Facebook for business networking: it’s easier than you might think

I have a confession: I play, and enjoy playing, Zynga games. That’s right. Vampire Wars? Played it for two years. Then Farmville, and now Frontierville.

I’ll wait for you to stop cringing now. Because this is a business-related post.

Ready? Okay, here’s the thing. Because of these games, I’ve not only gotten closer to several of my business contacts on Facebook, who are also my “neighbors” in the games, but I actually spend more time on Facebook in general – which has led, oddly enough, to at least one of my business contacts pinging me on Facebook to chat about business or new work. Every week. In the last month, I’ve gotten feedback on my resumé, intel on two different agencies I’ve been looking at working with, and two new business inquiries. I’ve also built a Chicken Coop, an Inn, and a Schoolhouse.

There is, of course, a secret to this. I don’t allow the games to post to my Wall without permission, and I limit the visibility of the things I do publish to the folks I’m actually playing the games with, to avoid the inevitable “I hate you” from the various folks that hate the games. But aside from that, it’s really just about being available for a quick chat, and showing that you’re open to taking a casual approach.

I’m starting to think that this is one of the key reasons that more professionals are starting to turn to Facebook for networking. While LinkedIn is wonderful, and still highly useful for researching contacts, and finding leads from specific companies, Facebook has a much more human feel to it. If I find something amusing, I post it to my Wall, and a bunch of my friends comment on it. If I notice that one of my friends is having a birthday, I wish them a happy birthday, and they thank me.

It’s like the difference between the office happy hour and a Chamber networking breakfast. There’s a relaxed undertone to it that makes it easier to make genuine connections, which in turn makes it easier to actually do business together.

Is there a recommendation here? No. I’m not suggesting that playing Farmville will make you a better business person. But I am saying that, if you’re one of those who thinks that networking has to be all business, all the time, you might want to rethink your approach a bit.

Blog, Tweet, or Facebook?

The other day, while having a conversation with some friends and fellow designers, I was asked how I decide whether a particular piece of information is better for a tweet (aka twitter post), my blog, or my Facebook profile. Since I know many folks here might also be confused about that, I wanted to share my personal philosophy.

I use twitter mostly for:
  • quick thoughts, often unrelated to work directly.
  • quick questions that I need an immediate answer to; since I have so many fellow designers and entrepreneurs following me, it’s an easy way to get quick feedback on something I’m stumped on.
  • quick shout-outs of Happy Work Stuff™, such as launching a new project or landing a speaking engagement, contract, etc.
  • quick links to interesting articles I think people should read, but I don’t have any specific commentary to add to.

I find that this balance of personal and professional, self-promotion but also promoting others, works really well for twitter. It does a good job of promoting my work without feeling spammish. Plus, it’s really easy to keep tabs on; I generally only spend about 15-20 minutes a day at most on twitter.

For blog posts, the formula is this:
  • new projects, with imagery and a quick story about the project;
  • news items, press clips, etc.
  • links to blog posts or articles that I think people should read, and I actually have original commentary to share. This is the difference between blogging an article and tweeting it; blogging an article is meant to add something thoughtful to the conversation, not to just say “hey, read this!”
  • occasionally, I’ll post stuff about working in the office, design, etc.

As for Facebook, I simply import my blog via the Notes feature, and I have the Twitter application importing my tweets as status messages, so it’s generally self-maintaining. That said, sometimes if I see something cute and not work-related, such as a funny picture from I Can Has Cheezburger, I’ll share it on Facebook, since I have a much more casual relationship with most of the people on there. I do, however, have a Fan Page for my business, which I upload new work to. It’s a way to have a quick overview of my studio’s work available for people who might not otherwise discover my business.

How do you decide what goes in your various social media feeds?