Back in the early days of Facebook, career advisors didn't know what to do with Facebook. Actually, I'll be more specific: when I first learned of the application, I was concerned that it would do more harm than good. (in an ExecuNet Survey over 77% of executive recruiters said they conducted online research on candidates; 35% said they decided not to make an offer based on what they found).
That being said, I've made a radical transformation: today I'll go so far as to make a bold prediction that candidates can do more good for their professional development than harm if they use social networking applications strategically. Here are a few tips to make this happen:
1. Conduct regular "ego searches" to ensure that you don't have any digital dirt (or that you control the dirt you do have--through elimination). A great way to do this is through using Google News Alerts (you can have the results sent to you once a day, once a week, or "as it happens.") Also watch your Facebook tags (nudity and drugs are the big no-nos, so is trashing a former or current employer in your status updates.)
2. Consider reappropriating use of your professional development activities--and posting potential news items on Facebook or in your LinkedIn status updates. Case in point: I recently worked with a student who is a staff member of an on-campus magazine of public policy essays--the group has a website, but relies on print publications to get the word out. Posting the item on Facebook is a great strategy to "get a wider readership" for the website, generate interest in the publication, increase his "Google name recognition" if he gets more hits from friends, and intrigue an employer beyond the photo album.
Tips: If you reappropriate, make sure that you have permission to do so, and frame the content by describing the context in which you were writing...(Remember the saying that there are no "new ideas" only new ways of presenting information. I struggled with them until I saw an amazing exhibit at the Guggenheim in New York by Richard Prince and learned that representing old material literally built his reputation as one of the most important modern artists of the twentieth century.)
3. You don't have to write an article to get known...Another great strategy is to post news items that are of interest to you, with insightful comments. (Bonus points if the item are in a field of interest.) Stuck trying to find articles? Again try Google News Alerts or do a Twitter Search by topic of interest and you'll find an interesting summary of discussions on your topics.
Try a few of these tips out and let me know how it goes!