Facebook's Underrated Role in Professional Networking
Just five years ago people would often say that LinkedIn is good for professional networking while Facebook is a waste of time. The stereotype of a Facebook feed is an endless flood of cat pictures, invitations to play games and tacky advertising. Some people keep a Facebook account just for friends and family business and others don't bother at all.
But Facebook has changed and in the last five years it has become increasingly important for professional networking. This shift probably started in 2011 when, spurred by the launch of Google+, Facebook added the option of "following" people rather than becoming their friend -- a much more practical solution for business leaders. At the same time people who had grown up on Facebook moved into the workforce, keeping their habit of using the platform.
Now Facebook can play an important part in your professional networking for a number of reasons:
Everyone Has an Account. For every person with a LinkedIn account there are ten who have a Facebook account. Plenty of people who would never dream of having an account on LinkedIn are on Facebook and that's where you can interact with them. This becomes important when you learn how networking works. If you are just connected to your business contacts you miss many opportunities; what you should be doing is looking beyond the immediate connections at your broader network. (I explain about this in my book Payforward Networking). For example, if you share on Facebook that you are looking for an internship perhaps a relative or neighbor who isn't a business contact might interact with the post and they might know someone who could help.
People are There Anyway. You might have professional profiles on other sites but most people don't check their LinkedIn or Viadeo profiles daily -- many just use it as an online CV. Facebook is different. You are probably there every day. Other people are, too, so they are more likely to see your posts. It's because of this regular use that Facebook has become a preferred channel for consuming news and also why it has becomes so important for group interactions, which brings us to:
Many Organizations Use Facebook Groups. If you are a member of some organization you might use their intranet to communicate, but what many people have found is that it is much easier to use a Facebook group, because people are there anyway. I belong to many Facebook groups like the TEDxStockholm team, the Quora Top Writers community and others. In these groups I share ideas with fellow team mates even if we are not otherwise connected. Most of my Facebook activity is, in fact, in these private groups. Many other people are the same. That person who appears to never use Facebook might actually be very active but only in private spaces.
You Hear About Meetups through Facebook. Unless you live in a small village there is probably some interesting real-world meetup in your area every day of the week. When I ask people if they are attending some events they often ask how I hear about so many of them. The answer is Facebook events. Every time a friend shows any interest in any event I am alerted by Facebook. These days I find that I find more events through Facebook than through Meetup, though that, too, is highly recommended.
Facebook is a powerful tool for professional networking but if you plan to use it in this way you really need to have an account with your real name. Some people actually keep two accounts, a real name one for serious use and a fake name one for fun. This works but it means switching between accounts. More people are now starting to move the private interactions to Snapchat, Whatsapp and other channels.
2017 Edition of Payforward Networking. There's more about this and other networking techniques in the 2017 edition of Payforward Networking, available in both paperback and Kindle editions. You can get it from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Payforward-Networking-Andrew-Hennigan/dp/1542919770
Lectures, Workshops, Coaching & Writing
Andrew Hennigan lectures and delivers workshops about professional networking that expand on the concepts described here. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0046 730 894 475 for more information.