Facebook is a place to interact with friends and family online. It’s great for sharing sharing holiday snaps and video clips from your iPhone with your social circle. But there is more to Facebook, everyone from Goldman Sachs to Aaron Sorkin have realized this already.
Why use Facebook for professional networking?
Facebook has grown rapidly and now boasts some 900 million users globally. It has become a perfect platform for B2C (business to consumer) marketing, providing very targeted advertising opportunities based on user’s likes and associations.
Facebook is slowly moving towards a more professional and more career oriented service. They have recently introduced changes to personal profiles, giving more space to work and education information. Employers have checked applicants on Facebook for years, and most people Google you before meetings and your Facebook profile is likely to come up in searches.
The way people use Facebook is different to that of two years ago. As you get friend requests from colleagues, customers and managers it’s no longer strictly that social network. This means there is a case for branding oneself on Facebook just like we have always been doing on LinkedIn.
So let’s cut to the chase, how do you use Facebook for professional networking?
1. Set your vanity URL
This is the first thing you will want to do to brand yourself, a vanity URL is basically your customized domain on Facebook. Instead of facebook.com/e2434h394oij you can get facebook.com/joeshmoe. Note that this new vanity URL will double as your Facebook email address, it will become joeshmoe (at) facebook.com. Go to the Customized URL page on Facebook and set yours now.
2. Check your privacy settings
You will inevitably get friend requests from people you know professionally. Do you want these to see all your pictures and videos? If not, you can either choose to hide them from all users but a list that you set up. Or you can create different groups of friends which will have different access to your full profile.
3. Get a professional picture
Will your Facebook picture pass the granny test? If not, upload the same one you use on LinkedIn. Some people will disagree with me on this and say that you should give visitors a unique Facebook experience – this is fine, just as long as it’s not harmful to your brand.
As a rule I would say the picture should be related to what type of person you are, being an authentic representation of your personal brand. If you are on the summit of Kilimanjaro in your profile picture, you had better be into your mountaineering in other words.
4. Fill in professional details
You may have noticed that Facebook have ‘promoted’ professional information on personal profiles. The first text after your name is now about what you do for a living, perhaps because Facebook is gearing up to lock horns with its smaller professional rival LinkedIn.
Put your company’s name in the box and also try to state what you do (and not what you are). This means don’t use a title like ‘consultant’ when you could say “managing large scale IT projects in the public sector” – which is a great deal clearer. And don’t forget to put your schools and university on there as well as you can be found through these by old class mates (and that’s hopefully a good thing).
5. Use BranchOut as the LinkedIn of Facebook
Just to confuse you further, Facebook has a decent third part application called BranchOut which is all about professional networking on the Facebook platform. The benefit of BranchOut is that it allows you to search your contacts and their contacts based on company. Let’s say you want to apply for a job at IBM, if you search for people in your network working for IBM they might be able to introduce you to the hiring manager. You can also recommend people on BranchOut and it’s really like a Mini-Me version of LinkedIn.
It’s easy to get set up on BranchOut, all you do is importing the details of your CV, bio and LinkedIn profile and job’s a good’n as they say. BranchOut hasn’t really taken off yet but I notice more and more of my Facebook friends joining up.
6. Add your Blog RSS
Nowadays every man and his dog have are blogging so I will assume you have a blog somewhere on the interwebs. This could be your own blog or one that you contribute to. To ensure that your friends and network see your updates you can plug in the Social RSS feed straight to your profile wall. This saves time having to share things manually and most people really enjoy reading your blog posts.
7. Useful status updates please
Instead of sharing pictures of lol-cats, try to update your status with something useful and informative. This could be an article about your industry or business in general or a quote from Richard Branson. You are really then showcasing what you read and where your interests lie; exactly what a potential customer or employer wants to see. Yes it could possibly bore your friends but they will forgive you for wanting to be a personal brand success.
8. Time to quit the games
I would advise you drop Farmville, Mafia Wars and any other games you are active in on Facebook. The fact that you have time to play games every day on Facebook reflects poorly on your brand, you don’t want a potential customer, employer, investor or partner to see this. Keep your games off Facebook to be safe.
9. Look into Groups and Pages
Facebook Groups have fewer commercial features than Facebook Pages, but they are still very useful especially for online communities. Use a Facebook group to bring people together in your field, become a valuable contributor to that community and promote yourself and your company. Facebook Groups let you share pictures, video and links just like a normal account but it’s all within the group. Another benefit of groups is that they allow you to email all group members very easily (this is not the case for Pages).
Facebook Pages are for brands, ranging from Coca Cola to Rolls-Royce and even Brand You. These pages are similar to your normal profile but slightly less personal and better suited for a public persona and indeed a job seeker. You get full access to analytics tools on your Page, allowing you to see what people click on and how they interact. Another benefit is that your page will rank high for your name in search engines like Bing and Google and you can use it for your professional career, keeping your personal profile locked down.
10. Use Facebook events
Just like LinkedIn, Facebook has a good events engine allowing you to write up and invite people. This means you can put on an industry event, how about a networking evening relevant to your field? Open it up to the public and you will find that new people join up and help out with the organization of things. By running events you will be positioned as a leader in your field which is obviously handy for your personal brand success. Check out Facebook Events for more.
What is your best networking tip on Facebook? Please share your experience!