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Tips for Using Facebook to Network

With more than 2.45 billion users worldwide, Facebook is a valuable tool for job seekers primed for networking and job hunting. There are industry-specific groups, live events hosted by influencers and a 'Jobs' function on the left side of any profile that culls listings of recently-advertised positions available in your area.

With so many folks already on the platform, it's a shame not to leverage it for professional networking. "You have to meet people where they are," says Jeanette Girod, founder of the Portland-based Viva La video, which helps entrepreneurs create top-notch videos for all their communications. "And today, people are on social media."

But before connecting with other professionals on Facebook, there are basically two ways to go about it: creating a professional page or strategically curating your personal profile. Here's the lowdown on both.

Creating a professional page for networking on Facebook

The biggest advantage to creating a professional page on Facebook that's separate from your personal profile is that it ensures your personal content doesn't overlap with your professional presence. In other words, you use your professional page to build a Facebook presence centered around your job-related interests and to interact with other professionals in your field while keeping your personal profile for chatting with friends or sharing funny memes.

This strategy works well because it allows you to post more freely about work-related topics since the contacts who follow your professional page will undoubtedly share similar interests.

Girod recommends treating your professional Facebook page as a professional online home base. Choose a respectable, more formal cover photo with design elements consistent with your branding on your other profiles. Fill out the About info to make it easy for potential employers to contact you. And include as much information about you (videos, links to other online profiles or portfolios) as possible.

Using your personal profile for networking

This can be done, but to do it well, you need to first become an expert on Facebook's privacy settings. Start by creating "lists" (such as "Professional," "Family," "Friends") and then assign each of your Facebook friends to a specific list. For every post you create, select which audience gets to see it, or restrict certain lists (or even people) from seeing it.

Keep in mind, however, that if you're tagged in a photo that someone else has posted, it could show up in the streams of all your Facebook contacts, regardless of what list you've assigned them to.

Another caveat: Facebook's algorithms seem to be sensitive to self-promotional language on personal profiles, so the site often downgrades those posts and they show up in other people's feeds less often. In other words, your networking posts might be seen by fewer of your contacts than the picture of that great cappuccino you had.

Consequently, the unwritten rule for promoting yourself or actively networking on your own page should be 80 percent "other content" and about 20 percent professional networking. "Instead of a hard sell of a product or even your skills, aim to provide value most of the time and to pitch yourself in between that," says Girod.

If you are actively posting content then it would be a great idea to observe your Facebook metrics, as these numbers will give you a better idea of the type of content your audience will respond to.

Pursuing results

Either way, the best way to network with people on Facebook is to strategically participate in threads without being brash. Do that by searching for keywords related to your professional interests or expertise in relevant public groups, and then aim to provide helpful responses.

Share your expertise by answering questions, and contribute to the conversation by linking to timely, relevant current articles. "You want to cultivate a solid presence and demonstrate that you know your niche," explains Girod.

Above all, think of providing what people want, which is a thoughtful discussion in digestible comments, posts or videos. "That's what helps foster relationships on social media," says Girod. And that's important because relationships are at the core of effective networking, no matter where it happens.

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