Social media is generally divided by personal and company profiles. I participate as an individual in Facebook and LinkedIn. My business maintains our company pages. Personal versus company pages are subject to different rules of engagement, visibility, capabilities and power.
Marketers commonly use company Facebook and LinkedIn pages to buy targeted ads to reach precise audiences. Most individuals, however, use social accounts to make friends, share pics or be a voyeur/exhibitionist all at once.
Ironically, many brand owners miss huge opportunities to drive business through their personal Facebook profile. I get as much, if not more, professional results from my personal account, a phenomenon I discovered quite by accident. Now, my Facebook personal account is among the most potent arrows in my professional quiver. Let me explain.
Quit Facebook then start over.
Six years ago, I was totally fed up with Facebook. It consumed too much time without any real value. So, I unfriended every connection, even my kids, shuttering the account. An ironic move for the author of a popular book, Killer Facebook Ads, in 2011.
Then three years ago I attended my first SEOktoberfest conference in Munich. They have a secret Facebook Group I really wanted to participate in. I love these people, some of the finest marketers in the world, top executives, geniuses. I started using Facebook again in 2014, reciprocally friending about 50 people who hung in the SEOktoberfest Facebook Group. My resuscitated Facebook circle was instantly comprised of real-world relationships from within the deepest insiders' trade group perhaps in all of SEO.
Facebook being Facebook, I began getting the inevitable friend suggestions and requests, often seeing 1-3 friends in common from that seed group of 50 marketers. I checked out every one of them. If they too publicly showed they were a marketer worthy of the circle, I friended them. I then made sure my own profile and public posts validated my professional cred, worthy of friendship.
Soon I had 200 new Facebook friends and friend suggestions with 10-12 people in common. Day-by-day, 30-40 peeps in common, then 80-100, and sometimes now over 200. Since then I've seeded additional communities through major industry events and other key circles, positioning myself as a storied agency Founder, speaker, entrepreneur, wilderness enthusiast and hobbyist photographer.
Rather than seeing posts from people I scarcely recall from high school, I now see posts from 1,200 meaningful professional Facebook connections from all over the world. They are, by and large, a who's who of inspiring marketers and journalists on Earth.
Build your professional and personal brand.
Creating a meaningful Facebook branding machine isn't tough. Be methodical and follow these four steps when crafting your persona and following on Facebook:
- Follow the same steps outlined above to create a meaningful Facebook network. Start small and focus on connections that matter. Expand the circle with purpose and don't be afraid to ignore or reject friend requests. Your crazy brother-in-law can share his politics with everyone else. Less annoyance for you.
- Make your profile stand out. From header image to your personal descriptor, your Facebook profile is your digital billboard to the world. Invest time making sure it reflects the best possible total picture.
- Craft every post to engage people on topics of mutual interest or benefit. Remember, Facebook is about community and interaction. For example, many of my professional connections are foodies or love photography and the outdoors. If you see a post of me fishing or cooking at home, ice cliff climbing or a beautiful Sydney sunset, it's there for a reason - to craft a public persona and spark interaction. People often approach me after I keynote a European conference to ask me about the Minnesota Boundary Waters Wilderness. A priceless business ice breaker moment!
- Engage regularly with friends' posts. Debate professional topics, offer fresh insight, influence your influencers. Common sense rules apply - don't be a jerk, add value, be smart and comment with purpose. Build your community and then be an important part of it.
In my case, following these simple steps has led to direct business leads, vendor sourcing, fully-paid conference keynote slots at major international conferences, HR leads for important hires and many other tangible business benefits.
If you think building a personal/professional brand via Facebook is a waste of time, keep this in mind: No matter your brand, most business-making somehow boils down person-to-person. In B2B, that may mean the inside sales rep being connected to a purchasing agent or marketing agency connected to brilliant marketers. Consumer businesses are driven by connections and friendships, CEO to CEO, grocery store owner to distributor, vendor to vendor. Make your connections matter.