Facebook was the first social media site that I started using. I used to be stuck in the mindset that social media was a complete waste of time, and I actively avoided creating profiles online for years. These days, social media forms a critical part of how I market my company: a significant chunk of my business comes about via my interactions with people on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others.
Initially I used Facebook primarily for looking up long lost friends – not an unusual purpose. The key site for networking purposes was always LinkedIn. I’ve come to realize though that every social media site has its own personality, and that the differences can be very useful once you recognize them.
Facebook places a higher priority than many other sites on connecting only to people that you know well. I don’t know too many “LIONS” (LinkedIn Open Networkers) on Facebook. Typically the vast majority of people in your Facebook friends list are people that you’ve met face to face. I get many requests from complete strangers on sites like MySpace, but seldom from Facebook.
The advantage of creating a network of people that you actually know (i.e. separate from a loosely linked network of people that you have just interacted with online), is that many of those people will have some existing idea of the kinds of things that you do. This means that you don’t need to explain too much in order to start utilizing that network for finding leads. It also means that the people in your friend’s list are already “rooting” for you – they’re your friends after all. If your set of friends has anything in common at all withyou (and I assume that like most people you are friendly with people that are similar to you in interests), they’ll have the right kind of connections to be able to come up with targetted sales leads.
I’m not advocating using Facebook exclusely for this purpose, or ignoring the kinds of loose networks that you probably also have on other sites. Don’t spam your friends with sales requests, and make sure that you actively reciprocate with leads in return. They’re your friend after all! Do, however, make sure that your profile accurately reflects the kind of work that you do, that your status updates indicate what you are trying to accomplish, and that you obey the Golden Rule of Networking: always give the first lead.