Should You Use Facebook for Professional Networking?
As the largest social network, Facebook reports 2.13 billion monthly active users, a figure that grows by 14 percent each year. Most recently, its user base has become a broader representation of the general population, according to Pew Research, with 68% of US adults using it. In the 18-29 age range, 81% are on Facebook. Big deal, right? What’s surprising is that 78% of Americans ages 30-49 and 61% ages 50-69 are also on the social platform. The question that confounds many is, can Facebook be used to advance my career?
And if so, how?
Many users are already utilizing Facebook for professional and business networking, in addition to the social networking that Facebook is famous for.
Facebook Grows Up
Though the gap is closing, millennials grew up with Facebook and use it more frequently than Gen X and baby boomers. Therefore, using it for professional networking is a more natural process. Whereas, for most people who have been in the workplace for decades, LinkedIn is the more straightforward platform to use. It is strictly for professional purposes and has far fewer features than that of Facebook, making it ideal for the technologically challenged.
But there is no question that, if used appropriately, Facebook can have a very positive, and arguably, a much more significant impact on your career goals. In fact, Facebook, not LinkedIn has become the professional networking platform of choice for high-level business people, including Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman and T-Mobile CEO John Legere. And with access to an audience of 2.13 billion, they’d be remiss not to. Moreover, Facebook’s expansion of the work and education section and its myriad of new features including live video has also lured professionals.
Facebook Gifts and Widgets
When comparing Facebook’s range of features to that of LinkedIn’s, there is a clear winner from a social perspective. With Facebook, one can send digital gifts, poke friends, and create event pages, widgets, and tools for countless other applications. Learning how to use these features properly can be overwhelming, especially for those who aren't Facebook savvy. Therein lies the dilemma for those who wish to both simplify and keep their personal life separate from their work life.
However, you don’t necessarily need all those features when you are job searching. From a business perspective, LinkedIn is the site most employers use to source candidates, and it’s the site a recruiter will check first to learn more about your professional credentials.
The Line Between Social and Professional Networking
The line between social and professional networking can get blurry, and knowing when to draw it is critical to advancing your career. If you're careful about what you share and use your connections wisely, social media can be an excellent tool to both build your career and decide what party you want to go to or movie to watch – a win-win!
Facebook users, particularly i-Gen and millennials, who use the platform for both personal and professional purposes should be diligent about what content (e.g., photos, videos, status updates, etc.) they allow prospective clients, employers, or business partners to see. Fortunately, you can selectively hide specific content from Facebook friends by adjusting your privacy settings.
Promote and personalize your professional brand by posting informative articles, inspiring photos and videos, and engaging with your audience on a personal level. But don’t post just anything – be tactical, selective, and authentic for greater impact. For those of you who want to build your life lifestyle brand, you’ll probably be more open than other professionals, but still practice discretion when sharing what you’re doing, thinking, or feeling.
Tips For Using Facebook for Professional Networking
If you do decide to use the social networking sites for professional networking, and, a word of warning, some experts suggest that Facebook and business don't mix well, here are some suggestions on how best to utilize it:
- Are you willing to devote at least five hours a week creating and posting content to grow your personal brand? When first navigating the complex world of Facebook networking, you’ll need to spend more time figuring out what strategies are work best for business growth and creating opportunities. If the answer you have neither the desire nor bandwidth, then just stick with LinkedIn.
- If you are a business owner or hope to start one, the benefits of having a page or group for your business are two-fold: you separate your personal and professional life and can create a lot of positive exposure.
- Consultants (e.g., personal trainers, life/health coaches) should use their profiles to network. If you do, your profile picture should be clean and ideally, professionally shot.
- Create a simple profile (or clean up with your existing one) with minimal graphics and widgets.
- Limit the photos you post to only those that are both relevant to your personal brand and could potentially advance your goals. So, please no mirror selfies.
- Post content relevant to your job search or career.
- Use Facebook messaging to build relationships with your Friends.
- Choose your Facebook Friends wisely, and remember that they can see information about your other Friends in your Profile.