Monday, August 24, 2009

To Friend? Or Not To Friend? That is the Question.

As our personal and professional lives become more convoluted, I have been struggling with how to balance my social media presence - particularly on Facebook.

I own an advertising agency and when clients agree to contract for my services, they are - in essence - buying ME. My ideas, my opinions, my creativity. In part because they like me as a person, find me trustworthy and believe that I can deliver what I told them I could. And that's all well and good. But how do I separate me as a person, as a Mother, as a friend and as a professional on Facebook?

Facebook has many wonderful Privacy settings now that I utilize. I have several photo albums that only my college friends can see. Why? Because what happened in 1985 needs to stay in 1985. My hair was just too big and crazy for you to see it and take me seriously now! And those big padded shoulders and neon shirts from Contempo Casuals – oh my!
I have my Facebook Address list currently divided into several categories. For starters, you either fall into a Personal or Professional category. Then I’ve sub-divided into College, Work, Family, etc. But just blocking you from a few photos isn’t always enough choice for me.

I had lunch with a prospective client last week who said to me, “I have worked with (a person) in the media for many years and always found him to be so professional. Then we became Friends on Facebook and now that I know what he does at night and on the weekends… I just look at him, well, differently.” And it’s not that this guy does anything crazy. But by letting this woman see into the minutia of his daily life, he has become… human.

Chris Brogan of New Marketing Labs, stated on his blog a few days ago, " I have three main areas I sit on, and I keep them open in 3 browser tabs. The first is my list called “Short List.” This is approximately 185 people and it’s only for people I know personally and that I want to stay closely updated on. I read that voraciously. If I run out of updates, I drop into the general population and see what’s going on there. It’s changed how I see the world and what I know about people who matter to me."

One might say to Chris, "Why would you Friend me if you are not interested in what I have to say?". Now, Chris Brogan is a ROCK STAR in the world of Social Media so he is an exception. There are thousands of people who want to hear what he has to say and I can see why he's not so much interested in my daily happenings. But you get see where I am going with this - in theory.

I really hope that in the future Facebook will develop an application where in your Status Update you can write a post and then choose who you want it to go to: Work? Friend? Family? or All. I do have many clients that I consider to be friends. But I have to wonder… does seeing all of my outside activities derogate my professional credibility in their mind – even at a sub-conscious level - to know that I go certain places or listen to certain music?

A recent New York Times article stated that "35 percent of employers decided not to offer a job to a candidate based on the content uncovered on a social networking site. " Now, that should give you pause before you upload pictures from a drunken night on the town...

This post is really to make you think about how you are using Facebook. Are you using it just for personal use? Have you let some of your professional life creep in and what effect could that have? Are you using it to enhance your personal brand? If so, at what cost to your abillity to communicate in a more authentic way with those you are truly close to?

This weekend, I pared down my Facebook Friend list and went back to the basics of what Facebook originally set out to be: a way to keep connected to friends and family. I hope I don’t offend anyone I un-Friend and I hope you understand my reasons for doing so. I am choosing to keep my personal life personal on Facebook and my professional life professional on LinkedIn and Twitter. As for my blog…well, that’s where it’s still a catchall!

How are you using Facebook? It's worth thinking about.