How to Use Facebook for Professional Networking

By Jamie Crager, Scott Ayres, Melanie Nelson, Daniel Herndon, Jesse Stay

Several things are important when you’re using Facebook to network: being professional and being personal. These may sound contradictory, but they aren’t. In fact, they should complement each other. Facebook is all about making personal connections. People appreciate that you’re a real person with real things going on in your life.

The best professionals to connect with are those who are regular people as well. When you let those two areas of your life — personal and professional — blend, you can make some good connections.

Most businesses are based on relationships. People are more likely to buy products and services from people they know, like, and trust, so one of your goals may be to connect with other professionals in your niche via Facebook. When you make connections on Facebook, you can share life experiences and have conversations; you can begin to get to know others and build trusting relationships.

The concern some may have is how to connect with business contacts on Facebook without seeming overzealous. Here are some ideas about how you can approach your professional networking on Facebook.

Most networking starts with some sort of meeting. If you’re looking to expand your network, have a cup of coffee with someone every now and then. Talking with someone face-to-face almost always helps strengthen a relationship. After you’ve met with someone you’d like to connect with on Facebook, send the person a personal message and then send them a friend request.

Not everyone likes to mix professional and personal lives, so don’t be offended if that person replies that they don’t like to mix personal and professional relationships on Facebook. Remember that Facebook is a personal space and everyone uses it differently. That person may need to know you better in person before he feels comfortable connecting with you on Facebook.

One effective old-school way to connect is to combine your Facebook status updates with offline messaging. For example, Andy Ellwood, cofounder of Bond, an application that allows you to send gifts and handwritten notes from your iPhone, invites viewers of his status updates to download the app and send their first notes for free by giving out a promo code.

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Offer value and quality to your network even if the offer is free. When you have the best interests of others in mind, you win.

When you connect with professional contacts on Facebook, be sure to continue the relationship by commenting on their Facebook updates. Connecting casually through some simple conversation keeps you at the top of a person’s mind. Your conversations don’t have to be all about business. Just build the relationship!

Having personal and professional conversations

It’s okay to engage in a conversation about everyday life, as well as more sensitive topics, as long as you have mutual respect and decency. Opportunities to connect with friends of friends can open up in these sorts of conversations.

When two people join in a conversation in the post of a mutual friend, you’ve been virtually introduced, and this might be a great time to send a friend request if you think you might be good connections for one another.

Your professional contacts are regular people like you, and they have lives, families, friends, and experiences to share. It’s okay to talk business, and it’s okay to talk personal. Just don’t put energy into a strict outline. Be yourself and have a little fun.

Building connections with professional contacts

If you’d like to expand your personal timeline network to include professional peers, you can use your e-mail account’s Contact list to invite people to friend you on Facebook. You may like this option because it offers you the chance to connect with those people in a more casual environment.

Importing your e-mail Contact list is perhaps one of the easiest ways to quickly increase your network. All you have to do is upload the properly formatted list of your friends’ names and e-mail addresses, and they will automatically be sent an invitation to connect with you on Facebook.

Follow these steps to import your e-mail Contact list and send friend requests:

  1. Click the silhouette icon at the top of the screen.

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  2. Click the Find Friends link, in the upper right.

    The Friends page appears and displays the following:

    • Any outstanding friend requests.

    • The option to manage your friends lists.

    • The option to import contacts from Skype, Gmail, Windows Live Messenger, iCloud, Outlook.com, and other e-mail clients.

    • A list of people you may know but are not connected with yet.

    • The option to search for friends by name, hometown, city, mutual friend, gender, and age.

  3. In the Add Personal Contacts section (top right), click the source from which you would like to upload.

    You see several options. When you select an option, you see further options on how to access contacts from that source and upload them to Facebook.

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  4. Follow the onscreen instructions to download or access a list of contacts to add as friends.

  5. Click the Choose File button, select the file you just created, and then click Upload Contacts.

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    This step may vary, depending on your e-mail.

    You’re alerted to how many people will be invited to join you on Facebook. Facebook recognizes e-mail addresses that are associated with an account on Facebook. Unrecognized e-mail addresses appear in a second list. You have the opportunity to invite these friends to join Facebook and connect with you.

  6. Click Confirm to send the invitations.

Some people set up Facebook with one e-mail address and conduct all their regular e-mail communications through another e-mail address. If someone’s e-mail appears in the list of people not found on Facebook, it doesn’t mean the person isn’t on Facebook. Try searching for that person by name or by another e-mail address.