Why Not Differentiate Yourself Using Facebook?

This week a headline on CNN grabbed my attention. It read, “Young job-seekers hiding their Facebook pages.”

My first thought was, “That’s pretty stupid!”

My second thought was, “If it’s not stupid, it’s at least naive.”

If you are looking for a job, you already have strong competition from other job seekers. Therefore, you need every available tool to differentiate yourself in a crowded job market.  Facebook can be a very effective tool for branding yourself.

The CNN article began with the story of a college student who wanted “to keep his personal life (hidden) from potential employers while applying for summer internships.” I’d like to remind that young person that there is no shortage of people applying for those same internships. So, what sets him apart from all the others? How is he special? How is he differentiated?

The 2.0 world we live in requires authenticity and transparency. Those who are inexperienced in branding themselves naively believe they can present themselves in a one-dimensional way.

People like doing business with people they know, or at least people who present themselves as real-life human beings. A resume or even a LinkedIn profile is usually a sterile, sanitized description of your job title, your responsibilities and perhaps other work-related stuff. Seldom does it portray you as a real, multi-dimensional person.

For any given job opening, you’ll likely be up against dozens of people who look as if they were cast in the same mold as you were. They have similar work histories, job titles and career accomplishments. So what might make you stand out from the rest of the pack? One way is to present yourself as a real person.

Though I’m not in a job search, I want my personal/professional branding to be multi-dimensional. Of course, I want people to know me as a marketing professional. The problem is there are thousands and thousands of other good marketing professionals. So on a deeper level, I also want people to see me as a loving husband, a proud father, a grieving son mourning the sudden death of his beloved mother, an involved community citizen, a committed church member or whatever else might give me common ground with a new friend. Facebook can be an effective way of doing that.

Those who have nothing to hide should embrace the fact that in this 2.0 world there really aren’t any secrets, especially for those interested in effectively branding themselves. Authentic transparency can be a very differentiating attribute.

So here are some questions for anyone looking for a job (and even those like me who are not) — How are you using Facebook to brand yourself, both professionally and personally? Are your Facebook privacy settings set too high? If so, why? Are you hiding something? Okay, that was probably a dumb question, but in a transparent 2.0 world you never want to give the impression that you might be.

Open up. Be real. Be yourself. You’ll find that’s a very liberating, invigorating and differentiating way to go through life. And to find a job.

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10 Responses to Why Not Differentiate Yourself Using Facebook?

  1. Meggan Cowan says:

    Duane,

    I actually read the same article on CNN and had much the same reaction. I think it’s a sign of too few people realizing the power of Facebook. Even though it initially started out as a way to connect with friends and family, it has evolved into a way to stay connected with professional contacts. It helps you remain visible and stay in the forefront of people’s minds. Granted, you have to keep a close eye on photos and posts that are posted, but I can’t think of a better way to let your professional contacts see you are a real person. It’s just like you said – people like doing business with people they know. People are also more likely to grant interviews to people that present themselves beyond just a name on a resume.

    As for me, I do use Facebook to brand myself professionally. Granted, I still have a ways to go in terms of frequently updating my status (with updates relevant to my professional contacts), but it is still an effective way to stay visible and to brand yourself.

    • Duane Hallock says:

      Meggan, you make a good point in reminding us that Facebook has evolved in the past couple of years. Whereas it began as a way of connecting with family and close friends, it has become a much more powerful tool to connect with a much broader group of people. That evolution confuses a lot of people, and often that confusion prompts them to hunker down and tighten their online privacy settings. That’s usually not a good branding tactic.

  2. JoAnn Woody says:

    Morning Duane! Great thoughts and comments — as always!

    I agree that utilizing all tools available to promote oneself is key to moving forward and upward in this brave new communication-laden world. And that branding ourselves and pushing that brand out there can bring us new and exciting opportunities.

    But I would remind folks to use caution and some forethought in that branding. While letting the 2.0 World see all facets of our lives; family time, favorite travels, work activities and accomplishments; we should also be sure that the “brand” we’re pushing is one that is consistent with our goals.

    For instance — The FB buddy that promotes himself very strongly as a representative for a very high-profile non-profit organization, known for its impartiality and neutrality (among other things…). He shares great emergency tips, training opportunities, partnering information, and humorous anecdotes about his experiences (with great pics). He also shares his passion for photography (thus the great pics), vacations and adventures with his wife(shows balance in his life and enjoyment derived from travel), love of snakes (with pics of him in his “uniform” handling them…hmmmmmm…..), lots of fan pages/videos/groups (strong collaborator), and quite often his very political opinion (again, hmmmm….impartial and neutral….). Couple of those items wouldn’t be so “iffy” for just a Joe Blow kind of guy….everyone’s friend, co-worker, etc. But if I’m looking for someone from that non-profit to work with or share ideas with, I might hesitate on this one.

    All that to say — open yourself up, share and embrace this new communication world. New and valuable connections await with every “follower”, “friend” and “connection”. Just make sure your brand is consistent with what you’re really trying to sell.

    • Duane Hallock says:

      Excellent points, JoAnn. Thanks for joining in on the conversation.

      Being too open online has its downsides. One should obviously be concerned about unsavory predators, identity thieves and others whose intentions are not wholesome. But there are also other reasons to use Facebook and other social media with caution. Until one knows what his/her brand actually is, he/she should be careful about being too visible, too public and too vulnerable.

      It’s hard to present a consistent brand unless you know what that brand is. Being open and transparent on Facebook works great for someone who consistently lives an integrated life at both the personal and professional levels. That demonstrates integrity and maturity, both of which are desirable brand elements.

  3. DeneneWrites says:

    Hi Duane,

    Great points about FB and the 2.0 world. You’ve given me lots of food for thought. I am still trying to define my brand, but have been getting better at posting status updates on FB and LinkedIn and have gotten several good bites from it.

    I think the case of the college kid falls more on perhaps not wanting to expose drunk party pics and such — which they would really want to hide from professional contacts. Also, another point is that you must protect your privacy settings so that other people can’t see what your contacts may be posting without your permission (e.g. pics, etc). So you definetly have to stay mindful about privacy settings. Just my two cents. Hope you are well.

    • Duane Hallock says:

      I agree, Denene. No college kid wants to expose drunken party pictures to the entire world.

      As a potential employer, though, I want to assess the maturity and judgment of any serious candidate who applies to be part of my team. After all, my reputation as a team leader is potentially at stake. How a person conducts himself in personal life can be an indication of how he will perform as a team member when he doesn’t think anyone is watching. In today’s market, there are so many applicants for any job opening that I would definitely give preference to someone who was findable online, especially on Facebook. Of course, that assumes I’m choosing from among a field of equally qualified applicants.

      I contend that the more we try to compartmentalize our lives, the more fragmented, disjointed and “un-integrated” we become as people and professionals. I want to surround myself with people who are holistically integrated.

      Thanks for you comment, Denene. By the way, I think you do a pretty good job of branding yourself. As a freelance writer and communicator, you have to do that and you do it well.

  4. DeneneWrites says:

    Duane,

    You’re putting a potential story idea in my head around the FB issue (I regularly write for Yahoo! HotJobs). Very good to get the perspective of a hiring manager on how you view FB and social media in general. I think your POV needs to be put out there. Hey if I get an assignment, I’ll call on you to be a source!

    Thanks for your warm comments about my personal branding efforts. That’s good to know that I’m heading in the right direction! Take care!

  5. Kevin says:

    Hi Duane,

    I just came across your site while doing some research for a presentation to our interns here on personal branding and social media. While I can appreciate your point of view, I absolutely disagree.

    My presentation is based around a single main point – brand yourself professionally, using tools like LinkedIn, Blogs, Twitter, etc; and keep your personal life personal.

    I want our students and employees to have a place to vent to their friends, near and far, about work. I also don’t want to necessarily see what they’re venting. As an employer, I find that the most important balance to keep is the work/life balance, and asking employees or potential employees to open themselves up to even more scrutiny than is already available on the internet is too much. Privacy has become something of an anachronism with the internet but as long as individuals can choose how private they want to be, I think there is some value in that determination. Having the self-realization to know that if the weekend before an interview, someone tagged me doing a keg stand or “getting close” with someone at a bar that I should probably limit the number of “public views” to my profile (because I DO want my friends to see those pictures). Everything that is important that one can do on Facebook, one can do through a variety of other means for the purpose of professional branding.

    Just a personal opinion, but one that I share through trainings with all my hires, interns, and often clients.

    Thanks for the post though, it opens a very valid debate.

    -Kevin

  6. Rebecca Blackburn says:

    Duane,
    I like this outlook on being transparent. Showing that you are a real person in a way that you are not hiding would seem to make an applicant appear as more reliable. Thanks for sharing, this is a new and helpful outlook!

    Rebecca Blackburn

    • Duane Hallock says:

      Thanks for your comment, Rebecca. I know you are in a job search right now, and I wish you the best. You are already doing a lot of things right as you network with prospective employers. From communication we have had separate from these blog interactions, I know that you are already taking important steps to help people see you as a real, live human being and not just a faceless person behind a sterile resume. Stay in touch.

      Duane

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