How to Use Facebook to Build Your Professional Network

by Vault Education Editors | September 08, 2010

  • My Vault

A while back, I wrote a post on how social media can affect your career. Basically, that post was all about damage control:

Step 2: Figure out whether you have a problem on your hands. If any or all of your social media outlets are both (a) public and (b) contain information or, even worse, documentation of previous misdeeds that don't exactly speak to what a lovely, employable person you are, then you definitely have a problem.

I'm sure you've followed my advice to a tee, assiduously checking all your "Friends Only " and "Only Me" buttons, and protecting those tweets like your life depended on it. But many of you may not want to keep it that way. You may think to yourself that the entire purpose of social media is its public nature, that it connects you with the outside world. I hear you. But you have to do it right. To find out how, I decided to ask my Facebook friend, former Vault employee and social media guru Sara Madsen for her advice on how to create a healthy online persona:

Sara Madsen, social media guru, Facebook page

First of all, can you give me a general idea of how you have used Facebook to enhance your career?

I have used Facebook to further connect with people I met at events or out with friends. Before I got my job at appssavvy, for example, I connected with the employees here and got to know their profiles. I was then able to reach out and ask them questions about office culture, which really helped me prepare for my first day here. Since I work in social media, it's totally kosher to reach out to people in my professional and social circles via Facebook. In all honesty, I am unsure how I would connect and stay in touch with my professional group of 'friends' without it. I think Facebook enables people who might not otherwise to get to know you. You can endear yourself in a way that might go unnoticed in traditional face-to-face networking. I mean, my interests are vast, and I would never have enough time in one physical interaction to get that out.

How much do you try to self-censor on Facebook? Would your profile be different if it were completely private and you only used it to connect with friends and family?

Again, I am lucky enough to work in an arm of media/advertising that does not frown upon, but rather encourages, you to be as free as you want to be through social media. Do I publish photos of myself dancing on tops of bars? No, but I really don't let anyone take my photo if I am dancing on the top of a bar either. You can tell by my interests and photos posted that I don't really censor at all. I don't think that I would change a thing about what I present to the world, be it professionally or friendly. But I definitely need to be in a very specific industry that jives with my interests. I think if I were a buttoned-up lady who worked in finance, yes, I would either have a very different profile or privatize more information. But I have no intention of going that route.

How do you communicate on Facebook? Is it just via Facebook messages, or do you do other things as well?

I use all possible forms of communication on Facebook and for those people who don't, they are doing themselves a disservice. I communicate with my friends, past clients from Vault, and new clients here at appssavvy. It's a good way to keep things light and build a relationship with people. We can have a friendly conversation about a new page I LIKED and then get on the phone at work and have a business conversation. I think it makes people more comfortable to do business with a real person.

How do you approach a potential employer or client on Facebook?

While I have never approached a potential employer on Facebook, I have initiated Facebook friendship with potential co-workers by simply friending them and sending them a Facebook message. I kept it pretty simple and said that I was interested in learning a little bit more about the culture of the company and their role in the business. Then, I used their response and profile as a barometer for what the company culture might be, given that they have employed that particular individual.

The clients that I have included as my friends on Facebook are of a certain mindset--people I have met through networking events that I know I want to keep up with on Facebook. More and more, and especially in advertising, clients are friends! We go out and develop relationships and it's easy to keep up with each other on Facebook; you know when their birthdays are and what they are up to. It helps foster a relationship where both parties are easily approachable, which makes the business relationship that much easier as well.

What makes Facebook a particularly useful social platform when it comes to networking?

There are three social platforms that EVERYONE uses to connect with friends and network with professionals--Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn--and they all have their unique attributes. Twitter is a quick-and-dirty platform to share news and event updates; LinkedIn is an authoritative, professional environment where you can link with past colleagues, friends and other business partners and share recommendations and employment history; and Facebook can do all of that and more. Facebook is such an important networking tool because you can become a real, relatable person to people, which helps build relationships that can help your career and your business.

How do you keep people checking and posting to your Facebook profile?

The key is to make sure you are always in the stream. Facebook has created two different views of your feed--the default being the most popular 'Top News' updates--so that as long as you are active, you always get flushed to the top of all of your friends' feeds. Of course, to keep people commenting, you should always update with something compelling, not simply "I'm at work." Maybe repost a Twitter link or something from an article you've read or a great idea you have. That way, you can keep the conversation going.

Wow--is that Ben Stiller in one of your profile pictures? How did that happen?

Hahaha! I was actually at Pete's Tavern with some friends around Christmas time and Ben was there with Bill Hader having dinner and I just waited for them to walk by and asked if I could have a photo. What's so funny is that Bill started to get out of the way and I was like, NO! Bill you have to be in the photo too! And he looked at me and said "JACKPOT!" and stood for the photo. I am not a huge fan of how I look in this photo but who cares! That's Bill Hader and Ben Stiller!

What advice would you give someone trying to use Facebook to find a job or network?

I would definitely tell them that the rules of using Facebook professionally are on a spectrum. At one end, you can be totally yourself and let your flag fly and on the other end you need to set your profile to uber-private so the vultures can't get you. Working in social media, most anything goes. I mean, don't post photos and updates about doing body shots over the weekend. Well, I guess go for it if that's your thing, but be prepared to be called out on it! If you are using Facebook to advance/enhance your career, you should make sure that what people can search and see when they find you paints you in the best possible light and makes you a viable, valuable candidate for any job you are up for. I would also suggest that people check friends' walls often, I post hiring updates all the time. Our company hires mainly off of referrals. We don't have a headhunter or recruiter, but we don't need one since we have a platform where these very smart appssavvians can reach out to their equally smart friends via Facebook and let them know that we are hiring, and we want you.

--Written by Madison Priest

Filed Under: Education

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