Facebook Guide For Professionals: How To Succeed In A Networked Economy

-Professional Relationship Icon-One of the most important habits of any successful individual is the ability to network effectively. I’ve spent years perfecting the art of networking and while I still am not the best, I have come a long way. One of the most important tools to helping me network more effectively is Facebook as it has become my own personal relationship management system (PRM). While I still use a lot of other tools to maintaining my relationships, Facebook is one of the easiest to use relationship management tools. In this guide, I will walk through all the strategies necessary to turn Facebook into your own personal relationship management system.

Understanding Personal Relationship Management

If you want to become a master at networking for success, I highly recommend checking out the book “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi. In the book, Keith explains how the most successful people have built a valuable network of contacts and they grow this network through helping others, in turn helping themselves. If you want to understand personal relationship management then this book is for you. Ever since reading the book I’ve been searching for a tool that most efficiently manages my contacts in a model similar to the one Keith describes in his book.

It includes things like wishing your friends and professional contacts a happy birthday every year and ranking your contacts based on their level of importance to you. In theory Facebook could automate the process for determining how important contacts are to you but until they do, there are still plenty of ways to use Facebook as your networking control center. For this article, I’m assuming that you are looking to build your personal network of contacts and are willing to try Facebook for doing so.

Building Relationships

Ultimately success in a networked economy revolves around who you know and how effective you are at building relationships. Thanks to Facebook our networks are expanding and now we can keep in touch with many more people at a time. Despite our expanding networks, most individuals fail to effectively build new relationships and as a result, their Facebook friends become a vast network of loosely connected individuals who never keep in touch.

Some people decide to trade Facebook friends like baseball cards and that doesn’t really lead to lasting relationships. If you want to learn more about communicating with people, check out “How to Win Friends And Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. I can’t say that I’ve been selective with approving friends on Facebook however I’m selective in those that I add and I try to maintain relationships by following up with people on occasion.

On Facebook, relationships are passive. You can view what other people are up to and you can comment on things that they’re posting. However it’s best if Facebook is just used as a place for keeping your contacts organized.

Post Meeting

You’ve just gone to an event and you want to follow-up with the people that you’ve met. If you are a sales person that is computer savvy, there’s a good chance you already have a system for the next steps (such as enter information in Salesforce and send a follow-up email). For somebody who’s not a sales person, a good next step would be to add them on Facebook and assign them to a specific friend list.

You may be saying to yourself at this point, “There’s no way I’m adding a professional contact on Facebook!” That’s a normal response that I hear people say regularly, however with effective knowledge of how to manage your Facebook privacy settings, you can have any type of contact on Facebook without worrying about random photos showing up or status updates being visible.

After you’ve figured out how to configure your friend lists and privacy settings, you’re ready to add others to your professional network on Facebook.

Keeping In Touch

So now that you’ve filed the person into the appropriate group you should send the person a follow-up email if you haven’t already. It opens the dialogue and eventually leads to follow-up conversations. Theoretically this is the point where you should be prioritizing the person for follow-up emails. Set a priority level for those individuals. This is also actually the part where Facebook’s system breaks down partially.

Facebook doesn’t provide any automated reminders for following up with people, however it’s useful to keep notes about the person as well. Facebook also decided to remove the notes feature of Facebook which makes things even more difficult! With all these downsides, you may be wondering what the point is. Facebook is great for keeping up to date with what the people are up to and Facebook automatically updates the individual’s contact information.

Additionally, as you expand your network, you will find that other people you search for have friends in common, making it easy for you to ask for an introduction. Yes, sites like LinkedIn also provide the ability to see how you are connected to others, however Facebook has more people and more accurately represents all of an individual’s contacts. It’s also useful to know if you have two friends in common even if the contacts aren’t professional contacts.

Wish Professional Contacts Happy Birthday

The most classy way to send someone a birthday message is after you’ve found out their birth date through more traditional means and then surprised them that you remembered. Facebook has simplified the process and while it has reduced the value of birthday messages place on peoples’ Facebook walls, personally wishing someone a happy birthday is never a bad idea. This is a pretty straight forward component of keeping in touch.

The System Falls Apart

I wish I could say at this point that you can easily have all of your contacts synced through Facebook and use it as your own personal relationship management system on its own. Unfortunately that’s not the case! (I bet you thought I was going to give you all the answers in this article … I’m not!) Facebook is missing out on a huge opportunity at this point to become the center of my contacts while helping individuals build lasting relationships.

Unfortunately Facebook doesn’t provide any tools to help users sync their contacts, instead expecting users to log in to Facebook anytime they want somebody’s contact information. Rather than battling with Twitter, Facebook should embrace what they’re best at: helping individuals to manage all of their relationships. I’m hoping that Facebook enhances their system so that it can truly become my personal relationship management tool.

Considering that Keith Ferrazzi starts off his latest book, “Who’s Got Your Back”, by thanking some of the employees at Facebook, I have a good feeling that the Facebook product will evolve in the right direction. Rather than just being a place to confirm my relationships, the product will evolve into my personal relationship management system. Alternatively, Facebook will fully open up their APIs later this year to let people build these types of tools on top of the platform.

Sorry if I disappointed you with this article but honestly you can’t use Facebook as a comprehensive personal relationship management system yet! I’m betting that by the end of the year that will all change. Do you use Facebook as a tool for managing all of your contacts or do you prefer to keep personal and professional contacts separate? How do you think Facebook could best improve their system for letting you manage all of your relationships?