Seeing Facebook as the New and Improved LinkedIn

Let me begin by saying that I am not a fan of the typical social sharing that takes place on Facebook. For career purposes, however, Facebook is arguably the place to be.

First, Facebook dwarfs all other social networks with its 1.3 billion active monthly users. Next, Facebook contains the same networking and sharing functionality found on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter but these features are underutilized by most users. Finally, Facebook’s vast database is held together and managed by the powerful Graph internal search engine. By optimizing Facebook's audience together with its networking, content sharing and discoverability features, Facebook is the place to be.

So maybe it’s time to take another look at Facebook and re-imagine it for what it can do for you professionally.

Facebook is generally viewed as a personal social network while LinkedIn seemingly has cornered the professional network niche. Upon closer inspection, the distinction between personal versus professional information no longer has significance in the world of social media. Each one of us has every opportunity to keep our personal thoughts, beliefs and experiences private and off the public record by simply choosing not to post them to social media. Once posted, however, building a fence around what is personal versus what is professional is virtually impossible. Therefore, whether the posting is professional, political, religious, familial, sexual, sophomoric or intellectual in nature, by voluntarily placing it in the public domain via social media, we are sharing that information with others and it becomes part of our individual discoverable public record whether posted to LinkedIn or to Facebook.

This is an extremely powerful and liberating concept and is certainly nothing to fear. In fact, this is the precise reason why job seekers should be embracing Facebook in its entirety. We are all the combination of our personal and professional selves and this combination is what we should be selling to prospective employers.

Tapping into the Unharnessed Power of Facebook

Facebook’s configurable privacy settings are the most advanced in the social network industry. The key concept to understand about Facebook is that not all friends need to be created equally. You can classify your Facebook connections any way you want and then control the content each class of acquaintance can see on your page. Admittedly, this will take time and thought to properly structure but once done it provides great flexibility in defining who will be eligible to see any given post. Being able to toggle your privacy settings and then fine tuning them over time will help build a dynamic dashboard by which to control your online image.

This all leads to the next and most obvious point. Every company that is searching for employees online likely has a significant marketing and/or corporate presence on Facebook. Do your research and then follow your list of targeted companies. For each company you follow, you will be engaging with an important mix of employees, vendors and customers who will all be discussing real-life issues in real-time. As you start engaging by commenting and sharing news feed content, you will begin to identify real people behind a company’s curtain and they will begin to recognize you. Remember that social media is not a passive activity so keep researching, keep connecting, keep building and you will be found.

Surveys continue to show that a surprisingly large number of recruiters are using Facebook to find qualified candidates, especially when looking for candidates who may not be on LinkedIn because they are not actively looking for jobs. If you are seeking to leverage the power of social media for your job search then putting your best blended foot of personal and professional information forward on Facebook is an obvious choice.

Here are some basic starting tips:

  1. Make sure that your Facebook page is searchable by all search engines in addition to Facebook’s own Graph tool;

  2. Classify your current Facebook friends into your new category nomenclature and set up specific viewing and privacy rights for each category;

  3. To the extent needed, go back in time and re-classify your timeline postings, tags, etc.;

  4. Complete the “About You” section in its entirety and don’t be shy. Use carefully selected keywords reflecting your professional aspirations, credentials and licenses for SEO optimization;

  5. Be sure to list your critical Professional Skills under Work and Education;

  6. Join Facebook professional groups and follow people who are influencers in your industry/profession; and

  7. Start sharing content on Facebook that you would normally share on LinkedIn and Twitter and see what happens.

Bottom line: Too much time spent fine-tuning LinkedIn or networking on Twitter might cause you to miss out on the social network with the largest professional upside. Facebook is the 800 pound gorilla in the room so why go niche when you can go all-encompassing?