Losing My Facebook Virginity: 5 Key Insights

While a lot of people (it seems) view me as some sort of social media expert, since I use a lot of technology, blog constantly, and teach classes all over town on using the LinkedIn website — I’ll confess, I’ve completely avoided (as in: like the plague) getting involved with Facebook until very recently, as some of you discovered the other day via an announcement I ran in my monthly newsletter.

My reasoning for being a Facebook holdout?  For starters, I was concerned about the potential privacy issues that using such a site might create between my personal and professional lives.  Secondly, unlike LinkedIn and some other tools, I didn’t really know how to use Facebook — or control it.  And lastly, I was afraid (and still am) that it would become addictive, as it seems to be for so many people, and that I’d end up spending even more time than I already do each day staring at a computer versus playing with my son, hanging out with my wife, practicing guitar, hiking in Snoqualmie Pass, etc.

Oh yeah, and one other thing.  I also didn’t want to join Facebook because I despise conformity — and for the past several years, Facebook has been just about the most “trendy” thing going and been the website everybody kept saying you JUST HAD TO BE on.  So my pride got a little bit in the way, on that score, I’ll admit.

All of this being said, however, Mama Youngquist didn’t raise no dummy — and it’s become eminently clear that I need to know a lot more about Facebook so that I can advise people on its usage for job hunting and personal branding purposes, in addition to the benefits it presents from a small business marketing standpoint.  Plus, I was recently pig-piled by several wise and web-savvy mentors of mine who counseled me, in unison, that a huge community of potential connections/prospects now exists on Facebook whom you simply won’t be able to reach anywhere else, by any other means.

So last week I took the plunge, engaged in a crash course of research about the site, and within a relatively short period of time (2-3 hours?) created a workable personal profile along with the Career Horizons Fan Page you’ll find here if you care to view it.  Time will tell how this experiment works out and whether Facebook lives up to the hype, at least in terms of business development purposes.  But before that time comes, I wanted to capture a few observations about the site from a “newbie’s perspective” while they’re still fresh, in case somebody out there might be able to benefit from them.

So here are the things I’ve gleaned about Facebook during this week-long “honeymoon” period:

1)  Setting up a Facebook business fan page is a piece of cake. After following the step-by-step instructions on Facebook itself, as well as the zillion free web tutorials out there, I was thinking “there must be more to it than this — it can’t be this simple.”  But unless you choose to get carried away with some advanced splash pages and plug-in applications that only huge Fortune 500 companies seem to care about, or use all that much, setting up a small business presence on Facebook is shockingly simple to execute.  I couldn’t believe there wasn’t more to it.  Heck, even Twitter and WordPress (the blog platform I use) let you customize your background screen and deck your page out in many more ways than Facebook, from what I can tell.  And my acceptance of this reality only came after I double-checked the fan pages of numerous larger, more established companies and realized that their page layout looked, well, pretty similar to the one I’d thrown together.  Who knew?

2)  You’ve got to REALLY think about privacy issues. As I’m sure you all know, Facebook receives more flack than any other site on the planet in terms of concerns about privacy, security, identify theft, and the nagging fear that those embarrassing photos of you might somehow get seen by your next prospective employer.  In part, I think Facebook is just an easy target to pick on, given their hundreds of millions of users.  But there also seem to be legitimate concerns about how Facebook has handled their privacy settings, both recently and in the past.  Luckily, my web research gave me lots of advanced warning about this issue — and the best practices to follow in dealing with it — so I could keep my business contacts (and activities) totally separate from my private/social activities.  The key to doing this is the “lists” feature –so if you’re thinking about setting up a page, make sure to Google this topic and read about it thoroughly!

3)  Lots of Facebook advice on the web is now obsolete. This particular issue drove me bonkers.  During my research efforts, I’d turn up dozens of articles offering advice on how to configure Facebook for business purposes and providing step-by-step instructions, with photos, on how to do certain things.  The problem?  Apparently, Facebook changes its interface constantly, so many of the “helpful” instructions you’ll find out there are now completely irrelevant and out of date!  For example, I must have spent an hour trying to figure out where people could go to “become a fan” of my new business page, since every article I read said that this was a key part of success, but there was no place on my page that seemed to relate to the “fan” terminology in any way whatsoever.  Eventually, though, I stumbled on a more recent article that said Facebook totally scrapped the whole “fan” concept a few months ago — and decided to add a little button on each page, instead, where you could simply “like” a certain page.  This tiny adjustment on Facebook’s part has now rendered HUNDREDS of Facebook books, articles, and tutorials utterly obsolete!

4)  Facebook is cool, but LinkedIn is MUCH more professional. I’ve been claiming this for years, but am now happy to report that I can actually back it up!  While Facebook definitely has a larger membership base than LinkedIn and CAN have useful professional applications, it’s painfully obvious that the site wasn’t originally designed for this purpose.  LinkedIn, on the other hand, was built from the ground up to facilitate business networking, which is why I believe it’s still infinitely more important as a tool for most people to have in their professional arsenal.  On LinkedIn, you’ll find 80 million people who are professionally-minded, hold positions of influence, and are looking for ways to connect and do business.  On Facebook you’ll find, well, a mish-mash of folks who are on the site for…whatever.  Big difference.  Then again, who says you have to choose — or can’t use both?

5)  The old saying is true — you can never have enough friends. Lastly, my recent foray into Facebook has convinced me that as much as somebody might not personally be into this kind of stuff, there’s a pretty good chance your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and other business contacts are into it — so avoiding this channel of communication automatically cuts you off from some powerful potential networking avenues.  The size of the membership on Facebook alone, after all, would make it the fourth-largest country of the world — and that stat was from over a year ago!  So as much as you may be “part of the resistance” and fighting the urge to join Facebook, keep in mind that most other people in your network (as well as your competitors) are connecting on this system every day, sharing information, and finding ways to assist one another.  The question, therefore, is whether you can any longer afford NOT to be on it in an age where relationships are king and thousands of trusted referrals (including job leads) are getting facilitated by these types of sites, every day?

This last question is the one that finally tipped the scales in my own mind — and why I’ve now dipped my own toe in the water and decided to get involved in this final major piece of the social media puzzle, despite years of conscious avoidance.  Hope some of these initial impressions are helpful to some of you other “nervous newbies” out there, and if anybody (new users or veteran Facebookers alike) has anything to add on the topic, please comment away!

8 Responses to “Losing My Facebook Virginity: 5 Key Insights”

  1. Rosalind: Great comment, thanks, and I appreciate the additional nuances that both you and some of the other commenters have brought to the discussion! Your idea of “personal newsfeeds” is an intriguing one and you’re right, perhaps everything in social media is heading in that direction, which gives the Facebook platform one heck of a head start. Much thanks for sharing your thoughts…

  2. Matt et al,

    First, it’s great to see you on fb. Second, I’m either missing something or….twisted as I see fb a little differently. FIVE things I’ve learned about it are:

    1] Yes, fb is a much more personal place than LinkedIn. Business happens on LinkedIn. People happen on fb. And people are ALWAYS curious about people / the personal.

    2. Yes, it’s a great way to stay in touch with colleagues. You simply control what info is exposed to whom [especially the farmville stuff, keep it to gamers you’re playing with!]…which is pretty easy these days.

    3. I WANT many ‘professionals & potentials’ [people I don’t know yet] to know who I AM. So I like to let a few ‘status jewels’ leak to the public regularly.

    4. Yes, I check into fb often, mobile & desktop. No, I’m not worried about becoming addicted to some meaningless, virtual watercooler because I don’t use it that way.

    5. It’s become my PERSONAL NEWSFEED…and frankly, I think that’s how many are using it…AND I think personal newsfeeds are how things will be done in the future.

    Thru fb, I receive ‘news’ from people and organizations I have ‘friended’ which include those I care about, want to stay abreast of [professional] AS WELL AS news from organizations & news sources [from MIT, WTIA, & NPR]. It’s easy to not see [hide] posts you’re not interested in.

    I’m getting GREAT info thru my fb newsfeed. Haven’t found a newsfeed on LinkedIn. [Yes, I get a lot of email from some LinkedIn groups/discussions. That’s interesting too, but more complex to navigate etc.]

    ‘fb for the news, linkedin to drill down’ is what i say.

  3. I agree with Jennifer that sometimes FB can be ridiculous (as can Twitter) but it has allowed me to contact and reestablish relationships with classmates and former work colleagues that I haven’t seen in years. That’s worth quite a bit for me since I grew up a long way from the Seattle area!

  4. Although I *do* have a Facebook account, I RARELY do much with it except occasionally look up a few people I’ve befriended to see what they’re up to just out of curiosity (no Twitter account here b/c I simply don’t have the time – not to mention I really don’t care – to read about what “so-and-so” is doing every moment of the day! SERIOUSLY! People now are so self-absorbed that they REALLY think the rest of the world cares when they get up, what they eat, what they’re wearing, when they go to bed, and so on! It’s ridiculous and what is addicting about reading peoples’ nonsense?)

    And call me privacy-phobic but I don’t like the way FB information can be so easily spread around – even with its new, improved privacy settings. I have a STRICT policy (self-instituted) of reserving FB for communication with friends only! I do NOT “friend” ANY present co-workers or any of my family simply because I do not wish for either to read about what I do in my personal life. And I closely monitor my FB privacy and account settings to ensure I remain in control of who sees what. There is no ambiguity in the lines I draw – LinkedIn is for all (and only) professional, business-related communication, Facebook is for my personal life, and email is for communication with family. So far, this has worked very well for me and I’m confident that a potential employer won’t be “reading up” on my personal life via FB prior to an interview. FB is simply no value to me, professionally, for job-searching and career-related things because LinkedIn already fills that role and provides excellent opportunities/abilities to network. REMEMBER the adage “QUALITY, not QUANTITY”? This is especially true with FB!! Who cares if you have 5,000 “friends” (75% of whom you have never met in person and don’t know the last name of) if none of them are of good enough quality to seriously network with – THAT is what LinkedIn is for. I have yet to find anyone in my “professional business network” that utilizes FB for professional business networking because we all know that FB is not for that! It’s a SOCIAL network at best!

    Matt, I have to say I’m more than a bit disappointed that you succumbed to the peer pressure and gave up your Facebook virginity for “business” purposes. I really thought you would hold out longer . . . 😛

  5. Your last question is right on. I took the plunge about 18 monhts ago with both Facebook and Twitter because I felt as a professional I needed to experience them. No one can use or try everything but LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are so mainstream ignoring them is not reasonable. Otherwise we run the risk of Age Discrimination just like your subsequent blog post talks about. Facebook works great for keeping in touch with distant friends and Twitter keeps me plugged into my wine drinking buddies. ~ Cheers.

  6. Matt, I enjoyed your Facebook blog. Although I am on Facebook, I find now that many of my friends have moved to Twitter or other spots. I find Facebook is a passing fancy; it does have some utility, but is definitely secondary to LinkeIn. By the time I have gone to LinkedIn and done other research, I seldom have time for Facebook now.

  7. Price – Easy answer to your updates question is to roll the cursor over the update, and click on the “x” in the upper right corner. You will get an option to hide the updates from the person, or updates related to the particular game involved. Pick the game update button, and you will still get updates from the person, except when they play those silly games.
    I hope that makes some sense.

  8. Hey Matt, thanks for blogging about making the plunge – and with a very humorous title! I agree that LinkedIn has more utility for the job seeker and professional wishing to expand their network. However, Facebook is also a good way to stay in touch with colleagues from the past that might not be on LinkedIn.

    Now if I can just figure out how to keep from seeing peoples Farmville/Mafia Wars updates!

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