This was not always the case. I started my Facebook page when I began researching my book on young entrepreneurs two years ago because I figured if I was going to write about the cool kids, I needed to be in their (virtual) space. My teenage children were mortified, of course, but I'm used to that. Here's what Facebook helped me to do, beyond helping me embarrass my kids:
1. Position myself as genuine, straightforward expert on the subject of young entrepreneurs. Because I started my page long before I had anything to sell, I think I avoided being viewed as a self-serving marketer. At least I hope I did! It seems to me this lesson is applicable to all business owners; invest time in establishing an honest and authentic reputation, and it will ultimately pay off.
2. Build a community of highly engaged participants in my book project. I created a separate, private group of young entrepreneurs who served as my brain trust while I was writing the book. Some of them even started doing business together. I didn't intend for this to happen, but I found that I really loved being a "connector." As an entrepreneur, wouldn't it be to your great competitive advantage to have access to a core group of customers whose ideas and opinions you could tap when you're creating new products and services? And if they began sharing valuable information with each other, wouldn't that also have a positive impact on your reputation?
3. Learn to function in a world where the lines between work and personal life are blurred. This is the new way of doing business, especially for members of Generation Y -- mostly people in their twenties. I like knowing if my business contacts have kids and dogs, where they went to school, and where they're coming from politically. We may never discuss that information, but it gives me valuable cues for interacting with people who I may not know very well. And in a fast-paced, interconnected, and highly competitive world, it often helps me find common ground with the most unexpected people.
I discovered lots more benefits, but I'd like to hear from you. Are you using Facebook for businesses purposes? Love it or hate it -- tell me about it!
Facebook image by Flickr user Spencer E. Holtaway CC 2.0