Facebook – for personal or professional contacts?

This post is Day #6 in a series called Personal Branding for Software Developers.

Since we touched on LinkedIn yesterday it is only appropriate that we discuss Facebook today. I want to look at some of the pros and cons of using Facebook and how it can impact your professional life if it is not used appropriately.

Facebook is the granddaddy of social networking sites. So unlike my other articles that ran you through the steps of setting up an account with the service I will not do that with Facebook. I figure anyone who wants a Facebook account probably already has one by now.

Where Facebook and LinkedIn differ though is that Facebook is built for your personal life. It contains connections to family, friends as well as some select work colleagues. This is where you generally interact with others as you would in a neighborhood bar. However, these interactions are not always in the most professional manner. So you need to make some decisions as to how you approach Facebook.

We have all heard the stories of how people applying for jobs were rejected because of their Facebook updates. You better believe that recruiters are Googling your name when they are seriously considering adding you to their team. So you need to be smart about you use of Facebook.

According to this article Dorie Clark, a strategy consultant and author, has designated her LinkedIn and Twitter accounts for professional use and her Facebook account for personal use only. This is a policy that I also follow. I want to maintain my Facebook connections to my circle of friends but I am also careful to separate my work and personal lives.

Facebook has taken privacy concerns of its users very strongly. This means you can lock down your Facebook account to only a select few people. For my account I have limited my site to only my friends. This means that they are the only ones who can see my info. I have also removed myself from showing up in Google searches. So in effect I am invisible to everyone except the people I know.

Some people have also abandoned Facebook all together in favour of LinkedIn. I would not go this far as Facebook can still have a place in your professional life. Although I am not exposing my Facebook data to the world the people I am connected to in Facebook still act as a network for me. These people are an excellent resource for any current or future job search. I could easily post a message that I am looking for work and if they cannot help me perhaps they have people in their networks that could.

The above is just my opinion about Facebook. If you decide you still want to use it as an active tool in your personal branding toolbox then maximize its effectiveness. Here are some of the things you might want to consider doing:

  1. Set your Vanity URL like we did in LinkedIn.
  2. Use a professional picture for your headshot. This picture should be the same one you used for LinkedIn. I will talk at a later stage in the series about the importance of having a uniform look across all your sites.
  3. Fill out your education and work information. You want to establish your career details here so that you can make yourself stand out.
  4. Add links to your Twitter account and your blog. Again, you want to create reciprocal links between your sites. You can also consider adding an RSS feed from your professional blog/website to your Facebook profile so people can see what you are up to.
  5. Create poignant status updates that reflect any changes in your work situation. You can also post links to interesting articles that relate to your industry. Remember: you are trying to establish yourself as someone who is in the know. It also demonstrates that you can bring value to your network.

Whatever route you take in regards to Facebook you need to think about what is best for your personal brand. If you want to close off Facebook to only your friends or if you want to brand with it just be sure you are fully committed to one choice or another.

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About Ken Cenerelli
I am a Programmer Writer, .NET Developer, Microsoft MVP - Visual Studio and Development Technologies, Public Speaker, Blogger, and Microsoft Azure Nerd. I blog regularly at kencenerelli.wordpress.com and can be found on Twitter via @KenCenerelli.

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