When Facebook launched Pages late in 2007, big brands finally had an opportunity to use the social networking platform to better connect with fans. Soon after companies signed on, well-known personalities and public figures started to use the new Pages tools to publicly bring their communities together online. While the division between personal profile accounts and public pages seemed like the perfect answer for individuals keen to separate their personal and public lives, for many people using Facebook for professional purposes, these two offerings just added to the digital confusion.
Recently, Facebook introduced a few new features that will help someone who wants to use their personal profile for personal branding purposes. If you want to use the world's most popular social network to promote what you do professionally, here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Add a Subscribe button. Facebook recently recognized that many people with personal profile accounts would like to open up their updates to the public. The Subscribe button  is the answer to that problem. Once you allow people to subscribe to your updates, anyone can see what you're posting (assuming you have your settings marked as "Public"). If you're running your own business or trying to promote your services, this is a handy way to allow others to stay on top of your activities. Within your Subscribers Settings you can also control who can comment on your public posts. Facebook recommends opening up your comments to "everyone" if you want to increase engagement (this will require some moderation so you can remove posts from others that don't suit your own personal brand). Keep in mind that when opening up these settings to the public your privacy is gone, so be careful what you post (in other words, keep it professional). If you have a blog, incorporate a profile badge on to your page. There are also plug-ins for certain content management systems that will allow people to subscribe to your feed directly from your site, but you will need to be a Facebook developer  to enable this.
2. Protect your timeline. With Facebook's Timeline, you can tell your life story within your personal profile. One of the first things you want to do when this feature is enabled is to go into your account and use the "Edit" feature at the top right-hand corner of each post to manage that particular update. For example, if you decide to make your personal profile a public place for professional networking, you might want to hide photos of your children, vacation pictures, or any other private information that you don't want shared en masse. Another option you have is to remove a post entirely, which is a good option if you foresee using your account for public purposes on a long-term basis.
3. Update your information. Within your new Timeline a synopsis of your personal information appears just below your cover photos. Make sure you update this information with your most recent or relevant work title. Click on "Update Info" to manage this content. To get your current position to show up front and center on your Timeline you will have to click on the option "I currently work here" within the specific work area. Within this section you can also control what other information is shared, such as your school history and current residence.
4. Choose photos wisely. Your cover photo will occupy some significant real estate on your personal profile Timeline. A smaller thumbnail, your profile picture, will also be prominent. It's a good idea to choose photos that represent the professional image that you can convey. In other words, you might want to use a headshot for your cover image and a company logo for your thumbnail image.
5. Post consistent updates. Within your Activity Log (which only you can see) you'll be able to view everything you've ever shared from the time you joined Facebook. If you're promoting your personal brand, make sure that you're engaging with your community on a regular basis. Compare your activity with how many new people are subscribing to your account to see if you're doing a good job reaching the people who you want to connect with on a professional level.
[Image: Flickr user Kevin N. Murphy ]