I love Facebook. Maybe it’s because I have a short attention span and a PR degree, but there’s just something exciting about sharing news in small, informal tidbits with friends and colleagues. Facebook helps me stay on top of world events, popular culture, business trends and the personal lives of my friends and colleagues. And I’m very surprised how much real business my company gets from Facebook - without any paid advertising.

Here are six ways to do it.

  • Watch for distress signals About 10:30 pm on most Sunday nights, my overworked clients and prospects realize another week is about to start, and they vent a little. On Facebook. To nobody in particular. Late-night posts from exasperated clients are a gold mine for me and my business. I commonly see posts such as, “Where are all the great PR consultants?” or “Ugh! Wish I had help writing this executive presentation!” I usually reply with a gentle, “Can I help?” to remind them of my company’s services. 
  • Be right there Facebook Chat is my secret weapon. During the course of my work day, I keep an eye on the lower right corner of the Facebook page to see who’s online. Anyone with a green dot next to their name is usually sitting there, right now, and I know my message will grab their attention. That’s the time to check in with a client about an invoice or ask a consultant if they’re available for work. And I’ll ask friends to spread the word about a new project, which often results in more business leads. 
  • Promote others People love compliments, especially public ones. Use Facebook to shine a bright and happy light on your customers and colleagues. Congratulate them on a recent promotion or a successful project. Spread the word about their upcoming event or job opening. If they’re mired in the details of their day, a thoughtful Facebook post may generate more than just warm fuzzies. 
  • Collaborate Most high tech marketing clients rarely have time for a coffee or even a call, but their keyboard is rarely idle. Some will post a business-related question, and we can offer suggestions and solutions for their marketing projects. Virtual brainstorming is fun and powerful, and reinforces the partnership we’ve built with clients: We’re always here to help, even when it doesn’t require a purchase order.
  • Competitive context Facebook helps me see my clients in the context of what their competitors are doing and better understand the pressure they’re under. I can share an article and say, “Did you see what your competitor announced? How does this affect you?” And if the client needs help differentiating their company, product or executive, it’s the perfect opportunity for my company to make them look like a hero. 
  • Stay tuned in Facebook is a gold mine if you need to know the latest celebrity gaffe, news item or trending video. The fun stuff glues us together and keeps us top of mind--as long as we’re not annoying or too political. I’ll send a direct Facebook message to a client or prospect with something fun or unique to our relationship--from a restaurant recommendation in Cabo San Lucas to a fascinating TED Talk video. 

In this day and age, putting up a firewall between your friends and your business associates--which many of us have done in the past--just no longer makes sense. Social media is designed to bring those barriers down, and they should come down. Your friends can help you in business, and your business connections can become your friends. That won't necessarily happen if you continue to compartmentalize both groups.