I will start by saying I am a big fan of both Facebook and LinkedIn. I am a fan of them for many reasons. Many of my "friends" on Facebook, I have met through work. But it is important to understand some of the etiquette and differences between the two.
Business versus consumer
LinkedIn is an essential tool for the business professional. Largely, that relates to the "business to business" professional. It is where sales people go to engage potential clients, and the general public will use it to find a job. The business community will use it to fill job openings and gather intelligence about their competition (at least, they should). Facebook certainly has a business component (What are they worth? A billion dollars or something like that?). However, you don't search for recruiters on there. But here is a good point: Recruiters will certainly look for you. Specifically, they will look to see what you post, what language you use and how you present yourself. If you think you can avoid detection by changing your last name or using a false name, you are fooling yourself. For both platforms, don't say or do anything that you are not willing to say in other environments.
Playground versus classroom
Facebook is my playground. I talk about comic books and baseball, swap funny pictures and jokes with friends and family, and share opinions on things that have almost nothing to do with work. LinkedIn is my classroom. That is where work gets done. I find contacts, create relationships and prepare for client meetings with extensive research.
Rule one: profile picture
On Facebook, it is perfectly fine to have a picture of you with your spouse or your kids or your pet or your car. You get the idea. On LinkedIn, you really should have a professional head shot that is updated about every five years. If you cannot afford one, make sure the photo is you in professional attire and is a clear close-up of your face, so that people can readily recognize you.
Rule two: posting content
On Facebook, you can post just about anything you like. But again, it is important to be smart. Topics like religion and politics are always open for heated debate — some inspiring, others not. Be aware of the consequences of your posts. On LinkedIn, your posts should be relevant to your purpose. If you are looking for a job, share content that shows you to be a subject matter expert in your field. If you are looking to engage potential customers, share information relevant to your field that can benefit those clients.
Rule three: connecting
On Facebook, you can "friend" anyone you like and they choose to accept or not. On LinkedIn, if you attempt to connect with too many people you don't know, LinkedIn will shut down your profile. If you don't know someone and want to connect with them, ask a friend to introduce you. If you don't have a friend already connected, start with an email. There are many great websites like http://www.data.com that can give you access to professional emails to engage with other business professionals and start that next key relationship.
Just remember, both LinkedIn and Facebook are very useful. They are useful for different reasons, and appropriate etiquette should be used with both.
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Mike Shelah is a Technology, Sales & Social Media Consultant as well as current Board Member with the Carroll Technology Council. He can be reached at 443-340-8029 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Carroll Tech Council, please visit its website at http://www.carrolltechcouncil.org or contact Kati Townsley, executive director, at email@example.com or 443-244-1262.