To Facebook or not to Facebook? That is the question. How does social networking fit into your regular networking – and how is it different?
If you’re not on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, you’re missing a lot. Facebook has a reputation as a time waster because of the proliferation of games like Farmville and silly surveys (What Kind of Crazy Author are You?) But there’s some serious connecting going on, as well. Not just among classmates from high school and college, but also among professionals and between companies and their customers.
On Facebook, you’ll see companies, political campaigns, publications and authors reaching out to start dialogues with their customers and prospects. It’s a great place to observe how companies are influencing their stakeholders and trying to create brands that resonate. Even companies that you wouldn’t expect.
Take CSX. The railroad is headquartered here in Jacksonville, and its customers are other companies who have goods to ship across the country. You might not expect a strong Facebook presence, but you’d be wrong. The CSX Facebook page offers company history and news like CEO Michael Ward participating in a Milken Institute panel discussion on infrastructure (complete with video clips.) They also offer video of their television ads, which emphasize how shipping by rail reduces traffic and is better for the planet.
They’re not talking to their business customers here, necessarily; they’re talking to the public at large. The top five posts on the day I checked included information on how green CSX is, how the company honors military veterans, and how good their financial performance has been in the past quarter. See a pattern here? They’re talking to people who might want to work for the company, invest in their stock, or vote on a local referendum about a new rail line coming through their city. By watching what a company is posting, you can see what they think is important to their customers – and the public.
How could you use this information in your job search? You can get most of the same information from a company’s annual reports and its website, but it might be harder to find. You also get a feel here for what the company thinks is most important to people that matter (in this case, environmental issues.) Clicking on the page’s fans will connect you to former and current employees around the country.
A company will link to news and media mentions that you might not have access to. On the CSX Facebook page, an author posted a link to an article published in Railroad Examiner on CSX’s environmental efforts for Earth Day.
The great thing about social networking sites is that they make visible and tangible the whole network that comes with a single person. When you sit next to a parent at your son’s soccer game, you may find out that her son is in the same school as yours. But you’d be hard pressed to gain the information you might get from Facebook or LinkedIn: that she attended your former college, that she traveled last year to a country you’re planning to visit next year, or that her husband is a director at a company you’re targeting for a job. Or that her best friend works for the Jaguars and might be able to get a signed jersey for your charity event. You get the point.
You don’t have to post your status ten times a day; you don’t even have to post at all. But you should be on social networking sites if you want to connect with more people, learn about events and causes you are interested in, and research companies. What have you got to lose?