Gen-Yers and Gen-Zers lookout – there’s some new kids on the social networking scene. Baby boomers are quickly taking to Facebook, leveraging the sites many capabilities to do more than just connect with friends and family but to network professionally and create the social site equivalent of an online resume.
In a digital era where, more often than not, we learn about what’s new in a person’s life through their Facebook status, the mega-social site is showing remarkable potential as a business tool, causing older users and professionals to take notice and sign up for the service. Statistics for 2009-2010 show Facebook’s U.S. growth in the 55-plus age demographic was 922%, followed next by a 328% increase in 35- to 54-year-old users on the site, and a 127% jump in 25- to 34-year-old Facebookers, according to the info supplied to istrategylabs by Facebook’s Social Ads system. Remarkably, the number of college students on Facebook shrank by more than half during the same time period, according to the report.
As more and more professionals join Facebook, they must first decide whether to keep their sites for business or social use, as the content for the latter may be inappropriate for the former. This problem can often be overcome by combining the two, carefully filtering the information you allow on your site, or more simply creating two profiles – one for social use and the other for business to promote you, your company, organization, or craft. From there, setting up your site’s content to be as organized and polished as possible is key to giving an authoritative first impression. To help make this first impression a reality, check out our five expert tips below.
Step 1: Know Your Audience
Keep in mind what you want potential employers and associates to see on your profile. Fill out the profile sections (“Basic,” “Personal,” “Contact,” and “Education and Work”) as you would write a resume, highlighting accomplishments, responsibilities, goals, etc. Keep content as relevant to your career or professional aspirations as possible and keep important information you want users to notice first on the front page, below your photo.
Step 2: Think Simple
Simplify the site’s contents, avoiding the use of widgets, extra photos, graphics, gifts, irrelevant links, and similar items. Limiting the many fun tools Facebook allows is just one obstacle professionals have to overcome with the social networking site, says job search expert Alison Doyle in her article Facebook and Professional Networking: Should You Use Facebook for Professional Networking?
Quoting from the article:
“Part of the difference is that when I look at my LinkedIn profile there isn’t anything other than professional information. With Facebook there’s just so much other stuff – gifts you can send, friends you can poke, birthdays, parties and other events, and widgets and tools for countless other applications. However, that’s exactly what Facebook was designed to do and therein lies the dilemma for those who want to keep their personal life separate from their work life.”
Limit the aps you add to your profile, instead choosing applications that provide value and are applicable to the workplace, like these 10 apps highlighted by ReadWriteWeb.
Step 3: Looks Are Everything.
Appearance is everything, at least when it comes to your professional Facebook profile. Use your complete name when setting up your account and choose a professional-looking photo in which you’re wearing typical business dress. Limit access to photo albums you post to your account by using privacy settings. If you keep a blog that may shed light on your interests or personality, link to it in your profile, though use caution when linking Twitter feeds to your Facebook status. Adding the hashtag #fb to your tweets allows them to go straight to your wall, giving you more selection of what appears on your site.
Step 4: Privacy Settings Are There for a Reason
Don’t forget to utilize Facebook’s privacy settings, which can help you hide information in your profile from some users while still allowing colleagues to see your work and education information. For networking, it makes sense to let Facebookers view your profile photos and “Education and Work” sections. If you don’t want everyone to see where you work or where you went to school, you can also customize your privacy settings to a per-user basis. For more helpful tips from journalist Meryl Evans on utilizing Facebook to the best of its abilities for business, read her article on WebWorkerDaily.com.
Step 5: Reach Out
Now that it looks good, show off your professional Facebook page through social networking. Once your page is complete, leverage its abilities to show off what you’ve done and what you can do. Establish connections with old and current co-workers, keeping in touch using Facebook e-mail. Also, choose your Friends selectively, understanding that once added, your Friends can see information about each other through your profile.
Additionally, you should link to worksites and pages of relevant organizations, allowing visitors to your profile to learn even more about your professional pursuits. It is a good decision to join groups relevant to your career interests as well, since these groups may provide opportunities for adding new Friends of similar careers or attending events and activities to network in person. Use Facebook’s many applications to find professional face-to-face networking events.
In addition to the five steps we’ve already outlined, here are some extras: Let potential employers and colleagues know you’re philanthropic by use the Causes app to help nonprofits and look good while doing it too and consider taking advantage of Facebook’s paid advertising for professional profiles, allowing you to connect with possible employers using a simple ads.