Facebook, It’s All Grown Up

If you’re reticent to try Linked In you might be curious about, but avoiding, Facebook.  Or maybe you’re on Facebook because some high school friend invited you, but you’re mostly letting people find you.  Rethink that.  Facebook isn’t just for your kids any more.  And if networking is your thing, there’s no better network out there.  While Linked In is, for the most part, a professional networking site, Facebook is that and then some. I really want people to stop poo-pooing social networks that work.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  With the job market being what it is and money being tight, these are desperate times.

I’ve recently started to really grasp the full power of Facebook.  In addition to the obvious features, including a friends/contacts list, photo sharing, links/content sharing, and messaging – instant and otherwise – the experience can be significantly enhanced through one or several easily installed Facebook ‘apps‘.  You can share and learn about music, books and films.  You can align with particular causes or charitable organizations, you can support local businesses and promote your business through ‘fan pages’. You can share data from your itunes for real time info about what you’re listening to or what you’re watching.  There are a number of very frivolous activities like giving ‘gifts’ and ‘drinks’ or ‘little green patches’.  The good news is, you have the option to ignore those things.  I am always sort of intrigued by the people that don’t ignore the silly.  But who am I?  Facebook also integrates with Twitter via a simple plugin application.  So, if you’re tweeting what you’re doing right now, it’ll automatically update your Facebook status.  This is really just the tip of the iceberg, but there’s no denying that Facebook is feature and content rich. 

Why am I so convinced that Facebook can add value to your professional existence?  Well, Facebook has spent the last year really working on building it’s member base.  And, according to information published by Facebook, they have more than 130 million active users.  More than half of facebook users are out of college, with the fastest growing demographic being over 25 years old.  Simply put, you will NEVER have access to that kind of network in any other setting.  Why is Facebook so powerful, beyond the sheer volume of users?  Because it allows users to share snapshots of their personal and professional lives to a broad audience of contacts.  Your list of ‘friends’ shares moments, victories, stories, interests and events with you, sometimes even as they happen.  This kind of an interaction suggests a kind of investment in those relationships.  There is an implied intimacy that people take pretty seriously.

We’re living through a period in history like no other.  Information is flying at us and its rare that we get an opportunity to stop and really pay attention to it.  Facebook gives us information on people we care about, have cared about or should care about, in small, digestable nuggets.  It frames it up in a way that makes it palatable.  Its that investment, whether personally or professionally (and let’s face it, these days, what’s the difference?) that makes Facebook so important. When we care about a person, even just enough to take in a morsel of information about them, we are more likely to want, and even invest in, their success.  We network because we want to, and with our network readily available to us, we network because its easy. 

People need to stop dismissing social networks as being fluff, or pointless, or time wasters.  They exist because we don’t have time.  They exist because we need access to the people in our networks, our communities.  They exist because we actually do want to be more connected.  Do I think everyone needs to have a profile on every social network?  No.  Am I selling Facebook for any reason other than the occasional usefulness of information?  No.  But I am suggesting that people who tap into a social network, especially one as huge and well established as Facebook, have an advantage.  If you are looking for a job, a deal on a car, a good insurance agent, a wedding dress, a babysitter – where better to look than right inside your own community.  And your odds are actually better online, because the community is broader.  Sure, you still have to apply the same common sense filters you would in any situation, but chances are you’ll get more useful information.

People have asked me why I like Facebook and I generally answer “. . .because I’m a crappy friend.”  I’m mostly kidding.  But there’s a grain of truth there.  With Facebook I can peek in on my friends lives and see pictures of their kids, find out about what books they’re reading, see what causes they are feeling passionately about, and comment on their latest flat tire or cold symptom.  I can do all of that in just a few seconds.  It keeps me current.  It makes me a better friend.  And, because my personal life bleeds heavily into my professional life, when I contribute content to this whole experience, I am really adding more color to my own story.  In this wildly connected universe we live in, we’re investing in our own brands –that brand called YOU.  If you’re authentic in voice and contribution, your community responds favorably.  They help you.  Professionally and personally.  It’s really what makes the web so useful and compelling.  The connections.  That’s why Facebook is worth your time.