More Than Friends, Social Media is Increasing for Business

Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group. "Whether it's Facebook, Twitter or Google+, people are finding social networks useful for expanding their professional contact base, mining information that can help them in their careers, and showcasing their strengths and industry expertise."

Facebook may be where you catch up with friends, but a new survey by The Creative Group confirms it’s increasingly a place for business. Close to half, 46 percent, of advertising and marketing executives interviewed said they currently use Facebook for professional purposes. Fifty-six percent of respondents expect to take advantage of this social network for business in the next three years.

When respondents were asked to estimate what percentage of their Facebook friends are business or professional contacts, the overall average response was 21 percent.

“Chances are, nearly everyone you know — from your dentist to your colleague — is a part of at least one online community,” said Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group. “Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Google+, people are finding social networks useful for expanding their professional contact base, mining information that can help them in their careers, and showcasing their strengths and industry expertise.”

So, you may want to rethink your social network strategy or create two Facebook pages: one for family and friends; the other for your business of marketing and networking. Family and friends are distinctly different from business associates.

Here are five key points to implement in creating a more effect social network with businesses and friends:

-Divide and conquer. Not everyone in your social network needs to know about your Friday dinner plans or musings on the latest blockbuster movie. Segment your friend lists so professional contacts aren’t inundated with updates they wouldn’t want to — or shouldn’t — see. Also check your privacy settings to control who has access to what information.

-Be a guru. Share nuggets of useful information with your business contacts, and offer advice when they ask for recommendations or ideas.

-Give and you shall receive. Be generous with your contacts by offering to make introductions or sharing useful information they post with your own network.

-Use photo features. Even if you maintain a personal website or digital portfolio, you can provide your online contacts with a snapshot of your latest professional project or even your entire body of work. Creating albums on Flickr or Facebook, or using Twitpic or similar photo-sharing tools, is an easy way to visually show potential clients or employers your career accomplishments and showcase new skills.

-Resist the urge to rant. Never say anything disparaging about your current or former company, coworkers, clients or other business contacts. You never know who might see your comments and forward them on. The same goes for your family members. Keep the negative comments off the social media channels.

By creating two different social media platforms, one for business and one for family and friends, your business opportunities to connect will increase. You may find it interesting to see which platform gets the most attention and the most “friends.” You may have to ask yourself which is better: To have more business “friends” or more family and friends?