F is for looking fabulous on Facebook: using social media to build your professional visibility and personal brand.

Social media can no longer be considered just an option – it’s a necessity. Consider your presence on social media as a complete outfit, where each channel acts as an individual piece or accessory. Would you walk out the door without your shoes? So what is the best way to build your professional visibility and personal brand?

According to Facebook Statistics, there are over 500 million active users on Facebook, 50 percent of whom visit the site on any given day. The question that many people ask is whether or not Facebook is appropriate for the professional world. If used correctly, Facebook can be a valuable tool in your professional life as well as in your personal brand toolkit. It can both enhance your professional image and disseminate your personal brand to multiple connections, whether it’s your sister, your roommate, your husband’s coworker or your future client.

Here are a few things you can do to tailor your Facebook account to your professional life and maximize your personal brand:

Customize your privacy settings.

Facebook can be successfully used as both a personal and professional social media platform – if you implement the right privacy settings. You should have a solid grasp of who sees your wall posts, information, photo albums and tagged photos. Engadget has a great article that details how to customize your Facebook privacy settings using three friend lists. Once you have your privacy settings tailored to your liking, you can feel much more comfortable about directing your professional connections to your page.

Carefully choose your profile picture

Your profile picture is the first thing someone sees when they go to your page, whether they’re a friend or not. A contact you met at a networking event will most likely see only your profile picture (if you’ve set your privacy settings!) when they search for you via Facebook. Your picture should clearly show who you are – someone you just met won’t recognize you if you’re in a group with 10 other friends – and maybe even what you like to do. If you love the outdoors, make your profile picture a photo of you hiking with your dog. Just make sure people can tell that it’s you. I think the number one faux pas in choosing a profile picture is selecting an inappropriate one. Please, please be professional – remember that coworkers and business connections will be able to see it! This means that your picture shouldn’t include alcoholic beverages, suggestive poses, or otherwise questionable content.

Tailor your Info tab to your personal brand

Your personal brand should show through in your Facebook Info tab. It’s the first place new contacts will go to find out more information about you and what you do. The Employers section allows you to call out your past and current jobs down to the detail of individual projects you’ve worked on. You can also use the Activities and Interests section to showcase anything that you’re interested or involved in, whether it’s your eclectic music taste or your involvement in the local Junior League.

Be observant of the number of times you post to Facebook per day

While posting often is a great way to show that you’re engaged in social media, you might want to limit the number of times you post to your wall each day. Are you posting updates every 30 minutes? That’s a surefire way to get removed from your friends’ news feeds. The exact frequency is up to you, but if you’re posting about everything you’ve eaten that day, you’re probably overdoing it. This doesn’t include engaging with friends via their walls, photos or posts – but you still probably shouldn’t comment on all 57 photos your coworker just posted.

Limit your negative posts and comments to a minimum

Let’s face it; nobody likes negativity. Posting negative content on Facebook may get you noticed, but not in the way you want to be. It discredits you as a professional and gives your Facebook friends a negative image of you – both of which will only hurt your personal brand. Remember that all content you post on Facebook is visible to multiple people and should portray you in a positive light.

Never badmouth your company on Facebook

We all have bad days at work, even when we love our jobs. But never, ever publicly defame the company or organization your work for on Facebook. No matter how stressed out or upset you are, you  have to take into consideration that Facebook is a public platform and that many people can see the content you post – including the coworker who has become your Facebook friend. Everyone needs to complain and vent once in a while, but you should probably save it for your phone call to your mom or best friend.

Post content relevant to your interests or industry

Facebook is a social platform, so of course we’re all going to post about our exciting weekend plans, that funny video we saw, or the big game that night. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with posting this kind of content (unless it qualifies as #5 or #6 above), but you should also post content that is relevant to your industry (or the industry you’re interested in) and your interests. Are you passionate about animal welfare and consider it a part of your personal brand? Post about the animal shelter you volunteer at. Do you love architecture and want to break into the industry? Post an article about the new building in the city. Are you a fan of NEXT for Women? Post a link to their next event! No matter what the industry or interest,there’s always relevant content that you can share with your Facebook friends.

Ever wondered how to keep it professional in just 140 characters or less? Keep an eye out for my next article focusing on how to maintain your professional image and personal brand on Twitter.

Mackenzie Bright is an account coordinator at Ignite Social Media www.ignitesocialmedia.com  – the original social media agency®. She graduated from University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication with a focus in public relations in 2010. While in school, Mackenzie had the opportunity to hone her PR and social media skills at multiple internships, including The Kyle Fleischmann Foundation, the UNC Summer School, and Triangle Blvd TV. Mackenzie was also a member of PRSSA and the fundraising committee for UNC’s Relay for Life

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