For today’s Two for Tuesdays, I want to spend some time talking about Facebook. I can hear many of you rolling your eyes, either because we’re talking social media, or because we’re talking Facebook, or both.
But, as I say regularly, social media is nothing more than a set of tools for building relationships – just as client lunches, cocktail receptions, and conferences are. If you use these tools to connect with people, and share yourself in the same way as you would in person (and, of course, combine the use of these tools with meeting in person), they can be extraordinarily valuable.
So why Facebook? There’s a couple of reasons – the first is that likely most of you reading this are already on LinkedIn, which I consider to be the most professional of the social media tools. I think that will always remain the case (unless another, unique platform comes along), and I find LinkedIn to be incredibly valuable.
Because most of you will already be on there, I don’t need to convince you to get a profile. We could spend (and have spent) hours discussing LinkedIn and how to make the most out of it, but I’d rather talk about Facebook today – fewer of you are on there, so I see real opportunity, and the level of engagement is much higher.
Let’s talk engagement for a moment, because for me, that’s the end goal here. It’s a nice ego boost to have a lot of followers or connections, but if you’re not talking to them, listening to them, engaging with them, you’re not building relationships and the tools become a huge waste of time.
It’s difficult to measure engagement – we all have our anecdotal stories, of course. But yesterday, I got an email from Klout with my "social summary." Klout measures your online impact, and has recently undergone a few changes to improve their algorithm and focus more on content sharing and engagement. Because of these changes, I’m finding Klout much more valuable than I used to – I had joined because with certain scores, you could become eligible for "perks," but I didn’t see the actual number associated with my online activity as meaning anything.
And I certainly didn’t (and don’t) think it should be a measurement that people look to in order to rank effective social media users against each other (I can say that because I have a fairly high Klout number). But this latest "summary" that I received is quite interesting, because although it gives me my score, and my audience size, it’s also telling me how much content I’ve shared on each platform, and how much "reaction" I’ve gotten in response.
Those numbers are interesting.
For example, my summary compared Facebook and Twitter (I may need to re-authorize LinkedIn, which didn’t appear). I have 255 friends on Facebook and 4,177 followers on Twitter. By conventional standards, that might tell you that I should be focusing my time and efforts on Twitter. But wait…
In terms of content shared, I posted 21 posts or photos to Facebook and 69 tweets on Twitter, and on Facebook, I had 148 likes and comments of those 21 posts/photos, while on Twitter, I only had 39 mentions/favorites/retweets of my tweets. Percentage-wise, I’m getting a LOT more engagement on Facebook than on Twitter (7 interactions per Facebook post, 0.6 interactions per tweet).
Of course, I’m using Facebook in a more personal way – although I may be posting blogs and professional news there, I’m also talking about my dogs and my nieces, wildfires and funny photos. But isn’t that what life is about? A mix of personal and professional?
Even more importantly, the likelihood is that I’m getting more engagement on Facebook BECAUSE it’s more personal – those connections are the people that I’m more bonded to. And guess what? that’s going to mean that when they need my expertise, they’re more likely to seek me out than someone I’m just tangentially connected to on another site.
I know that Facebook makes a lot of people nervous, because more than most of the other social media platforms, it blurs the lines of personal and professional, and can make you much more vulnerable. But before you dismiss it entirely, I have a few things to mention:
- Privacy settings are great. Of course, privacy settings aren’t perfect, and one of your friends could still capture a comment that you inadvertently shared and post it publicly somewhere, so common sense rules still apply. But Facebook has some fairly good settings that allow you to be as hidden or public as you want to be.
- Blurring the lines can help you to be MORE private. This is one of my favorite paradoxes of social media – if you’re open about personal things when you’re using social media, people will assume you’re being totally transparent. Because I share a lot of myself on social media, many people think they know everything about me. Which stops them from trying to look further to find things out, so I can actually keep a lot hidden simply by sharing the things that I am comfortable sharing.
- You don’t have to "friend" everyone who asks you. Some people like the idea of having tons of Facebook friends and oversharing. That doesn’t have to be you. Similarly, if there are people that you feel you have to befriend on Facebook, but they post things that make you uncomfortable (politics, religion, etc.), you can remain Facebook friends while hiding them from your feed to avoid having to engage too frequently with them.
Still not sure using Facebook actually makes sense? Let’s look at the statistics quickly (from FB by the Numbers):
- Facebook has 1.28 billion users. That’s billion, with a B.
- Facebook has 757 million daily active users. DAILY.
- Think it’s just for kids? 45% of those 65 and older use Facebook.
- 30% of Americans that get their news from Facebook.
People are using it, it’s not going away, and it’s a great place to build and solidify relationships. Now, on to my two tips, which will help with using Facebook to build professional relationships.
Tip One: Be Selective About Who You "Friend," But "Friend" People
As I noted earlier, you don’t have to "friend" everyone who sends you a request. When I first joined Facebook, I sought out lots of people from my past – high school, college, even elementary school – mostly just to see what they were up to. If I got to know someone on Twitter, and they sent me a friend request, I accepted it, even if I didn’t know them in person. There were very few people I didn’t engage with.
But it’s okay to be more selective (and I have subsequently pared down my list and become much more careful about who I connect with). On the flip side, you don’t want to be too selective. Some people try to keep personal and professional relationships absolutely separate – they’ll use LinkedIn only for professional connections, and Facebook only for personal ones, or even go so far as to have two Facebook accounts.
That’s a bit extreme. As we say here time and time again, people do business with those they know, like and trust. What better way to get to know someone than by sharing some personal things with them? It doesn’t have to be your deepest darkest secrets – there are those people who confuse their Facebook status with a diary, but that doesn’t have to be you.
You already have those clients with whom you share more than just business – when you play a round of golf with Bob Jones, you’re not just talking about the latest regulatory concerns he might have. You’re talking about watching the Masters, and whether you think Bubba Watson had matured enough to deserve the coveted green jacket again. You’re talking about your children and/or grandchildren and their latest accomplishments and activities. You’re opining the cold, cold winter we suffered through this year.
Over time, you may even become closer friends, sharing barbecues and holidays together, making it about more than just business. That client, and clients with whom you feel similarly comfortable, are the perfect type of friends to seek out on Facebook. It shows that you trust them more than just strictly professionally, and that you might like to get to know them better, which helps to bond them to you and create that additionally loyalty. You’ll also be sharing more of yourself here than on other social media sites, which brings me to…
Tip Two: Share Who You Are
This tip does require some common sense – you have to be careful about exactly what you share. I’m very careful to avoid talking about religion or politics on Facebook (or any social media), because I know that these are divisive issues, which people have very strong feelings on. There are also some very private things that have no business being shared online, and those things I keep for very close friends and family, who I see in person.
But Facebook IS a place to share your passions. And those passions are the things that will connect you to other people.
- Perhaps you love to cook, and you’re regularly trying new and daring recipes – you can share the recipes and photos of your successes on Facebook. Even people who don’t like to cook enjoy seeing food photos – there’s a reason that they’re some of the most popular ones on the internet.
- Perhaps you love hockey – you can share photos of your playoff beard, what you look like all decked out in your team gear on the way to a game, or sharing your team’s triumphs and challenges through posts and articles.
- Perhaps you’re quite a good photographer, and you use Facebook to share the artistic shots you’re taking of your family, friends, landscapes, animals, etc.
- Perhaps you hold a secret love for a tv series, and you can post about binge-watching it on the weekends.
All of these things are personal, while being professional appropriate to share. You don’t know what will bond you to someone else – maybe you and your clients share one or more of these passions, and that creates opportunities for you to get to know that person better – you host a cook-off and see who can make a better chili; you invite the client to join you at the next playoff hockey game; you offer to take your client’s next profile photo or hike together in search of your next great shot; you commiserate when your favorite show kills off a main character, etc.
And that’s just limiting Facebook to the people you already know – your passions may drive you to join a Facebook group or page for the hobbies and passions that you have, and perhaps you meet someone nearby who shares them…who happens to be on the client side. You begin by engaging online about something personal, and that can lead to a professional connection.
It’s just like joining a local country club and meeting potential clients because you all love golf – you’re sharing interests online that connect you, and may lead to business.
So, look up your law school classmates, find that grade school friend you lost touch with, add the client who you normally grab a drink with after nine holes and start sharing what you love. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.