There is little doubt that, today, LinkedIn is the highest leverage tool for professional networking. But with any social media tool, it’s status can change month after month.

With the rise of BranchOut, a professional networking app that sits on top of your Facebook profile, I was curious when Facebook will rise and supersede LinkedIn. The results were a bit shocking.

I ran a Google Trends report to compare search activity between two keywords, and Facebook Careers. It seems Career related activity on Facebook surpassed all of LinkedIn’s traffic in mid 2010.

And in support of my findings, Jobvite’s 2011 study showed that of those people with 150 social media connections or more, 85% of them found their job through Facebook. For sheer job seeking activity, Facebook is used 44% of the time while LinkedIn just 26%.

Although these results are off-set my the sheer number of members in Facebook, 800M versus 160M on LinkedIn, I believe they represent the future of job seeking.

What does this mean for you?

Chances are you are quite comfortable with how you use Facebook these days. You have your routine, your friends and your style of posting.

For example, my wife posts lots of food pictures. When we eat out, when we eat in, she’s taking pictures of our plates and posting them to her Wall. Then her friends say how yummy it looks and how much they wish they could be there to eat it.

You probably have your patterns as well. In the future, (2-3 years) this type of posting will simply not be sufficient to help you network into your next position.

The problem of having a separate and professional network, isolated from your personal network, is solved by Branchout. But, some of your best connections are going to come from your personal network.

The three biggest changes you will need to make with how you use Facebook will be:

  1. List segmentation: recently Facebook created three types of connections, Close Friends, Acquaintances and Restricted. Restricted connections will only see posts you designate as Public.
  2. Rethink your posts for content and distribution: most Facebook users don’t even know what their default wall post distribution is set at. They just post whatever and not think about who can read it. From now on, think about who the post will go to. You can change the privacy setting for each post. It’s a good idea to post to Public once a week at least.
  3. Who you accept as friends: Some people accept everyone who sends them a friends request. Other people are not comfortable accepting just anyone, and reject requests from non-close friends or non-family. But with changing expectations, both approaches are flawed.

When you accept a friends request, add them to the appropriate bucket, Close Friend, Acquaintance or Restricted. For people who accept anyone, this will allow you greater control over who can see what. For people who don’t accept many friends, this will allow you to accept more into your network without danger of you sharing too much personal information.
Don’t worry, no one sees what list you put them into.

So don’t wait for Facebook to officially become a professional networking tool. The facts indicate that it already is. And most people haven’t accepted this, much to their detriment. So start using Facebook for professional networking, and you’ll see some amazing results.