One of the most often asked questions I receive is “when do I use LinkedIn and when do I use Facebook?” People, especially business professionals, are looking to take advantage of popular social networks as a way to build their personal networks, add to their “Rolodex”, and build professional relationships that can help them further businesses and careers. So when it comes time to select somewhere to spend your time, the natural question is, “where do I focus?” (Twitter is also effective, but we’ll leave that one aside for now)
The short answer is – both. It seems like a lazy answer, but let me explain why. When you want to build a true relationship with someone in the analog world (not online), how do you typically go about it? You will most likely set up some sort of formal meeting, such as a business lunch. Once you get through the formalities and a couple of business lunches, you begin to build your relationship on more of a personal basis. It is at that point you feel more comfortable talking about family, hobbies, likes and dislikes, etc. This is typically something you would do at a cocktail party or after hours event, such as grabbing an adult beverage together.
If you want to build lasting relationships with high value contacts, start with LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the online equivalent of the business lunch – quick, professional, exchange of business cards, a few probing questions, etc. Once you have built your relationship at the professional level, try broaching the personal realm using Facebook. Facebook is the cocktail party. This is an area where you can ask, “how are the kids doing?”, “how was the fishing trip?”, and “how is the new house coming?”.
Online relationships often mimic what we do offline. Take advantage of all the opportunities you have to connect with people. However, just because you are “connected” doesn’t mean you are friends. As the old saying goes, people do business with friends. We have unprecedented access to each other. Use that access to build friendships, both online and off.