'More interactive than Twitter and more personal than LinkedIn, Facebook continues to grow as an online networking site for professionals. As more and more freelancing groups form on Facebook -- such as the oDesk fan page -- the rules of the game are becoming more clear.
Here are some tips for succeeding as a professional on Facebook:
Have a Tasteful Profile Pic. It's a good idea to have a classy headshot as your profile picture, but you can do it yourself -- you don't need to pay for it. (Remember, this should be professional - so turn the sexy dial down a notch and keep your clothes on!)
- Resist the Urge to Change Your Profile Pic Too Often. You need to be recognizable, so keep changes to a minimum. If you are going to indulge in events like celebrity doppelgänger week, switch back to your usual photo ASAP. Think of it this way: a potential client may be better with faces than names -- you want him to be able to spot you on a crowded wall.
- If You Can't Bear to Post a Picture of Yourself, Use a Logo. If you really don't want your own mug on Facebook, create a simple logo or avatar (minding copyright laws) and use that instead. Sure, a headshot of a Dwight Schrute bobblehead doll isn't the epitome of professionalism, but it's better than using your daughter's kindergarten picture.
- Utilize List Options for Friends. Facebook now allows you to set privacy limits for your profile based on customizable lists. Pull down the "Account" menu and click "Edit Friends." Once there, click "Create New List" and categorize your contacts based on the type of information you'd want to share with them (i.e., "Pals" and "Professional Contacts"). Go through your current friends and place them in the right list, then use the lists to create privacy settings. (Facebook List FAQ.)
- Utilize Privacy Settings. Click on "Privacy Settings" from the "Account" pull-down menu in the upper-right hand corner of your Facebook screen. Once there, put your new lists into action, paying special attention to "Profile Information," "Contact Information," and "Search." (Having a hard time? Read this great guide to Facebook privacy.)
- Keep Your Personal Life Private. Under "Profile Information" in the Privacy Settings, chose to customize every part of your page. Consider limiting your professional contacts to the "About Me" and "Education and Work" sections of your profile. Potential clients don't need access to anything else, unless you're ready to be responsible with that exposure.
- Make Sure You Can Be Found. Be sure potential clients can find you on Facebook. Under the "Search" option of the Privacy Settings page, make sure non-friends can look you up. Limit searches to Facebook or allow your Facebook link to be found on other search engines. (For pros and cons, read this.)
- Keep Your Contact Info Current. If you're allowing professional contacts access to your info, then be sure it's correct information. You don't want a potential client emailing job offers to the college email address you haven't used in two years.
- Use Proper Grammar and Spelling. When crafting your "About Me" and "Education and Work" portions, as well as any public post or status update, be sure you are putting your best foot forward. Good friends won't judge your improper grammar and typos, but potential clients will.
- Be Aware of Who's Reading Your Status Updates. If you chose to let professional contacts in on your status updates, remember that your clients may actually be reading them! If you wouldn't say the content of your status update to that person in a private e-mail, don't blurt it out online.
- Don't Broadcast Religious and Political Views. Unless these things are tied to what you do for a living, keep them from potential clients by using your privacy settings. In addition, if your profile pic, status updates and groups information is public, be aware that any statements made therein may alienate some clients. Decide if it's worth the risk -- read this pre-privacy settings discourse on political and religious Facebook exposure.
- Don't Spam. Ever. Always post comments and send messages thoughtfully. Interact with people as fellow human beings. Most people will respond to personal interactions, but will wisely rebuff robotic attempts at digital connection.
- Don't Be Desperate. You want to present yourself as in-demand, but available for new challenges. You don't want to come across as someone begging for work. Wrong Way: Need data entry work -- please give me a job. Right Way: I am a professional data entry specialist, available for new projects.
- Do Share Links to Your Projects. If your work can be seen online, put it out there to be seen, whether it's a photo, a website, an article, online resume, etc. Sharing the link on freelance page walls is okay, as long as you're interacting genuinely with the crowd and the thread of conversation. Simply posting your link can come across as spammy.
To keep yourself on a path to connections and viable work, begin to think of Facebook as you would a job fair. You wouldn't wear pajamas to a job fair, you wouldn't pass around bikini shots from your last vacation, and you would choose your words carefully when speaking to people. Present yourself with just as much care on Facebook if you have chosen to use it for job opportunities. With privacy settings and a healthy dose of manners, you can have your Facebook fun and successful Facebook networking too.