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Facebook has over a billion users. It’s the second-most popular website in the world behind Google, and it pioneered the social media craze.
But do you know how to use it?
Whether you’re baffled by all the changes or are just signing up for a Facebook account, we’ll show you everything you need to use Facebook.
Note: This guide covers using Facebook on the web. You can, of course, browse Facebook on mobile too. Many of these instructions apply to the smartphone apps, though certain elements appear in different places.
1. Facebook Basics and Getting Started
Let’s discuss some basics of what Facebook is and get you set up with your own account.
What Is Facebook?
Facebook is the most popular social networking site today. It allows you to connect with friends from all over the world and share text updates, photos, videos, and more. You control what you share with others, and can follow public interest accounts to get their updates too.
Much more than simple social networking, Facebook is also a platform. It hosts all kinds of apps and games, and you can sign into tons of sites and services across the web using your Facebook account. Groups let people of similar interests organize, and Facebook Messenger is a robust messaging platform that provides an alternative to SMS.
How Much Does Facebook Cost?
Facebook is free and will never charge you to use it. Any posts or notices you see about Facebook starting to cost money (or other tired hoaxes) are untrue.
However, just because Facebook doesn’t have a price tag doesn’t mean you aren’t giving up anything to use it. Facebook makes an astronomical amount of money from advertising, and it tracks your habits and interests to serve you more relevant ads.
How Do I Sign Up?
Visit Facebook’s signup page. Provide your first and last name, email address or phone number, and a password (make sure it’s strong). You’ll also need to provide your birthday, which Facebook uses to “make sure you get the right Facebook experience for your age”. We’ll cover hiding this and other sensitive information soon.
Select your gender, then choose Create Account.
Next, Facebook wants to help you find friends right away. From here, you can click your name at the top of the screen anytime to skip the Getting Started steps and jump right in.
You’ll see prompts to check your Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, or other email account for friends’ email addresses. Click the Find Friends button underneath your email address for suggestions, and hit Next when done.
Facebook then asks you to add your mobile number. If you don’t mind providing it, this is a good idea as you can use it to recover your account if you ever lose access. Enter your country code and phone number, then click Add Phone Number. Facebook will send you a text to confirm. Click Next when done.
Finally, Facebook will bring you to a page with a few elements like finding friends, reviewing privacy settings, and adding a profile picture. You can complete these now, but we’ll cover them in this guide as well.
To confirm your account, open your email and find a message from Facebook. Click the Confirm Your Account button and you’re all set.
2. The Basics of Using Facebook
Now that you have an account, let’s go over the essentials like adding a profile picture, finding friends, and posting status updates.
Add a Profile Picture
Before you add friends, you should set a profile picture for your account. Due to the amount of spam on Facebook, someone might think you’re a fake account if you don’t use a real photo.
Visit your profile page by clicking your name in the top bar. To the left of your name, mouse over the generic photo and select Update Profile Picture to set a good one. You can choose a picture you’ve already uploaded to Facebook, but as a new account, you won’t have any. Thus you should click Upload Photo and choose a picture of you from your PC.
Depending on the season, you might see some Frames that you can add to your picture. These include sports teams, holiday celebrations, and the like. If you use a frame, you can automatically switch back to your old profile picture after a time.
Add a Cover Photo
Your cover photo at the top of your Timeline isn’t as important as your profile photo, but it’s still an easy way to dress up your page. Mouse over the camera icon in the top-left corner of the blank photo and select Update Cover Photo. Since you don’t have any pictures on Facebook yet, select Upload Photo… and add a new picture from your computer.
Facebook recommends a resolution of 851 x 315 pixels for your cover photo, but you can use other image sizes. If it doesn’t fit, you’ll have to drag it around to position it how you like.
Make Some Friends
Now that you’ve got your basic photos in order, you should start to add some friends. Chances are that many people you know in real life are on Facebook, so you can search for them using Facebook’s search bar at the top of every page. If you’ve linked your email account when you created your Facebook account, you’ll also see suggestions from your contacts.
Visit someone’s page, and click the Add Friend button to send them a friend request. They’ll have to accept it before you become friends. When they do, you’ll see a notification in the Friends tab on your notification bar.
Speaking of which, this tab also includes People You May Know, which will update as you add more friends. It’s a great place to find more people, especially if they don’t come to mind right away.
Flesh Out Your Profile
While your profile picture is vital, you can add lots of other information to your Facebook profile as well. Adding items such as where you went to school or where you work can help you find people you know and helps others to identify you easily. You might want to think twice about adding potentially sensitive information though.
To add more info, visit your profile (click your name on the top bar) and click About. Then you can browse through the various tabs like Overview, Work and Education, and Family and Relationships. Mouse over anything you want to change and click Edit [Item] to change it.
For each item, you can set the audience you want to share it with. These are universal Facebook icons, and help you prevent providing too much info. For example, you might wish to share your birth date and month with your friends, but prevent anyone from seeing the year you were born so they don’t know how old you are. Select the icon dropdown next to the item you’re editing, and choose the right audience for that element.
To test how your profile looks to someone else, click the three-dot button at the bottom of your cover photo and select View as… This shows what your profile looks like to the public. You can click View as Specific Person at the top of the page to see what a particular friend sees on your profile.
Post a Status Update
Facebook is built around sharing life with your friends, and posting updates is the main way to do this. While viewing Facebook’s main page (the News Feed) or viewing your profile, you can click inside the Make Post box to create a status update.
The most basic status updates only include text — just type out what’s on your mind and click Post to share. For a bit more flair, you can use one of the weird patterns below the text box to place your post on a background. This only works for short posts, though.
That’s far from the only option that you have when posting a status, though. Check the below items for more ways to share:
- Photo/Video: Add one or more images or videos to your post.
- Check in: Tag your current location to share what you’re up to.
- Feeling/Activity: Describe what’s going on. First, choose a descriptor like Thinking about, Watching, or Playing. Then, complete the phrase, using your own words or one of Facebook’s preset phrases, such as Thinking about > Someone special, Watching > Wonder Woman, or Playing > Basketball.
- Tag Friends: Add friends’ names to your post to share that you’re with them. This will allow their friends to see the post, even if you aren’t friends with them.
- GIF: Type a search query to add the perfect GIF to your post.
- Sticker: Enjoy some modern-day clipart and add a cheesy sticker to your post.
- Ask for Recommendations: Ask your friends for the best businesses. We’ve covered all you need to know about this recommendation feature already.
- Poll: Ask a question, set possible answers, and specify how long you want the poll to last. Those who see the poll can vote and you’ll be able to see the results at the end. Note that polls can only have two answers, though.
- Support Nonprofit: Select a charity, and your friends can use the Donate button to support your chosen organization.
- Answer a Question: Get a random question like “If I could spend the day with any athlete, I would spend it with…” and add your answer.
- Tag Event: Add an event to your post to let others know you’re attending.
If you want to add several photos, consider clicking Photo/Video Album at the top of the status box instead. This lets you name the album, let friends contribute, order the photos, and more — which is great if they’re all from the same event. Make sure you have your photo privacy settings in order.
You can also use the Live Video to go live with your friends. This requires you to have a webcam connected to your PC.
Interacting With Friends’ Posts
As you scroll through your News Feed, you’ll see your friends’ recent posts. If you want to show your appreciation for something, click Like to give it a thumbs-up. Others will be able to see that you’ve done this.
Facebook has added more reaction options for when a Like isn’t appropriate. Mouse over the Like button for a moment, and you can react with Love, Laughing, Wow, Sad, or Angry. For instance, you can use Sad to show support for a friend announcing the loss of a loved once since a Like doesn’t send the right message.
Click Comment to add your thoughts to the post. If you want your friends to see a post, click the Share button and choose if you want to share it on your own timeline, in a message, or on a friend’s timeline.
Follow Public Pages
We’ve talked plenty about interacting with your friends’ posts, but haven’t touched on another big part of Facebook: public pages. Companies or anyone with a brand (like MakeUseOf) can create a Page that isn’t a personal account. You don’t add these as friends. Rather, you can Like and Follow them to get updates.
The best way to find some pages to like is by searching. Type the name of a website, band, company, or public figure you like into the search bar and see if they have an official page. If you see a blue check mark next to its name, that means Facebook has verified the page as legitimate.
Click Like to add the page to your list of likes, which will also follow the page. If you want, you can also click Follow without liking the page. From now on, you’ll see updates from that page just like you see status updates from friends.
Using Facebook Messenger
The last major Facebook feature you must know is Facebook Messenger. It’s a messaging app, similar to WhatsApp or Telegram. Click the Messenger icon in between the notification and friend tabs in the top bar to access it. Chose New Message to start chatting with a friend, or click an existing message to re-open it in a small window.
If you want to use Messenger full-screen, click See All in Messenger to open the full Messenger page. Click a contact on the left sidebar or use the search bar above your recent conversations to find a friend. On the right sidebar, you can change settings for the current chat, including notifications, colors, and nicknames.
Facebook Messenger holds a lot more than it first appears, so check out the best Messenger features in your chats.
3. Exploring Facebook’s Major Features
Once you’ve got the basics down, you can get into some of Facebook’s other offerings. We’ll sample some of the most useful functions here, but there are many more that are less prominent. You’ll find links to all these along the left side of your homepage. Many are under the Explore header.
Facebook Groups allow you to bring together people with similar interests. You might make a group for your work colleagues, a committee you’re on, or just a group of people who like memes. You can also use the Discover tab to find new groups that you might have an interest in.
Visit the Groups home to see the groups you’re in or create a new one. In a group, use the tabs on the left to see its members, view basic information about it, or check out recent posts.
If you create a group, you’ll need to specify a name and add some people to it. Use the arrows along the top to get a group suggestion, such as [Workplace] Friends or Family Group.
You’ll also need to set the group’s privacy. Three options exist for this:
- Public Group: Anyone can view the group, who’s in it, and the posts in the group.
- Closed Group: Anyone can see the group and who’s in it, but only members can see posts.
- Secret Group: Only members can find the group (it won’t appear in searches) and see posts.
Facebook has led the mobile gaming revolution, hosting hundreds of free and freemium games for you to enjoy. Visit the Games page to check some of them out. You’ll find casual favorites like Candy Crush Saga, Trivia Crack, and Words With Friends, along with plenty others.
One of Facebook’s recent additions, the Marketplace allows you to buy and sell goods with other users. Jump over to it and you’ll see the latest offers in your area. You can use the top tabs to change how far away it searches, filter by category or price, or show only free items.
Click a post to see pictures and other details that the seller has provided, and message them if desired. You can also save the post if you want to come back later.
If you’ve got something you’d like to offload, click the Sell Something button at the top. Choose whether it’s a car or any other item, then add some basic information about the item including a category, price, and photos. When someone is interested, they can use the contact button to send you a message on Facebook.
Remember to use caution when buying or selling in the Marketplace. Many of the tips for selling safely on Craigslist apply here too.
Select an event to see its location, date and time, and any updates from the organizer. Choose Going, Maybe, or Can’t Go to RSVP for events you’ve been invited to. For a public event, you can click the Interested button to subscribe to updates without committing.
Use the buttons on the right side to find events by category or date. You can also use the Birthdays tab to see who’s turning another year older soon. Click the Create Event button on the left to make your own. You can set it as Private, where only invited guests can see it, or Public, where anyone on Facebook can find it.
Events are a great way to let Facebook friends know about a party or get-together without sending out physical invitations.
4. Facebook Tips and Tricks
We now move to some tips for getting the most out of your time on Facebook.
Searching is one of the most important utilities you have on Facebook. If you can’t find something, just enter it into the search bar and see what comes up.
This brings up a wealth of information, including People, Posts, Photos, Pages, Apps, and Events. That means with one search, you can find a new friend, jump to a favorite game, search inside groups, and more. We’ve shared search tips (including some alternate search tools) to give you an even better chance of finding what you’re looking for.
Control Your Privacy
Facebook privacy is a massive discussion, and there are tons of settings you can use to fine-tune what you share. Luckily, our complete guide to Facebook privacy can show you everything you need to know.
Stay Secure and Tweak Settings
Facebook offers several settings that let you control security and other elements of your account. We’ve covered simple ways to keep your Facebook secure, along with how to block annoying invites and how to fix common Facebook issues.
Know What to Do in Case of Hacking
One of the most common issues among Facebook users is losing access to their accounts. Thus, it’s vital that you know how to check if someone else is using your Facebook account. If you do find out that someone broke into your account, you need to act immediately and follow the steps to recover your account.
But if you’d rather, you can also follow our guide to getting your account hacked.
Install Better Mobile Facebook Apps
Unlike Twitter, there really aren’t any great apps for using Facebook on Windows, Mac, or Linux. You’re best off just visiting Facebook in your browser of choice.
On your phone, it’s a different story. Both the Android and iOS versions of Facebook are infamous for sucking up your battery, using a ton of data, and requiring a lot of permissions. For most people, we recommend using an alternative app or just browsing the mobile website on your phone. It gives you most of the Facebook experience without all those drawbacks.
For Android users, we like Swipe for Facebook. This enhanced version of Facebook’s mobile page regularly receives updates, features cool themes, and even has support for notifications. If you’re on iOS, Friendly for Facebook is a good third-party alternative.
Facebook Messenger fanatics, meanwhile, should look at the best Messenger apps for both desktop and mobile.
Ready to Enjoy Facebook?
This isn’t an exhaustive guide to Facebook’s features, but it covers what you should know to make the most of your experience. Don’t get overwhelmed. Facebook regularly adds and removes features, and some part of “getting it” comes from using Facebook over time. But these basics should keep you covered for a long time to come.
For some drastic changes, check out the best extensions for transforming Facebook and why deleting your News Feed might be a great idea. And remember that social media can become addicting if you’re not careful.
Did this answer your questions about how Facebook works? What other elements of Facebook are you unsure about? Leave a comment to let us know, and be sure to share this guide so others can learn too!