Facebook: Personal Branding Friend or Foe?

Much has been written about the “dangers” of Facebook for job seekers. I often feel like a broken record, reminding students to use privacy settings and be careful what they post. It is an important warning, as employers are increasingly using search engines and social networking sites to screen candidates, as Cassie Holman pointed out in her recent post.

Yet, Facebook doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom for your branding efforts. There are ways to use Facebook effectively. Let’s look at how Facebook can help instead of hurt.

1. Alumni connections

Have friends that graduated a year or two before you? As they enter the work world, they become a link from you and your career goals to the real world. Facebook is an easy way to stay in touch with people. Do not overlook your classmates – they are your future professional network.

Instead of simply leaving a wall post that says “what’s up?”, ask questions about their job search, new position or advice they have for you. Talk to them about your goals. Many recent alumni from the school where I work come back to campus to assist their employers with on-campus recruiting. It will be easier to approach an employer during on-campus events when you are greeted by a familiar face.

2. Employer and industry fan pages and groups

More and more employers are using Facebook to connect with college students. I know some students have mixed feelings about this – I still hear the “this is OUR space, not theirs” argument – but that ship has sailed. Facebook is for everyone, including your future boss and your grandmother.

Conducting industry and employer research is really important when trying to figure out which careers might be the best fit or when preparing for an interview. Employers who hire college graduates for entry-level positions are using Facebook in their efforts to reach candidates through students’ preferred mediums. Now you can learn more about a particular company, see who works there and ask questions while still playing Mafia Wars.

If industry info is what you are after, rather than a particular company, seek out groups centered around specific industries and post a question to the group or send a message to a group member to learn more (keep in mind that when you send a message to someone who is not a “friend”, they can see your profile page).

Facebook, with an estimated 350 million users, has a lot of people using the site – and many of those people work somewhere. Use Facebook to connect with professionals that can help you. In an experiment by One Day, One Job, job seekers developed Facebook ads targeted at specific employers and the people who work there to garner connections and helpful information.

3. Building a positive web presence

When searching your name online, Facebook, for many of us, usually appears pretty high in the results. Use this to your advantage by making sure your profile page is consistent with your brand. With Facebook’s privacy settings, you can make available to the general public some parts of your profile while keeping other more personal parts secure.

Consider making work and education information, extracurricular activities, some of your contact information (especially blog or LinkedIn profile websites) and/or the “About Me” section (with a nicely worded personal branding statement) available to the public. (This is a personal decision – for some, it might not safe to make public a place of employment or where you go to school.)

Go to “Account” then “Privacy Settings” to make adjustments. “Profile Information” is where you can decide which parts of your profile are viewable to the general public and “Contact Information” allows you to control which methods of contact you want people to be able to access (for example, maybe you want your website to be visible but not your cell number).

Be sure to also visit the “Search” section to adjust how your profile displays during searches and “Block List” if you there are personal safety measures you want to put into place.

Using Facebook to display positive, accurate information about your brand can be especially helpful for those with little web presence.

Connecting with alumni, employers and industry professionals and using Facebook to add to your online brand consistency are just a few ways to use Facebook for good. Has anyone used Facebook in other ways to build or add to their personal brand?


Kelly is a career advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she assists undergraduate business students with all aspects of their career development. Kelly received her master’s degree in Higher Education/Student Personnel Administration from New York University, and her bachelor’s degree from UW-Madison, where she majored in Political Science and Women’s Studies. Connect with Kelly on Twitter, LinkedIn or BrazenCareerist.

Related posts:

  1. Personal Branding with Purpose: What’s Your Intention?
  2. What Facebook’s updates mean to your personal brand
  3. Social Media 101: Facebook and Job Hunting

5 Responses to “Facebook: Personal Branding Friend or Foe?”

  1. avatar Bret Simmons says:

    glad you hit this one, Kelly. It was going to be my blog post next week ;)

    For me, Facebook has VERY low potential for the job seeker and serious personal branding. People are MUCH more likely to commit an error on FB which will cost them a job than they are to find an opportunity. The price of poor judgment is very high on FB. I keep a page because it is good google juice, but I spend all of my time on blogging and Twitter – where the big payoff is for personal branders. Thanks! Bret

  2. Great advice Kelly. While I’m not as familiar with FB as the other social media tools, I too have heard enough about what NOT to do! I think there are many responsible students out there that realize this as well. The issues might also come from those that don’t know enough to know the difference between what is appropriate and what is. Great points!

  3. avatar Kelly Cuene says:

    @Bret – I agree that FB is not the best branding tool. My hope is that students bright enough to be reading blogs like this have already cleaned up Facebook profiles and understand privacy settings because you’re right, the price of poor judgement is high. Since FB is good Google juice though, it can be an easy first personal branding step for students who aren’t yet blogging and aren’t sure how to use Twitter. Thank you for your comments – hopefully you can add to this conversation or bring out a new aspect of FB with your upcoming post! I look forward to it.

    @Miguel – Hopefully this helps bring some positivity to what is often a very negative, “don’t do this!” kind of discussion. It helps students determine what is appropriate if we can show them what to do in addition to what not to do. Thank you for your thoughts!

  4. avatar Aris says:

    Your brand is how customers feel about you..Your personal identify is how people react on your communication. In this new media or you can say MEDIA age you have to do your branding in Nth dimensions. Well yes, anybody can do communication by creating a page/profile on facebook or continuously posting tweets on twitter but you can not do effective communication without having in-depth knowledge about social media engagement. You need to learn the ability to spread your story and nudge people down the sales funnel at zero incremental cost.

    If you don’t like change you are going to like irrelevance even less.

    If anybody is interested on learn the ability to spread your story using facebook or interested in the development of a facebook app or custom facebook page in most effective manner than contact us at

  5. avatar Mark says:

    Hey Aris, don’t forget the millions of people on the website as well! Any advice on how to use that, as well as Facebook and MySpace, for personal branding instead of the original purposes of the sites?

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