Facebook for business?

Could Facebook be a power-tool for building relationships with your clients, vendors and business partners?

Everyone accepts that LinkedIn is the social networking platform for business. But why? Quite frankly I find LinkedIn boring, and unless you participate in discussion groups there’s really not a lot more to it than Twitter with business profiles.

In a recent discussion in a Gold Coast Business group on LinkedIn, members were discussing the privacy of their Facebook profiles. I raised the notion that perhaps they are looking at Facebook wrong.

I’d like to suggest that you SHOULD open your Facebook account to your team, your clients, your business partners, vendors and anyone you can, and use it as a platform for creating more contact points with these people, but you need to think about what you post first!

You probably think “David, you’re wrong. Facebook is just for my close friends and family, and we already have a Facebook business page.”

Do you really have 300+ close friends? Are you 100% sure there’s not someone you don’t like reading what you’re doing via one of your Facebook “friends”?

Look at it this way, the Gold Coast is a pretty small place when you think about it. You can’t do something without someone finding out. Everyone knows everyone, one way or another. To be realistic, the world is quite a small place.

We should all be very conscious about what we do, no matter where we do it, because the chance that someone won’t find out about it is pretty slim. 

I use the Outlook 2010 Social Connector which links my Outlook to Facebook and LinkedIn. When I receive an email it looks up that persons social network pages. I use this tool to research prospective employees. If I go to a prospective candidates Facebook page and see them talking about how wasted they got on the weekend, mouthing off stupidly, or talking ill of other people, I immediately scratch them from my list.

Nothing PRIVATE or damning should be posted to social media! Irrespective of your privacy settings, everything is public, one way or another!

In recent months there’s been a number of news items regarding sports people and other high profile celebrities and the “silly things” they’ve posted on Facebook. I would have thought this is pretty obvious, especially if you are in the public eye as a potential role model, or just the man or woman of the moment, but apparently not!

So how can you use Facebook for business?

18 months ago my Facebook profile was hidden. If I hadn’t added you, you couldn’t find me.

As I began to research best practices for my business I started following a few of the SMB IT industry leaders on Twitter and Facebook and was learning a lot from these guys and gals.

I began commenting on interesting things they posted – some in relation to the reason I followed them in the first place; other times just random things they did in their lives.

I realised I was connecting with these people and started opening up more in-depth dialogue with them and started to connect with these industry leaders whom I would normally think I would not have had the chance to do so, if I had not connected with them on Facebook.

As a result I decided to change my profile so that you could find me. You still have to add me before you can see most of what I’m doing, but finding me is no longer an issue.

I started adding my clients to my Facebook; my team; some of the industry vendors, account managers and what not, and I found that all of a sudden I was connecting with these people on a personal level.

I’d comment on something they’d get up to. They’d comment on something I got up to.

I’d go in for meetings with clients and they’d tell me “Jeez, how many kilometres are you running now?” after they’d seen me update with my running progress, and this opened up additional dialogue to help us build our relationships.

Some of my clients follow our Facebook page, and in it’s own way it is a useful tool for marketing, but connecting with some of my clients via Facebook, and allowing them to see in to my world, and me into theirs, has, at least I believe, created another level of connection that I previously lacked.

I should explain, I’m not the “take a client out to lunch” or “catch up for beers” type of guy. It’s never been in my make up, plus with my workload I find it very hard to do that anyway! But the by-product of opening up my Facebook account to the people I do business with, has created a platform that I believe is similar – and some of these people I have since gone out and had dinner with, because we’ve become friends via our interaction on Facebook.

But the KEY here is to be genuine. I don’t think creating a separate Facebook account for your private life and one for your business, and fabricating a persona for people to follow works. You need to be REAL, but also be conscious of the fact that you are putting yourself in the public eye.

You probably think that if I’m conscious of what I post, that’s not genuine? But shouldn’t we all be conscious of what we do and say all the time anyway? Maybe the world would be a nicer place if we were 😉

I still post silly things, and I swear, and I like stuff that may offend others, but I do all this conscious of the fact that what I am doing is under scrutiny of my clients and associates.

If anything, it’s worth experimenting. My feeling is that if you are genuine and post interesting things, and interact with others, it can be used as a brilliant relationship building system, but don’t spend all day on it! There’s still business to be done!

If you’d like to connect with me on Facebook you can find me at www.facebook.com / rudduck (without the spaces) 😉

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