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Almost half a billion career-minded folks across the globe are connected on LinkedIn. But, here’s the problem: It’s getting more difficult every day to stand out in an ever-increasing global crowd of professionals. And that’s a problem, because in a world where over three billion of us are online, it has never been more important to stand out by cultivating an online presence.
So, what’s the solution? How do you build your personal brand or find the next great job opportunity in this digital age? Think about Facebook — in a professional sense, not a personal one.
Sure, Facebook has lost its glitz among the younger crowd. But Facebook’s 1.71 billion users may well indeed be the way to stand out and gain exposure to a whole new audience. Here are five ways to ratchet up your Facebook game.
1. Set up your profile to work for you — professionally.
There has been a significant shift in how users engage with Facebook: recruiters are now actively using it for finding talent. Background check companies are mining data. And, yes, even your boss is likely keeping an eye on your profile.
Gone are the days when Facebook was just a way to share photos of your children with relatives across the globe and to connect with old high school friends (or, if you’re younger, share photos of that big party last weekend).
So, take the time to think through who may be viewing your profile or interacting with you online and set up your profile accordingly. For example, if you are in the job market, ensure that your profession and key skills are listed on your profile, and add a few posts showcasing positive workplace experiences or career highlights, such as a photo of you presenting or receiving an award.
2. Ensure consistency.
Unless your Facebook profile is a professional liability (in which case you should delete it immediately), you probably have some co-workers as friends. Word gets around if your behavior differs drastically between work and home, and that word will impact your current and future relationships alike.
Every social media and web-based presence of yours leaves a trail for anyone in the public sphere to follow. So: caution!
3. Be authentic.
Authenticity has become a buzzword in corporate environments, but don’t let that buzzword fool you into thinking the concept has become irrelevant. People want to know they’re doing business with somebody genuine, and they will probably check your online profiles before committing to a relationship with you in any form. It’s so easy to do that nobody thinks twice about it anymore. So, again, be careful about those posts.
And keep in mind the common perception that job candidates and co-workers who lead double lives have something to hide, and — by extension –cannot be trusted. Similarly, expunging your Facebook or other social media profiles might arouse suspicion. So, because nearly everyone has an online presence, curate yours to align your online footprint with how you want to be seen in the world.
4. Showcase your best self.
People want to see the “real you” behind the curtain when they check your Facebook profile, so give them something that will build your brand instead of harming it. Entrepreneurs are positioned to execute this strategy particularly well because there is no differentiation between the person and the company — entrepreneurs are their company’s visionary, executive, strategist, and support staff. Take advantage of that, too!
How to do that? Let yourself be seen doing good things that align with your personal values. Respond to charity requests, post a few photos of your volunteer work and cultivate thoughtful discussions with your neighbors or friends in a respectful, civil manner. Facebook isn’t formal, but it is a kind of stage on which you can make clear what defines you. Praise others often and listen closely to trending opinions.
By engaging with your network, you will garner goodwill without traditional PR moves. And you may gain a dedicated following of personal and professional advocates. These are the people who can vouch for you down the road, when you want to take your next steps.
5. Filter your opinions and emotions appropriately.
It’s true that just one slip-up can seriously damage your image. Just look at the presidential election to see how one video — you know the one — can destroy a reputation.
So, when it comes to you, avoid anything like that — especially if it might call your employer’s reputation into question, or incite controversial comments online. With that said, enlist help for professional outreach or awareness campaigns. It’s completely acceptable to ask friends and family to contribute to a fundraiser hosted by your company, so long as you represent that organization responsibly.
Of course, all of this means that you cannot take out your “bad days” on public forums. People have been fired for expressing negative views about their employers, or for expressing controversial values on behalf of a company. Facebook is not a private domain, and should not be treated as such.
Embracing the idea that your professional and personal persona are no longer separate or completely private, is a chance to open new doors based on your passion and persistency, rather than those jobs listed on your résumé.