pioneer Beth Kanter. Nice.

Which businesses are on Twitter? Check out this uber-list on Twibs. Wow. (hat tip: Brand Flakes for Breakfast).

From the Church of the Customer blog, 5 Questions with Emanuel Rosen (on buzz, word of mouth, and marketing). Good stuff.

PLUS – just for fun: 25 “Hidden” Things in Facebook’s Terms of Use (spoof).

Finally – are you going to Blogger Social ’09? Last year’s event was a slam dunk – 80 bloggers from around the world getting together in NYC to get social. This year, the upper limit is 100, and it’s in Boston. Details here – I’ll be there!

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(Image credit – created via Spell with Flickr)

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25 “Hidden” Things in Facebook TOS

borg

It’s been all the rage this week. Facebook changed their Terms of Service/Terms of Use (TOS for short) to imply that they own, perpetually, anything and everything that you post on their site.

After much uproar, Facebook has relented and gone back to the “old” TOS. Or have they? Hidden in the new/old TOS, in white text on white background (so you wouldn’t see it – but you never read the black-on-white TOS beforehand anyway, did you??), are the 25 of Your Things that You Didn’t Know Facebook Now Owns.

    1. By logging into Facebook (or having logged in in the past and now even THINKing about logging in again), you relinquish possession of all of your belongings, including property, house, auto, HDTV, and suet birdfeeders. They now belong to Mark Zuckerberg. Thanks.

    2. Facebook now owns your first-born, if you have one, and if said first-born is well-behaved. Brats remain in your possession. If you have no first-born children, rodent pets or 4-wheeled ATVs will be accepted.

    3. You are now auto-enrolled in Facebook Live!, which gives us the right to install cameras in every room of your house and randomly upload photos of every daily activity. Our alpha-version auto-tagging feature will make a best guess at identifying you. Heh.

    4. All your blogs are belong to us. Except Scoble‘s. He’s too noisy.

    5. Your privacy settings on Facebook will auto-reset each day to random settings chosen by our MaxEmbarrass Algorithm Method. You may change them back if you wish, but by clicking “Apply” to your settings, you grant us unlimited rights to ignore whatever you chose.

    6. At our sole discretion, you may be downgraded to our “Facebook Lite” application (herein referred to as “Compuserve”) so as to keep you from taking for granted the privilege of being on Facebook Classic.

    7. You are now opted in to receive SPAM.

    8. All applications and widgets that you choose to use on Facebook are hereby entitled to publish your personal data and preferences on our new “SPAM-ME-NOW.com” sister site, soon to be launched.

    9. Spontaneous Human Combustion may occur while using Facebook. If this happens to you, we own your ashes.

    10. You may opt out of using Facebook at any time. But it won’t make any difference.

    11. If you have ever thought about uploading any pictures, links, words, thoughts, or other assets onto the Facebook platform, those items are all, in perpetuity, the exclusive property of Facebook. Thanks.

    12. If you have ever filled out or read a “25 Things” meme on Facebook, you are now an indentured servant of Facebook, and we reserve the right to sell you on eBay to the highest bidder, or, at our discretion, at a “Buy it Now!” price of our choosing.

    13. By using Facebook, you agree never to use Google again. All future searches will have to be through a 1998 version of AltaVista.

    14. If your profile on LinkedIn, MySpace, Friendster, eHarmony, or Pownce mentions your name, we may take possession of said profiles, and the services on which you have described yourself.

    15. You may not whine at any time, for any reason.

    16. Cheap boxed wines may not be imbibed by any Facebook users. Screwtop bottles are acceptable if imported from New Zealand or Iceland. Use of wine coolers will be grounds for immediate termination. You don’t want to know what that means.

    17. Your college loans, mortgages, credit card debts, Madoff investments, and auto companies are exempted from Facebook ownership. See “Bailout and TARP” provision.

    18. By using Facebook, you agree to lower your “carbon footprint” by 15% per year by skipping every sixth exhale.

    19. If you use Twitter, you agree to follow @swoodruff, except if you are a spammer, in which case you agree to self-immolate (see #9 above).

    20. You agree to pick up the mess after walking the dog.

    21. You agree that outmoded discussions of “privacy” will not be indulged, either on Facebook or in any lesser sphere of life, since we now own you. Just shut up and keep spilling your guts. Wait a minute, that’s self-contradictory. Ah, whatever, this is white-on-white and no-one’s going to ever see it anyway! Toy boat! Toy boat! You’re all dolts! Ha ha ha ha…

    22. Facebook, its representatives or agents, may, at any time, and for any reason, choose to extract one of your kidneys.

    23. If you are currently single and choose to marry, a 10% dowry to Facebook is expected. If you met your spouse via Facebook, that becomes 25% plus a $200 gift certificate to Ruth’s Chris made out to Mark Zuckerberg.

    24. (we’re going to fill this in later. But you’re agreeing to it.)

    25. Resistance is futile.

Thank us for allowing you to be used by Facebook.

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Prior StickyFigure spoofs

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Five in the Morning 021709

Lon Cohen shares his “Twitter professors” on the Mashable blog – 18 key people he follows who provide ongoing education on a variety of topics. Some known, and not-so-well-known, names listed here.

Who doesn’t like a nice list? Here’s 60 of the best SEO tools. And, some Inspiring Design Links for Creatives (thanks to @brandonacox for these links, via Twitter). And, from Robin Broitman, a Superlist of How to Find, Network with, and Influence People via Social Media.

Good for what Ales you? Costco about to make a bold move – launching its own line of beers. Great strategy, especially if the taste is high-quality. The Difference is Affordability?

Good advice from Branding Strategy Insider on picking/creating a brand name effectively. Drawn from Guy Kawasaki‘s book, The Art of the Start.

Facebook blah blah blah. Terms of Service blah blah privacy blah blah – yes, it was the latest bandwagon issue for the last couple of days. Consumerist blog has some helpful updates on its initial post about this kerfuffle, including some clarifications from the Facebookers.

Can you learn anything about social media marketing from a puppy?

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(Image credit – created via Spell with Flickr)

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Five in the Morning After, 110508

It’s over. And I’ll bet a lot of folks aren’t getting up anywhere close to 5 in the morning!

Truth be told, I wasn’t up then either. Closer to 6 am. But here are your 5 fresh posts to start the day…

MarketingShift brings us two interesting lessons. British Airways finds out about the power of social networking (and not in a good way). And, by seeking to “do good” with free election day giveaways, did some companies “do wrong”? Didn’t see this one coming…(I did get a free cup of Starbucks yesterday…does that make me and a few million others accessories to a felony?)

Rohit Bhargava gives us a nice visual on how one Obama branding strategy was quite effective. I agree with him, though I am usually more of a branding/logo “purist” – what do you think?

Rick Turoczy drinks some Juice. Have you tried it yet? I plan to!

Seth Godin summarizes some interesting marketing lessons (yes, with “tribe” angles) from the U.S. election.

The speed of Twitter. An interesting example from Mack Collier, along with a link to a good post from Mike Sansone.

PLUS: The power of a simple graphic. Really neat. From Todd And’s blog.

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Facebook: Share and Connect

TechCrunch takes FaceBook to task for its newly-minted tagline, conjecturing that it is the product of too many marketing meetings.

The new phrase, “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life” is actually quite accurate, and has a more “active” sense than the previous “Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you.” I prefer the new tagline because it explains what Facebook allows you to do, as opposed to what it is (plus, the term “social utility” is not so easy to digest for the newcomer).

The new tagline isn’t particular sexy or memorable, granted. But I’ve seen far worse.

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The “Brand” of Social Media

There’s a lot of hype – some of it, I’ll affectionately call “geek hype” – about social media applications. Frankly, I think a good bit of it is warranted. It’s not top-down-generated hype about some product, but it’s bottom-up enthusiasm and utilization of approaches that are changing the way we express ourselves and connect with others.

Many words and brand names have been bandied about in the past few years as this train has rushed down the tracks. MySpace. LinkedIn. Twitter. Facebook. Ning. UGM. Blogs, vlogs, podcasts. Even for the initiated, it’s almost impossible to keep up with the pace. It’s communication on steroids, with little or no barrier to entry!

But I can’t help thinking about those that are the “uninitiated.” The majority of people – many of them incredibly bright, motivated, creative, and personable – are not yet on this train. Why? Well, very likely, they simply don’t feel the need. They haven’t heard the story. And I can only conclude that, as in all marketing and pre-sales, we have a job to do.

When you peel beneath the frothy foam that sometimes obscures the view – what is it that we’re actually promoting here? Is there a main message, a key point, a striking metaphor, that sums up the social media phenomenon in all its parts? Or, as I always like to begin with my clients: What’s the point?

At the root, it’s a branding challenge. We have a veritable Babel of messages out there, from a (delightfully rich) explosion of blogs and platforms, yet I don’t know that we’re communicating all the effectively outside of our own echo chamber.

I don’t have an answer. But the question does keep coming back to me, and perhaps we can wrestle with it together. If you had to pick one message, one metaphor, one image, one story, that would nicely sum up a key point of this social media movement, what would it be? Feel free to share in the comments, or write your own post, or Twitter some ideas. It’s a discussion we need to have as a community.

(Also, check out Lewis Green’s post on a similar topic)

(Image credit)

Switching off the Beacon

Facebook finally owned up to the fact that they really did a poor job implementing Beacon, a “service” that provides way too much information about your buying habits (from the Wall Street Journal; subscription may be required):

After weeks of criticism over a new advertising program that was perceived as a privacy threat, Facebook Inc. has tweaked its privacy settings and offered a public apology from its chief executive — but advertisers remain wary.

The program, which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled last month, allows Facebook to track its users’ activities, such as purchases, on third-party Web sites that partner with the social-networking site and broadcast them to the users’ friends. For instance, Facebook users could receive messages telling them that a friend had bought a sweater on Overstock.com or a movie ticket on Fandango.com. Called Beacon, the program was intended to give advertisers a way “into the conversations between people,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.

But the program raised the ire of privacy advocates and users, who said Facebook didn’t clearly explain how users could prevent information from being shared and didn’t give them a way to opt out entirely. The advocacy organization MoveOn.org Civic Action, for one, formed a group complaining about the way Beacon had been implemented. As of yesterday afternoon, the group had close to 70,000 members.

In a Facebook blog, Mr. Zuckerberg yesterday wrote, “We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it.” He added that Facebook users can now adjust their privacy settings to opt out of the Beacon program entirely…more

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At least Mr. Zuckerberg did the right thing, made a plain-spoken apology, and reacted to the concerns by making changes.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why anyone would want to broadcast this much information about themselves – but then again, I don’t “get” Twitter for the same reason…

A New Face on Facebook

OK, I finally decided to hop on Facebook, and noticed this morning that Luc (Mindblob) Debaisieux just did as well.

For all of you “veteran” Facebookers…what are the three most important things to do on this platform to make the experience worthwhile?

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