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How to use Facebook as a professional networking tool

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by Jennifer Bridges  @JenBridgesRD

When people think about the best social media platform for professional networking, the one that usually comes to mind is LinkedIn, not Facebook. However, with 2.41 billion monthly active users—compared to LinkedIn’s 260 million—Facebook offers a broader base of people to connect with. 

However, if you’re going to use Facebook as a professional networking tool, you need to do it the right way. This means you’ve got to establish boundaries between your personal image and your professional one. The following are some smart ways to safely establish your online reputation and reach out to others in your industry via the platform.

Set up a separate friends list

If you’ve been using Facebook for years to stay in touch with close friends, you might wonder how you’re going to keep your personal network separate from your professional network. Luckily, Facebook lets you create different friend lists that you can use to restrict the audience for a post to a certain group. 

To create a new friend list:

  1. On your newsfeed, scroll down and click “Friend Lists” in the menu on the left. 
  2. Then click “+ Create List.” 
  3. Add a label like “Business” or “Professional.” 
  4. Select colleagues or professional networks from your current list of friends to add to the new list. 

This way, whenever you make a new Facebook friend, you can easily sort him or her into the appropriate list. And every time you post something new, you can just select which group of friends to share it with.

Check your privacy settings

When it comes to professional networking on Facebook, not locking down your privacy settings is one of the worst mistakes you can make. To prevent the wrong people from seeing your more candid Facebook moments, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Ensure “Who can see your future posts” is set to “Friends,” not “Public:” When the “Public” option is selected, anyone on the Internet can see what you post. To keep your posts private, click the down-arrow at the top right of your newsfeed and select “Settings.” Then choose “Privacy” from the menu on the left. Under “Your Activity,” verify that “Who can see your future posts” is set to “Friends.” 
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  • Change who can see pictures you’re tagged in to “Only me:” To prevent professional contacts from seeing your embarrassing or unflattering photos, thus preserving your reputation as a serious businessperson, go to Settings and select “Timeline and Tagging.” Then, in the Tagging section, change the setting for “Who can see posts you’re tagged in on your timeline” to “Only Me.”
  • Make the pages you have liked and followed only visible to you: This way, potential business connections won’t know your political leanings, your taste in music, or any other personal details that might distract from the image you’re trying to project. Go to your profile and select the “More” tab. From the pull-down menu, select “Likes.” Then, click the pencil icon and choose “Edit the privacy of your likes” and select “Only me” for the items you want to hide. Do the same for “Edit the privacy of your follows.”
  • Restrict who can see what apps you use to “Only me:” Unless you want potential professional connections to see all those sketchy dating apps or weird farming games you’ve installed via Facebook, you’d better make sure you’ve set the Apps and Websites visibility to “Only me.” You can do this by going to Settings, selecting “Apps and Websites” from the left-side menu, and then clicking on each app to adjust its visibility with the drop-down menu. This also stops the apps from publicly posting to your wall.

Get a professional profile picture

Your profile picture plays a large part in building credibility and generating trust. As such, you should ensure that the photo you use projects a competent, professional image. While you don’t necessarily have to hire a photographer, it’s important to have your picture taken by someone who knows his or her way around a camera. Bathroom selfies are not OK. 

While you don’t have to wear a suit in your profile picture, you should do your best to present a tidy appearance. Make sure your hair isn’t in your face and get rid of the sunglasses; these things make you appear less confident.

Fill in your professional details

With Facebook’s recent foray into mentorships and users’ new ability to post job openings in groups, the company been encroaching on LinkedIn’s territory as a professional networking platform. One sign of this is Facebook’s decision to move your occupation information to sit right under your name and picture. Now, when people look at your Facebook profile, your job history is one of the first things they see. 

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As such, it’s important to fill this section out in a way that puts your best foot forward. A good way to do this is to thoroughly describe what you do instead of just listing your job title. For example, saying “I manage large-scale IT projects in the private sector is much more impressive—and informative—than stating “I’m a consultant.” 

It’s also important to add your high school and college information to this section. Often, people connect with others by looking up other alumni from the same institution. 

Promote your professional brand

You need to look like someone worth knowing to successfully connect with others in your industry. As such, you need to carefully curate your status updates to establish yourself as an authority in your field.

Some effective ways to promote your professional brand are talking about your current projects, sharing blog posts you’ve written, and initiating friendly online debates. Not only will these activities deepen your connections with established friends, but they will also provide opportunities for new people to learn more about you.

You should also take advantage of Facebook’s live video feature to promote your professional brand. Live streaming on Facebook is effective because it’s interactive. In fact, 85% of people would choose to watch a live broadcast on Facebook over one on TV because they can interact with the content. 

Moreover, because Facebook Live videos convert to regular videos after the live broadcast ends, your video can continue to gain attention, even long after you’re done recording. Remember the Chewbacca Mom video that went viral in 2016? Candace Spayne originally recorded this clip as a live video. However, because the stream remained on Facebook after its initial broadcast, it was able to eventually garner 170 million views, making it the year’s most-watched video.

Join industry-related groups 

As a result of the platform’s shift to community building in 2017, Facebook Groups have gained in popularity. In fact, 1 billion people now belong to one of these groups. 

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To take advantage of these ready-made networks, you can search Facebook for groups of people in your industry. Just click Groups in the menu on the left side of your News Feed and enter a relevant term in the search bar. For example, if you are in sales, you can search for “sales professionals.” This will bring up a list of relevant groups you can join. From there, select the one you want to join and click “+ Join Group.

Depending on the group you choose, you might have to wait for an administrator to approve your request. There are also secret groups that you can’t see in Facebook’s search result. To join these groups, a current member must invite you. 

One way to discover these private groups is to ask friends and colleagues which Facebook groups they use to network or to stay current with industry topics. In addition to searching on Facebook, you can google popular Facebook groups in your industry. Try entering “Best Facebook groups for industry/job title” and see what comes up.

Once you’ve joined a group, be sure to participate in conversations. Ask questions, share stories that affect your industry, and comment on other people’s posts. Even just “liking” someone else’s post will draw attention to your name.

Friend and follow important people in your industry

When you are trying to network in real life, you go to conferences, meetings, and workshops in order to meet new people. The same holds true for networking on Facebook. The best way to grow your professional network is to start sending out friend requests to people you meet in the professional groups you have joined or individuals you have heard others mention. 

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To gain access to the big shots in your industry—who, let’s face it, aren’t likely to accept friend requests from mere peons like yourself—the best strategy is to simply follow them, just like you would do on LinkedIn or Twitter. This way, you can still see what they are talking about even if they don’t accept your friend request.

Use Facebook events

Facebook Events reach an incredibly wide audience. In fact, 35 million people watch a public event on Facebook every day. And 700 million people each month use Facebook Events to promote their events. 

As such, Facebook Events can be a great way to build your professional network. Simply search for upcoming industry-related events and then invite the new friends you have met in the industry groups you have joined. This will give you the opportunity to meet your new connections face to face.

You could also organize an event yourself. For example, you could give a presentation about a topic you’re passionate about. You could also invite a certain Facebook group to meet for coffee. Arranging these kinds of gatherings not only establishes you as an authority in your industry, but it also helps you build personal connections with other group members.

Set your vanity URL

Normally, the URL of your profile is something like facebook.com/e7494h394owb. To establish a professional brand that people can easily find and share, you should set up a vanity Facebook URL, such as facebook.com/yourname.

To create a vanity URL:

  1. Go to: www.facebook.com/username.
  2. Select the page you want to create a custom URL for.
  3. Type in the name you want to use. (It must include your real name.)
  4. Click “Save Changes.”
  5. Re-enter your Facebook password and hit “Submit” to confirm your changes.

Clean up your online image

One of the most important steps everyone should take—especially if you are trying to establish a professional reputation on Facebook—is to review all the posts on your timeline and delete or make private those that don’t present you in the best light. 

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Simply go to your Facebook profile and select “Manage Posts” at the top of your list of posts. You can then examine each item and select the ones you want to get rid of. When you have finished selecting, click “Next.” Then, you can choose “Hide posts,” “Remove tags,” or Delete Posts” from the dialog box that appears. 

Create a professional page

Another way of drawing a line between your personal and professional images while networking on Facebook is to create a Public Figure page for yourself. This way, you don’t have to worry about sorting out who sees which post.

To create a Facebook page:

  1. Go to facebook.com/pages/create.
  2. Choose the Public Figure page type.
  3. Fill out your page name and category.
  4. Click “Continue” and then follow the instructions.

Conclusion

Whether you are trying to grow your professional network or just living your life, how you look online is more important than ever. For more information on your online reputation and how it can help you or hurt you, check out the following articles: