Posted by Jay Wilkinson

I frequently get asked about the difference between Facebook and LinkedIn for nonprofits—many often wonder where they should be more engaged.

First, let me say that your number one priority is your own website, over and above any social network. That’s your property—you own it and create the rules of engagement. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and all the other social networks make their own rules, they can change them at any time and they probably will. So with that in mind, I’d say show your website more love than all the social networks combined.

But I will tell you one lesson I’ve learned with Facebook and LinkedIn, which has been valuable for me and has helped me establish both as tools that are effective and useful in my life.

Let’s say you’re walking down the street and you see someone you know. If that person is someone who’d compel you to make a mad dash across the busy street, embrace them and say, “Hey, it’s great to see you,” then that is a Facebook friend.

However, if it’s someone you’d give a cursory nod to or maybe the little Miss America wave, then that would be a LinkedIn friend. This is likely someone you’ve connected with in some way, probably professionally, but you wouldn’t consider him or her a close, personal friend.

I have a rule on Facebook: If I haven’t connected with someone on a personal level (shared a meal or a glass of wine, perhaps), I don’t friend them on Facebook. So, if I meet someone at a conference, I don’t connect with that person on Facebook. I connect with them on LinkedIn, and LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for that.

I’ve had many people—high school and college classmates, for example—who have tried to connect with me on Facebook, and I just simply say, “Hey, great to hear from you. I use LinkedIn as a tool for staying connected with all of my acquaintances, would love to connect with you there.” I decline the Facebook friend request, and then I go to LinkedIn and send them a request to connect there. If they don’t want to connect there, that’s fine. But this has been a helpful rule in establishing a difference between how I engage on Facebook and how I interact on LinkedIn.

I will say, there’s tremendous value in connecting with people on LinkedIn. I use it frequently and it helps me keep in touch with all the people that I’ve come across in my professional life. Whether I join the board of a nonprofit or interact with people at business events, I connect with most of the people I meet on LinkedIn. And the cool thing is, those people update their contact info so I don’t have to manage all those contacts on my end. It’s all managed by them. I see LinkedIn as sort of my universal phone book. And this way, I reserve Facebook for a place where I only engage with those that I’m more deeply connected with.