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Kristen Babiracki Headshot

How to "Friend" and Influence Clients: Using Facebook to Benefit Your Career

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"People do business with those they know, like and trust." This is one of my favorite sayings, and one that's guided me in growing my business through social media.

Many people use Facebook only as a way to connect with friends and family, and not as a way to further their career. If you're one of them, time to change your thinking. According to Social Media Today, 42% of the US population has a Facebook account. More than likely, your boss and company's top executives, your clients and potential clients are all on there.

Facebook has brought a whole new meaning to the term "the good old boys club" -- and the great thing is, you don't have to be a guy to join this one. The appropriate use of Facebook may depend some on your job and your industry, but it's a great way to connect to clients and co-workers alike. Here are some tips to get started:

Friend the people in your network: clients, potential clients, co-workers and higher ups that will be able to promote you

See it as targeted marketing. Many people are wary to have clients or co-workers on their Facebook page, because they're worried someone might see something that will hurt their career.

Get out of that mentality. Let me reiterate: people do business with those they know, like and trust. Facebook is one of the best ways for this "target market" to get to know you, your sense of humor, your hobbies, your family, and your friends.

If you're worried about co-workers and clients seeing certain pictures or posts, create filters--which, in fact, you should already have up there.

Get updates from your "target audience"

I subscribe to my clients' and potential clients' Facebook posts via SMS so that I get their updates via text. This allows me to stay in touch with my clients, without having to log into Facebook and sit on it for hours. In sales, I'm on the road a lot, and being on Facebook all day is not really an option for me.

Use these updates to your advantage. For example, one of my clients posts that she is going to Tahoe for the holidays. This comes to my phone via text message and I make a mental note of this. Next time I see her, I ask how their trip to Tahoe was, comment on the amount of snow they had, and get to spend a few moments chatting about vacations instead of the product I'm trying to sell.

Taking an interest in my clients' lives builds trust, and allows me to get to know them--which is key in good business relationships.

Post on the go

Almost any cell phone nowadays allows you to post to Facebook from your phone. Even if you don't have a smart phone, you can post via text message. This enables you to post more often--without logging on to a time-sucking Facebook session--and in exchange enables your "target market" to get to know you.

I'm a runner, and I ran the Boston Marathon this last year, which is a big accomplishment. For months I would post about my training, injuries, and the enjoyment I got from training. Often times in business we get busy with work, and don't have time to share these kinds of personal things with co-workers or clients. Posting on the go enables your co-workers and clients to get to see a side of you other than you as a professional businessperson.

Make it clear you are working

Facebook can seriously hurt your career if people get the impression that you're on Facebook all day long and not working. Let's face it, Facebook and other social media sites can suck hours out of your day and make you unproductive. Don't let this be the case.

Because I'm busy with work, a lot of my posts during the day are tied to work. For example: "Back to back appointments all day. Excited to start working with some new clients." Or sometimes I will quote funny things that people say while I am cold calling, or funny things that my clients say.

If you have a job where you should not be posting on the job, then use your breaks or lunch: "Taking a java break...time to re-energize."

Make it clear you have a life outside of work

While it's good to post about work, make sure you give updates about your life outside of work too. One major mistake I see is people who only talk shop on Facebook, or only create posts to promote their business.

If you post too much about a particular topic, people start to tune you out--which defeats the purpose. I'm friends with a lot of realtors on Facebook through my job, and oftentimes, I see them only post about their new listings. I start ignoring them... and you can imagine most other people do too.

Let me say this one more time: people do business with those they know, like and trust. How are your clients or co-workers supposed to get to know you if you only post about work? Work is only a portion of your life. You have family, friends, and hobbies too!

Promote interaction

Engage people by promoting interaction, either online or offline. I have one client who created a "call to action" during the holiday season and posted several times about collecting toys for Toys for Tots. She would post things like "let me know if you have any toys to contribute and I can come by your house to pick them up"--opening the door for real-world interaction, and also sharing something she cared about.

Another route: I'm known for what I call "Translation Requests." I give a statement, and ask what it means. A recent example: "What does it mean when someone you have dated says to you 'I want to prove that we can still be friends?'" Facebook friends of mine will comment on what they think the statement means, and the dialogue begins. I've gotten up to 50 comments on some requests!

Be yourself and get over pleasing everyone

Chances are, if you use Facebook a lot you are bound to upset someone. Posts can be misconstrued, someone won't get your humor, someone else may not agree with your views. This has all happened to me, and I've considered changing what I post because of these things.

But being myself online is actually what has helped me gain business, and it has helped me more than it has hurt me.

Be professional. Weigh the pros and cons if you're thinking about a colorful post, and save the gossip for your personal friends. But don't be afraid to let your personality come through and let your Facebook friends see who you are--that is, after all, the point.