How to Limit Visibility of Facebook Timeline Items

Now that it’s easy to go back in time to see what you posted on Facebook, are you sure you want everything visible?

Facebook’s new Timeline feature puts every update, photo, event, and detail in your life that you’ve shared on Facebook into a reverse chronologically displayed listing. Here’s what mine looks like today:

Facebook Timeline

At the top of your profile page is a “cover photo” and your profile picture. Beneath that is information about you, your work, and your relationships. After a box containing a few of your friends, you’ll find every single item you’ve ever posted to Facebook.

To make it easier for someone to zero in on a particular date in your past, they can drag a slider on the right side of the page. So if you’ve been posting on Facebook for a few years, people can go back in time to see the Halloween party photo when you dressed up like a hooker or your rant about your old boss or the details about the honeymoon cruise with your ex-husband. Intermingled with this stuff is details about your new jobs, vacations, check ins, and other life events you thought (at the time, anyway) were important enough to share with “friends” — or the public at large — on Facebook.

With your Facebook history so easily accessible — possibly to the general public (which is Facebook’s default setting for updates) — people can get a real idea of what you’re all about now and in the past. If you care at all about what people think of you, you probably want to examine your Timeline and make sure it shows only what you want to show — and only to the people you want to see it.

If you think you’re revealing a bit more than you want to in your Facebook Timeline, there are a few things you can do:

  • Limit AccessTo limit access to a specific post, click the Edit (pencil) icon at the top of it and choose one of the options that appears. Not all options appear for all items, but you can usually hide an item from your timeline or delete it. It’s interesting to note that if you’ve posted many items on Facebook that you regret — think drunk party photos or emotional rants — you’ll have to find and delete them one-by-one. (Have fun with that.)
  • Limit AudienceTo limit access to all of your past posts, go into Facebook Privacy settings and click the “Manage Past Post Visibility” link. Then click the Limit Old Posts button in the dialog that appears to make old posts accessible to Friends only. Doing this prevents random individuals from seeing old posts. Keep in mind that this is not reversible.
  • Limit Post VisibilityTo limit visibility to items as you post them to Facebook, use the pop-up menu at the bottom of the Update box to choose the visibility option you want. Public makes it visible to everyone. Remember, you can also limit visibility based on lists that you create and maintain on your own.
  • Default PrivacyTo set the default visibility setting for new items you post on Facebook — so you don’t need to remember to choose an option for each post — go into Facebook Privacy settings and select one of the Default Privacy options. If you choose Custom, you can specify which list can see the posts and specify people and lists who can’t see the posts. You can override this option for each item as you post it.

Keep in mind that the best way to keep details of your life private is to not share them at all — especially on Facebook.

Photos from Facebook

Use your Facebook photo galleries on your WordPress-based site.

This past summer, I built a simple WordPress-based website for a friend of mine’s business. A designer/developer wanted $8K to build the site and he just couldn’t see spending that much money. While I know that the site I built for him isn’t nearly as polished as what the designers would have created, it certainly meets his primary needs: to provide basic information about his business to people who need it. You can see and judge for yourself here.

WordPress is an excellent tool for building Web sites. What I like about it is that once the site has been set up with the design and features needed, anyone with Admin access can modify its contents. That means that when he has a price change or hours change or some other change, he can go in and change it for himself. No need to bug me or wait for me to get around to it.

But what’s even better than that is the multitude of plugins available to add or enhance content.

Here’s an example. My friend has had a Facebook presence for some time now and his company is “liked” by a considerable number of people. They frequently check in to see what’s new. Yesterday, I helped him add about 10 photos of some work he’s been doing. The photos on Facebook were a big hit with his Facebook friends. I wanted to add the photos to his website. I poked around the plugin directory at WordPress.org and found one called Facebook Page Photo Gallery. This was even better than I’d hoped: it would take the photos I’d already uploaded to Facebook and present them on his WordPress-based site.

I decided to test it here before I went live on his site. I soon discovered that it works only with public photo galleries on Facebook — which meant it would not work with my personal Wall photos. (It probably would if I could figure out how to tweak the settings on Facebook, but I really don’t think it’s worth the bother.) It would, however, work with the Wall photos for Flying M Air‘s Facebook page. And it worked very well, as you can see here:

[fbphotos id=427099432352 limit=12 rand=1]

Did you notice that when you point to an image, it displays the caption?

This is a huge time-saver for me. Rather than have to re-upload and arrange the photos on the website, I can enter a WordPress shortcode with a few variables and a wonderful image display is created automatically. What else could I ask for?

How to Automatically Post Your Google Calendar Events to Twitter

Get those events tweeted automatically when you create them.

I recently helped a friend set up a new Web site for his small but growing winery. I also set him up with Google Calendar and a WordPress plugin so he could create events and have them appear on his site’s sidebar in a calendar. You can see how this looks at BeaumontCellars.com as well as on one of my sites, FlyingMAir.com.

Although he’s not exactly “computer savvy,” he does do a lot of texting with his iPhone. So I set him up with Twitter and linked his Twitter account to his winery’s Facebook page. He can tweet what’s going on and its automatically posted to his Facebook page’s wall. This has been a huge help for him because it makes it so easy to update Facebook, where he has quite a few fans.

The next logical step was to have his Google Calendar events posted on Twitter so they could also get posted on Facebook. After a little bit of research and experimentation, I came up with this method.

Step 1: Create and Configure Your Google Calendar

The first step is to set up your Google calendar for sharing and copy the link for the calendar’s RSS feed.

  1. If you don’t already have a Google account, set one up and log in.
  2. Go to google.com/calendar. You may have to follow additional instructions to create and access your calendar; just follow the prompts that appear onscreen.
  3. If necessary, create a calendar to share events with Twitter.
  4. Calendar MenuIn the list of calendars on the left side of the window, point to the calendar you want to share and click the menu button that appears. A pop-up menu offers options.
  5. Choose Share this Calendar.

  6. Make PublicIn the page that appears, make sure the check box marked “Make this calendar public” is toggled on.
  7. Click the Calendar Details link.

  8. Calendar AddressScroll down to the Calendar Address area.

  9. Calendar AddressClick the XML button. A Calendar Address dialog pops up with the address for your calendar.
  10. Right-click the link and choose Copy Link from the menu that appears. The link is now in the clipboard so it can be pasted elsewhere.
  11. Close the Calendar Address dialog.

Step 2: Set Up the Feed in TwitterFeed

Next, you’ll set up the calendar’s feed in TwitterFeed.

  1. If you don’t already have a TwitterFeed account, go to TwitterFeed.com to set one up and log in.
  2. In the Feed Dashboard window, click the Create New Feed button. The New Feed screen appears.
  3. Name Feed and Add SourceIn the Feed Name box, enter any name you like for the calendar feed.
  4. Click in the Blog URL or RSS Feed URL box to position the insertion point there and press Command-V (Mac OS) or Control-V (Windows)-V to paste in the calendar address you copied to the clipboard in step 10 above.
  5. Click the test rss feed button. A green message “Feed parsed OK” should appear. (If it doesn’t, you’ll need to make sure the link you copied is correct and try again.)
  6. Make sure the Active Check box is turned on.
  7. Click Advanced Settings to display additional options.
  8. You can set these options as you see fit. My suggestions are as follows:
    • Choose Title from the pop-up menu in the Post Content area. (Remember, tweets are short; the description probably won’t fit within the 140 character limitation.)
    • Make sure the Post Link check box is turned on in the Post Content area.
    • Enter “New Event:” in the Post Prefix box.
  9. Click Continue to Step 2.
  10. In the Feed Publishing screen, click the Twitter link.
  11. Choose Twitter AccountChoose an account under Authenticated Twitter Account or, if the account is not listed, click the Authenticate Twitter button to log into the Twitter account you want to use.
  12. Click the Create Service button. After a moment, the name of your Twitter account appears beside the Twitter link, along with an checked Active check box.
  13. If you wanted to post to other social networking services, you can use their links to set them up.
  14. When you’re finished, click the All Done button.

Step 3: Test

Finally, test to make sure it works as expected.

  1. Go back to your Google Calendar and, if necessary, log in.
  2. Create a calendar event. Be sure to set the date and time and include a description. If you have more than one Google calendar, be sure to assign the event to the calendar you’re sharing with Twitter.
  3. Sign out of Google. You want to be able to check the event and see it as anyone else would.
  4. Tweet
    Monitor your Twitter account. If you did not make any changes to the frequency setting on Twitter Feed, the event should be posted to your Twitter account within 30 minutes.

  5. Event DetailsClick the link in the tweet. A Google Calendar page with the details you set for the event appears in a browser window.

Conclusion

To me, there’s a huge benefit it being able to post something one place and have it appear automatically in others. Using a tool like TwitterFeed to connect Twitter to RSS feeds is a great way to automate Twitter posting for your Web site or business.

Get more from your software.Want to learn more about using Twitter? Learn online at Lynda.com. Recently revised and expanded, my Twitter Essential Training course includes more than three hours of video training material that’ll help you get more out of Twitter. Check it out. If you’re not a Lynda.com subscriber, be sure to visit to try some of the free videos. I think you’ll be hooked.

How to Hide Farmville (and other Annoying Games) from Your Facebook News Feed

This should make Facebook a little more bearable for people who use it for business.

I just got back on Facebook. It was a tough decision. What helped make it tolerable to go back to Facebook was my discovery that I could hide posts related to Farmville, Mafia Wars, and other time-sucking games I really couldn’t care less about.

It’s easy:

  1. In your News Feed window, when you see a post about a game you don’t care about, point to it. A Hide button appears.
    Hide Button
  2. Click Hide.
  3. The item disappears and is replaced with a series of buttons like the ones shown here. Click the button to hide the game.
    Click Hide
  4. A note like the one shown here appears. Ignore it and it will go away.
    It's Gone

From that point on, you won’t get any posts related to that game.

Five Tips for Composing a More Effective Social Networking Bio

Is yours saying what you really want to say?

I’m a member of several social networking services: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Flickr, Yahoo Groups, etc.

All social networks have the same idea when it comes to setting up your account. You provide information about yourself in a “bio.” The maximum length of a bio can vary from site to site. Twitter, on the low end, allows only 160 characters. LinkedIn has no maximum length. Other services fit in between.

Your bio is your primary way to tell people who don’t know you what you’re all about. If they’re heard about you from someone else or stumbled upon one of your Twitter tweets or Facebook wall posts, they might be interested in learning more. They might even want to become your . . . wait for it . . . friend.

Whatever.

The point is, they’ll start with your bio to learn more about you, so it’s in your best interest to create a good one.

Here are some tips for creating an online bio for social networking:

  • Be brief. This is required on Twitter, which allows only 160 characters. As such, you’ll need to keep the text tight and specific. Lists usually work well here. Even if the service allows longer bios, don’t get carried away. Start off with the basics — the “must-know” info about you. Then expand in additional paragraphs. Nobody is going to slog through hundreds of words just to decide whether you’re someone they want to follow or be friends with.
  • Be accurate. Include the things that are important to you, keeping in mind the audience of the social networking service. The things you put on a Twitter or Facebook bio are likely to be very different from the ones you put in a LinkedIn bio, since the services are set up for different purposes. Don’t make stuff up. If you have to make up things about who you are, you really need to step away from the computer and get a life.
  • Be meaningful. Sure, lots of folks think it’s cute or cool to have a one-line bio with some spiffy saying, possibly snatched from a punch line in a movie. If a movie-one liner describes you to a stranger, I’m impressed by the shallowness of your character. The folks I want to know tend to be a bit deeper.
  • Be aware of turn-off words. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be friends with anyone who is a self-proclaimed guru or expert. These are words that other people should apply to you — not words you apply to yourself. Other turn-off words vary from person to person. If you are a woman and describe yourself as “sexy,” a heterosexual woman like me is not going to be impressed. But a teenaged boy or a lesbian might.
  • Be aware of providing too much personal information. Do we need to know that you’re rebuilding your life after a divorce? Or that you’re a recovered alcoholic? And while you might be proud to be a “Christ follower,” when you include that in your bio, you shouldn’t expect to make many friends with people who aren’t fundamentalist Christians or not religious at all.

Learn it all.Think of your bio as bait on a fishing line. Who will it attract? But, at the same time, how many people will ultimately be disappointed by the mismatch between what your bio says about you and who you really are?

What do you like or hate about things people put in their social networking bios? Use the comments for this post to share your thoughts.