I predict that Facebook will become your digital water cooler for professional networking.

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Conventional wisdom claims that Linked In is “the” place for business social media while Facebook is for other stuff. I don’t claim to be a social media guru. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I think that Facebook will emerge as ”the”  place to be for professionally oriented social networking. Why? I simply do not have time to invest in maintaining a personal and a business persona in two different places. I don’t think you do either.

I’m starting to see Facebook as a digital water cooler or perhaps a company snack room. I don’t necessarily share exactly the same beliefs as everyone else in the company snack room. But I chat with them, right? I wouldn’t be overly shy about sharing my political beliefs now and then. But I wouldn’t be over the top about it. I might mention that I went to church with my family that weekend. But I might not whack everyone across the head with a Bible as they are getting a cup of coffee. You and I know where to draw the line in person. Can’t we understand where to draw the line online?

I feel comfortable posting information like that on Facebook. Frankly, LinkedIn feels sterile. I wouldn’t take about my spiritual beliefs on Linked In in a public manner and I wouldn’t use Linked In as a bullhorn to trash talk the Cowboys which is my moral duty as a Redskins fan even though my loved ‘skins have had 21 quarterbacks in the last 19 years.  But you know what. Both of these aspects of me, are well, aspects of me. I’m cool with my business colleagues knowing who and what I am.

I have about 1,000 contacts on Linked-In which is about double what I have on Facebook. However, I don’t think I have ever declined a ‘join me network’ request on Linked In and frankly I have no idea who some of the people are. On the other hand I feel like I have some kind of personal connection with the vast majority of my Facebook friends. In some small part I think it’s because they tend to know I like reading the Bible and hate the Cowboys even if they love the Cowboys and don’t enjoy reading the Bible.

Networking works when people like and respect you. That requires some level of relationship connection. More and more I’m finding that Facebook helps me build that relational equity with business colleagues while Linked In doesn’t seem to. In fact I can think of several dozen people that I have gotten to know on Facebook over the past two years that I would go out of my way to do a favor for if I had any ability to help. And I’ve helped several when I become aware of a way I can serve them. Linked In? Nope.

Every other day there seems to be a news story about someone getting themselves into trouble on Facebook by posting something they shouldn’t have. Some folks need to figure out that not everything that pops into their heads needs to be a post. Ever seen http://failbook.failblog.org/? So that leads people to suggest that Facebook and Linked-In should be kept separate for social and business purposes. There are complicated issues that revolve around this topic. What if your crazy Aunt Rosie posts some embarrassing photo from your 8th grade dance? What if your neighbor responds to your innocuous business post with an inappropriate comment about the wild weekend block party? I get that. And for the record, I have zero trust in Facebook privacy. None. But here is some advice. Don’t put it on the internet if you are ashamed of it.

Until recently I shied away from adding business contacts as Facebook friends unless they were really good friends. Now? I’ve decided to embrace Facebook as my digital water cooler. Maybe I’ll end up all wet. But for now, I’m enjoying the cool refreshing feeling of getting to know business associates better.

Please tell me what you think. I would love to hear from you.

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