(MoneyWatch) A suggested cartoon for The New Yorker: Two people having lunch in a restaurant -- the caption reads, "I didn't say the person was my friend, I said they're my Facebook 'friend.' "
Thanks to the Facebook (FB) IPO, the social networking company and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg are everywhere in the media. If you are one of those people who are thinking, "If I hear one more news piece about Facebook this month, I am going to scream," pardon this intrusion. You may have friends on Facebook, but Facebook is not your friend. It wants your money. It wants your information. It wants your time. And please, is Zuckerberg's net worth really about half of Warren Buffett? Don't get me started.
Oh, and by the way, I am on Facebook. And if you are in sales, you should be on it, too. Here's why:
Become a mini-celebrity. So what if you don't have 5,000 Facebook friends who belong to 500 groups. Maybe there are a few hundred people who want to stay in touch with you. That's great because it keeps your face and your name in front of these people. Some might be referral sources. Your recent Facebook update may remind them to send a prospect your way. So go ahead, "friend" business contacts and let them friend you.
Profile your business. Granted, professional networking firm LinkedIn (LNKD) is more business-focused than Facebook. LinkedIn profiles should be more formal, and Facebook profiles for business should be more fun and relaxed. This is where you show the human side.
Don't tell all. Facebook is not your venue for airing your most personal moments and feelings. This is the place to put your best face forward. But if you like baseball, Trader Joe's and the PBS Sherlock Holmes series, go ahead and share. Just don't share too much... or too often.
You like me, you really like me! An author I know calls himself the "king of Facebook" (let's hope Zuckerberg doesn't get wind of that). He calls himself the Facebook King because he posts something interesting every day. He also welcomes feedback. He appreciates it when someone hits the "like" button for one of his posts. Better yet, he appreciates it when someone adds a comment. People who post on Facebook like feedback.
Say something. Don't be a Facebook stalker who just lurks and reads about other lives. You need to post, too. Not too much; not too often. But have a say in something.
Never sell, sell, sell. There is a woman who has referred customers to me, and I have referred customers to her. She "friended" me on Facebook. To my horror, everything she posts is blatantly promotional. Do I feel closer to her now that we are Facebook friends? No, quite the opposite.
Content is king. If you have a business page on Facebook, your page should feature some content that is relevant to the people you are trying to attract. The answer to the question "What do you do?" should be an interesting statement that would appeal to potential prospects.
Seriously, get help. If you ever need friendly advice, Facebook's "help" hyperlink is at the bottom right of any page. You can also access it from the top right corner of your homepage. Use this tool to effectively use Facebook.
My final piece of advice: Get off Facebook and read a book. Resist the urge to become a social networking junkie. Spend some time reading. I recommend "How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+," by Brad and Debra Schepp. Or you could read "The Facebook Effect," by David Kirkpatrick. And if you ask, the authors might become your friends, too. I mean, your Facebook friends.