Facebook today is by far the largest social networking website, it has over 350 million active users. While there are other sites dedicated to professional networking like LinkedIn and Xing, you can still use Facebook to create business relationships and build a professional network.
If you plan to use Facebook to expand your professional network, support your business image and/or create a personal brand, then your profile has to be professional, business friendly and it needs to reflect a positive business image about you.
1. Clean up your Facebook profile
Chances are, you already have a profile page on Facebook, the first thing you need to do is clean up your profile. Your Facebook profile is like your second home page or resume. And this is how you should treat it. Would you share your college party stories with a potential client you are trying to do business with? I don’t think so, using that logic, having that picture of you partying your heart out is not the best idea for a profile picture.
Whenever you change your profile picture, your old profile picture goes to an album called “profile pictures”, your profile pictures album is viewable to everyone. So, even if you have an appropriate profile picture at the moment, you should open your profile pictures album and make sure you delete any inappropriate picture from the album. The same goes any publicly viewed content. If it’s not appropriate, it has to go.
2. Polish your profile for business use
Polish up your Facebook profile. List your expertise and accomplishments in the “Write something about yourself” section.
Use business related information in the Personal Information section, including the business book that you have recently read, some quotes from top business leaders in your field, your favorite business related TV show, and business magazines that you frequently read.
In the About Me sub-section of the Personal Information section, elaborate on your past achievements and list skills that you used in the past to solve business problems.
I am not saying that you should stop your social life and not post or upload any personal content, all I am saying is you need to be careful about what you share with the general public. Share personal information and pictures with your personal friends while keeping the rest of the profile appropriate for business.
3. Create different friend lists for personal and business contacts
Facebook has improved a great deal with privacy settings that give you great control on what you share with whom. Create different groups in your friend list like “friends”, “colleagues” and “business associates” or any grouping that will help distinguish between personal and business contacts you have on your profile.
Then from the settings page, you can control the privacy settings to make sure that you share appropriate content with appropriate groups of people. I will talk more on how to use these settings later in this article.
4. Use the albums to promote your accomplishments
First thing you need to do is revisit all your albums and pictures and reset the privacy settings on these albums to make sure you don’t have an album created three years ago that you do not want business contacts to see.
For example, if you created an album with pictures of that trip you took with the boys/girls years ago in spring break, then reset the privacy setting to include only friends in the “personal” group that can see those photos. Or alternatively, exclude “business contacts” from seeing that album. You can read more on the different privacy settings later in this article.
On the other hand, if you uploaded an album for a ceremonial gala dinner in which you received a business award, or if you were a speaker in some seminar and you have pictures, upload them to your profile. If you have pictures with business leaders or intellectuals in your professional field share those pictures. This is the sort of content you would want to share with your business contacts.
5. Use your Facebook status updates to project a professional image
The same goes for your status updates, a recent feature in Facebook allows to control who can see each status update while you are writing that update. If your status goes something like “I’m so sleepy” or “can’t wait for the weekend”, then it would probably be best if you only share that update with “personal” groups and exclude “business contacts” from seeing that update.
Start reading and publishing contents related to your industry in various online magazines and post links to interesting and informative online contents and tools in Facebook status.
6. Publish business related content on your profile
If you already have a blog, publish your blog RSS field in Facebook’s My Notes. If you published any articles on other website, or if there is a press release that talks about you or your business, link to these pages from “my links” page and share those pages on your Facebook profile and on your friends’ walls.
7. Clean up your applications
Remember all those applications you installed once and never used them again? It’s time for them to go. Only keep a minimum number of applications that you absolutely cannot live without, otherwise, your page will be crowded with all those small applications you used once in a blue moon, like those applications that read something like “someone sent you a kiss on Facebook”. You probably don’t want your business contacts to see that kind of content on your page.
8. Visit (or revisit) and update your “privacy settings” page
While you can control some privacy settings from the albums page or status update section. You would want to go to the “privacy settings” page under the “settings” menu on the top of your Facebook page. This is where you control your wall, pictures, links, tags and anything that is viewable on your profile.
When you place any content on Facebook, the privacy settings can work in a number of ways, here’s a brief explanation of how they work:
Share with everyone. This means that everyone, even those not in your network or friend list can see that information. In other words, it is public information. Things you might want to be public is your profile picture for people to identify you, and your business title and company information.
Share with friends of friends. This means that everyone in your friend list can view this information, if someone is not in your friend list, but he or she has a mutual friend from your friend list, they will also be able to view that information. In other words, you are sharing that information with your direct friends and seconds level friends.
Share with friends only. This means that only people in your friend list can view this information.
Excluding certain people or groups. This is where you really get to control who can see your content. If you have an album that you do not want your business associates to see, then you can share with everyone in your friend list EXCEPT people belonging to “business” group. This also works with individual friends. If you do not want “Tom” and “Harry” to see this album, then you can share with everyone, and type “Tom” and “Harry” in the “exclude” field.
Share with an exclusive group. In this setting, you are blocking everyone from seeing the content and only allowing a certain group or individuals to see the content. For example, if you have wedding photos that you ONLY want your family members to see, then you can create a group called “family” and include all your family members in that group, then when you upload that album, specify that you only want people who belong in “family” group to be able to view those pictures. For everyone else on your friend list, it’s like that album never existed.
9. Keep a business mindset when publishing information on Facebook
I think you get the idea here, whatever information you put on Facebook, think about who might see that information and make the appropriate privacy settings to keep it professional.
10. As a last resort, create a second profile
If you think that it’s too complicated to keep one profile for both personal and business contacts, or you want to keep your social and professional profile completely separate, then you always have the option of creating a second profile dedicated to business and professional networking and keep your original profile as is. However, I highly recommend not doing so, because, as time goes, you will see that managing two profiles is double the work really.
Also consider people adding you, they would not know which profile to use and ultimately, the two profiles might mash up in time, with business contacts in your personal and personal contacts in your business profile.
While it is not really an alternative to your profile page, but more a supplementary page, you can create a fan page. While fan pages look and have similar features to personal profiles, they have distinct features that make them more appropriate for business use.
There you go! 10 things you can do to make your Facebook profile business friendly and ready for professional networking. I’d love to hear your feedback, so make sure to comment on the article and let us know what you might add or change.