Facebook recently announced that 2 billion people are regularly using its flagship service. The social network’s user base is now bigger than the population of any single country and represents more than a quarter of the world's 7.5 billion people. Most importantly, it dwarfs the combined user numbers of LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.
So maybe it’s time to take another look at Facebook and re-imagine it for what it can do to advance your college and career readiness programs.
Facebook is generally viewed as a personal social network while LinkedIn seemingly has cornered the professional network niche. Upon closer inspection, the distinction between personal versus professional information no longer has significance in the world of social media. Each one of us has every opportunity to keep our personal thoughts, beliefs and experiences private and off the public record by simply choosing not to post them to social media.
Once posted, however, building a fence around what is personal versus what is professional is virtually impossible. Therefore, whether the posting is professional, biographical, political, religious, familial, sexual, sophomoric or intellectual in nature, by voluntarily placing it in the public domain via social media, we are sharing that information with others and it becomes part of our individual discoverable public record regardless of where it is posted.
This is an extremely powerful and liberating concept and is certainly nothing to fear. In fact, this is the precise reason why college applicants and job seekers should be embracing Facebook. We are all the combination of our personal and professional selves and this combination is what we should be selling to colleges and employers.
Let’s not be dissuaded by the recent news of Harvard rescinding admission to ten students who posted racially insensitive material to the school’s admitted students page. These students erroneously believed anonymity exists when posting to social media and their true character (or lack thereof) was exhibited to the world. The positive role social media plays in college admissions gets drowned out by the sensational misuse of the medium.
Facebook’s configurable privacy settings are the most advanced in the social network industry. The key concept to understand is that not all friends need to be created equally. You can classify your connections any way you want and then control the content each class of acquaintance can see on your page. Admittedly, this will take time and thought to properly structure but once done it provides great flexibility in defining who will be eligible to see any given post. Being able to toggle your privacy settings and then fine tuning them over time will help build a dynamic dashboard by which to control your online image.
With your settings properly configured, you can create a compelling public digital portfolio of your service (charity, volunteer, community, family), your interests (academic and professional), your activities (athletics, competitions, hobbies, clubs), and your accomplishments. Make sure you include links to your other social media profiles to make it easier for people to learn more about you such as LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.
This all leads to the next and most obvious point. Colleges and companies that are searching for students online likely have a significant social media presence. Do your research and then follow your list of targeted colleges and companies. For each school or company you follow, you will be engaging with an important mix of students, alumni, employees, administrators and executives who will all be discussing real-life issues in real-time. Remember that social media is not a passive activity so keep researching, keep connecting, keep building and you will be found as your network grows.
With a powerful social media presence in place, students will undoubtedly impress important academic and professional decision makers who visit their profile.