5 ways to use Facebook Groups to grow your professional network

You might not know that Facebook is more than just pictures of your friends' kids and dogs. It’s also a powerful networking tool. Here are five tips for leveraging Facebook Groups to help grow your career.

You've heard the stories about people losing their job over an imprudent Facebook post, but what about actually finding a job on Facebook? It's possible, because beyond the political posts and photos from your second cousin's wedding, there lies a world of industry-specific Facebook Groups where you can connect with other professionals in your industry, and you can even connect with recruiters there.

LinkedIn or Facebook?

Compared to sites like LinkedIn, where professional networking groups abound, Facebook has a more informal feel. Your profile isn't directly linked to your professional experience on Facebook, and chances are that your Facebook profile is filled with more personal information than your LinkedIn account. But on the flipside, Facebook is more ingrained in culture, and it stands to reason that the average Facebook user probably winds up on the site on a regular basis. LinkedIn has a more buttoned-up reputation, and if it's not part of your daily online routine, you might find yourself forgetting to log in and participate in your professional network.

LinkedIn can also require more upkeep since you'll need to log in and update your career experience and work history. Using LinkedIn can feel as daunting as updating your resume, while Facebook has a more casual vibe that you might find less intimidating. Ultimately, both offer similar features, just with a different network. You'll be able to plan and schedule events, hold discussions, pose questions and use direct messaging to keep in touch outside of the main group page.

One of the biggest differences between the two services is that with Facebook you might find that it takes more time to find the professional groups worth your time. Unlike LinkedIn, Facebook caters to all demographics, ages and interests, so you might spend time wading through less than relevant content to find what you want.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that it's no secret recruiters are turning to social media to find candidates. In a recent survey by Jobvite, a company focused on aiding recruiters in the tech industry, 92 percent of recruiters reported using social media in the recruitment process, and 55 percent of those said they used Facebook. In fact, Facebook came in just second behind LinkedIn for the network recruiters report using the most, so it makes sense to further your career by establishing a professional presence on the site. Here are five tips that will help you get the most out of Facebook Groups for your career.

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Determine what type of group you want to join

There are a seemingly infinite number of groups you can join on Facebook, but if you're focused on growing your career, you'll want to stick to public or closed groups related to your industry. With public groups, you can join with the click of a button, while with closed groups, you will need to request an invite before joining.

Try out various search terms, like technology and your city, or industry-specific technology terms. You'll see a list of all the groups matching your search terms, how many members they have and whether the group is public or closed. Entering terms like "women in tech," or "Boston developers," and filtering by groups will bring up a number of options. Some are well-established, but you'll also find a bunch of groups that seem abandoned or defunct. Before you join a group, take some time to scan the page to make sure you're interested in the type of content they share and the type of interactions they have. It's also a good idea to make sure the group is currently active, with people posting as recently as one week.

Introduce yourself

Once you find interesting groups that you think might help grow your career or network, go ahead and introduce yourself. It's a great environment to informally meet new people, and it these online connections might turn into valuable in-person professional connections down the road. Since the group you join will ideally have a strong focus on your industry, you'll know everyone is in it for the same reasons as you.

Try posting a new message that tells people about your experience in the industry and what you're looking to get from the group. Find other recent posts that you can respond to in order to show the other members you're invested in the group. Connections are vital to nearly every career, especially in tech, so it's time to embrace your online network as much as your in-person network, and Facebook is a great place to start.

Adjust notifications

You don't want to join a group only to be inundated with notifications day in and out; it's enough to make you ignore or leave the group just as fast as you joined. Facebook actually gives you a lot of control over the notifications you receive, so it's a good idea to adjust the notification settings within the group. The upside of Facebook over LinkedIn, is that Facebook doesn't send out newsletters regularly, whereas if you join a LinkedIn group you'll find "group digest emails" stacking up in your inbox. You can control these notifications, just like on Facebook, but it's one less thing you have to consider if you join a Facebook group versus a LinkedIn group.

Facebook lets you take a lot of control over how you want to receive notifications for Groups - as well as your general news feed - whether you want to get a push notification for every update in the group, or receive none at all. You can even choose to only be notified about significant posts, so you'll always be on top of the most important information.

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Once you find a group and introduce yourself, don't sit around watching everyone else chat while you become a lurker. Actively engage with the group by contributing links or sharing knowledge. Make sure you comment on other's posts to help get conversations going, which could lead to a more in-depth conversation on Messenger.

If you have job listings that you know about, but aren't interested in, why not pass those along to the others in your group. By sharing the love, you never know who will think of you when they come across a job listing that they aren't suited for, but you are.

Create events

It's great to meet and greet with people virtually, but you should consider taking it offline too. Once you've acclimated to a new group and have made solid connections, you should consider organizing a formal evening for everyone to get together. Maybe it's just a small get together with the people in your group, or perhaps you can join forces with other relevant groups in your industry to organize a bigger conference or event. Facebook has built in controls to organize a group event, which makes it easy to plan and figure out how many attendees you'll have, as well as to send out any updates before the date of the event.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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