Social networking is the new norm for personal businesses, especially small freelance businesses that rely on personal contacts. Freelance writers, artists, consultants, Public relations professionals, and others flock to platforms such as Twitter and Linkedin. They also flock to Facebook.
Facebook for Business or Pleasure?
Facebook was never intended to be used by middle-aged self-promoters scrambling for jobs and gigs. It was invented to help college kids get to know each other. The platform is socially oriented, with games and photo galleries, and opportunities to “poke” each other and to send IMs.
When I joined Facebook a few years ago, I thought I’d have everything neatly compartmentalized: I’d do Linkedin for business, and Facebook for my friends and family. Like many freelancers, I often make friends with clients and colleagues, so almost immediately, I started getting friend requests from business associates.
I could track them to three main avenues: fellow writers, readers (usually outdoorspeople), and musicians. It became immediately clear to me that people were using Facebook in ways I hadn’t anticipated. As I’ve gotten plenty of jobs from on- and-off-line networking, I decided to jump in with both feat. if I could identify who the person was who was asking to “friend” me, I’d say yes.
Tips for Using Facebook
Identify yourself when you ask someone you don’t know to be your “friend.” In my experience, maybe about 10 percent of people bother to do this — if that many — but if you don’t know someone, why should they want to friend you? Tell them who you are and what you have in common.
Put a picture of yourself up. If you’re going to be using Facebook for both business and pleasure, make sure it’s a photo that works for both audiences. Putting up a picture of you and your kid is cute. Putting up a picture of your dog may be cute, but isn’t great for business.
The “hide button” is your friend. If you have 200 friends, you may not want to read what each of them is eating for breakfast lunch and dinner, or watch every one of the 10 music videos they put up every day. The hide button takes care of this problem. You’ll encounter these people when they comment on your posts, or when they send you messages, but you won’t see their status updates.
Don’t spam your friends. A lot of the people who friended me were writers, and almost immediately, I started getting six to ten posts a day from each one of them promoting their books and article. Over-promotion earns a “zap, you’re hidden” from me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Use the lists feature. This allows you to sort your friends into subgroups, and you can pick which groups will be interested in which of your posts. This is a great tool for people who are promoting their businesses. Face it, folks: Your real friends don’t want to know all of that stuff.
Don’t IM people you don’t know. It’s like showing up at their house without calling. instead, send a personal message first and make an appointment.
If you accept the invitations of a lot of people you don’t know, watch what you write on their status lines. You’re not among “friends,” you’re among “Facebook friends.” Big difference.
The “defriend button” is for when all else fails. I’ve used it once with some guy who seemed to track in through my professional network, but who was clearly on the make. Zap.
Tips for Using Facebook and Facebook Fan Pages for Business
Set up what use to be called a “fan” page, and send invites to FB friends as well as anyone you do business with such as editors, fellow writers, readers, suppliers, contractors. When these people opt in to get your news from your business page, they are expressing interest, So, within the limits of common, sense, feel free to post updates about your work. To be more efficient, you can set up automatic feeds to tweet or send blog posts to your Facebook page.
Balance is the name of the game. It’s fine to send readers to your work, but you’ll have more credibility if you also include the work and ideas of others. Be generous about “liking” people back, and about promoting other people’s work.
If you do use Facebook for business, watch what you post. A colleague of mine is job-hunting, and based on his posts, I see a hard-partying good-time guy with outspoken political opinions and a “screw the system” streak. Maybe no so great for a potential employer?
Have a policy for sensitive situations. For example, one teacher I know refuses to friend students or their parents until the student has graduated from the school at which she teaches. Other people who might want to mind their Ps and Qs include doctors, lawyers, social workers, psychologists, nurses, financial counselors, ministers, and others who work in positions of responsibility and confidentiality.
It can be a little awkward looking at your Facebook account and seeing former clients, former employers, your ex-husband, your sister’s husband’s mother, a bunch of colleagues, and the class bully from seventh grade. But you’ve got to admit, it’s interesting.
If you do mix business and pleasure on Facebook, just be aware that you’re out in public, in your business clothes. Think of it as “casual Friday” or the office party: It’s okay to let loose a little bit. But remember: You’re going to be asking some of these people for jobs in the morning. Behave accordingly.