Social Enterprise

Facebook: How do you balance personal and business usage?

You get a Facebook friend request from someone who has heard of you through your work but you don't know that person. What is the social media etiquette?

My answer to this question is that I use Facebook for my friends and LinkedIn for my business associates. But what do you do when a business associate friends you on Facebook?

That is the quandary I face very often as a writer of a blog that is seen internationally. I get Facebook friend requests from people I've never met or have never had an email correspondence with because they are interested in the topic I write about--IT career--or because they feel they know me from reading my blog. I'm not sure why, and I'm not sure quite how to turn them down without appearing rude.

My Facebook friends include childhood friends, people I knew in high school, relatives, and coworkers. I also have people in the TR community who fit the term of friend as I would define it. These are people I've I know from their years of commenting in the blog forums, many of whom I've met in person. I consider them people with whom I can share my random stupid thoughts or day-to-day updates. They're not just business associates.

But then I get requests from someone who may feel they know me from my blog but who I don't know at all. I'm not being a snob, but I'm a little uneasy sharing with those folks details that go a little deeper than superficial business ones.

I asked Shawn Morton, who is Director of Mobile, Social & Emerging Media at Nationwide Insurance, to weigh in on this issue:

"I keep all of my purely professional network connections on LinkedIn. That allows me to connect with someone I meet at a conference or here at Nationwide without making a more personal connection via Facebook. Of course, there is a lot of overlap in my connections on each of those sites. I generally have to know someone pretty well to have them as a friend on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and be connected on LinkedIn."

But what does he do when the inevitable happens--a person who should be on LinkedIn friends him on Facebook?

"That has come up a few times. If I think it is someone I will be working with pretty closely, I accept it. If it is a more random request from someone I don't know, I usually ignore it."

And, of course, that's one reason why Facebook offers the Ignore option.

How do you guys handle the friend invite from a non-friend?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

39 comments
moira222
moira222

I offer a very professional and friendly note to "professional" type Facebok requests letting them know that I welcome them as a LinkedIn connection, offering my LinkedIn profile in the message. This way I don't actually say no to the request, and I don't tell them that I don't consider them well known enough to be my friend on Facebook (not in so many words!)

Ianpc04
Ianpc04

personally i try not to use facebook while at work its just a huge distraction. you can lose hours browsing others pages. but if its absolutely necessary , ask the individual why they requested a friend. worse case cenario, if the answer is not at all cosher or not to your liking ignore them plain and simple.

jck
jck

I don't have quite the issue with co-workers wanting to "friend" me. A couple people I used to work with are now my close friends, however. My quandry is this: There are people whom I knew from childhood, teen years, and even college, that I really never interfaced with much at all. I just had a class with them or whatever. Now, Facebook seems to have become the tool with which the world (or at least Americans) are rebranding and redefining the term "friend". For instance, there are people who bordered on abusive toward me in high school. Now, I've added some old school friends of theirs I was friends with too. Am I obliged to add them? Or, I had a friend in college and one of his co-workers (who is a really cute gal) wants to "friend" me. I have never so much as emailed or spoken or corresponded or traded astrological signs with this person. Am I to be rude and not friend them? This is my rule of thumb: I have categories of people on social networking sites: Friends (people I trust/care about) Family Buddies (people I know) Non-issues Non-issues get refused no matter what...and it's not an issue. Buddies may or may not get "friend"ed, depending on how big a d-b I think they are/have been. I guess you kinda have to setup a hierarchy. If someone else gets offended because you didn't add their friend or co-worker, you just have to grit your teeth and explain why. If a friend (or a professional contact, especially) can't understand why you don't "friend" someone, then...to me at least, they're not a real friend (or professional) in the first place. Your only other option I'd think is a 2nd Facebook account for your professional contacts, then axe the pros on your personal site you don't want.

tiffanyi
tiffanyi

This is a common goal of most who participate in SM. How do you know when to let someone into your FB world. Rule of thumb for me is unless we have connected before in conversation you would be ignored on FB... Twitter is for anyone who wants to listen to me yammer =)

TGGIII
TGGIII

Depends what you are using it for. When I read the comment above that each contact is a new opportunity, the media is a maketing tool; that's OK but it is too Seth Goodin for me - I do have degrees of separation between work and personal. Like you I use FB only for "friends" not viral marketing. I do encourage using a fan page if maketing is the ploy so that family and frineds do not have to read your technical writing. I find that personal stuff on business channels and business stuff on persoanl channels adds to the noise and squelch both - this is not cool but it is simple which is what I am about. I have no problem ignoring someone and directing them to my linked in account for business contacts. Have a great day and thank you for raising the issue.

marie.truman
marie.truman

I keep Facebook mainly for friends with the occasional business person who I consider more a friend. Most professional associations I connect with using LinkedIn. Occasionally I do receive a request from someone I do not know personally. I check their page and interests if its someone I might know because of a professional group or networking, I reply back to their request with the url to my LinkedIn profile. Otherwise I just ignore.

bhughes923
bhughes923

I have a mad mix of old friends, family, listeners of my podcast, and work associates. I find that FB allows you to set permissions on just about any object, allowing you to post updates that only your friends/family can see, or photos with security set for the primary audience only. As a result, I don't mind the intermingling of the personal and professional, as long as I have some semblance of control over it all.

lpyp
lpyp

Toni, what about creating a FB fan page as a new marketing channel for your readers to hear from you in different ways, and keeping your personal life personal?

kawatkins62
kawatkins62

I click ignore. I don't worry about what they think because I don't know them and I feel it's safe to assume that they know that I don't know them. I think I have been ignored by people whom I think I know well enough to have accepted my request (or else they don't go on Facebook very often) but in either case, I don't find myself to be insulted, at all (which surprises me, I would have predicted that it would bother me, but surprisingly, it does not). Knowing that, I feel much better about ignoring them. I also discovered that many people request being friends in order to get to my friends list or to ask me to be a "neighbor" on one of the *ville games... If I don't know them, I expect them to have considered the possibility of being ignored. If, however, I end up becoming more acquainted with a person I have ignored previously, I sent a friend request, or ask to be invited again at which point we become Facebook friends, and they feel a little more special to have earned a spot there, just like I would feel when it's the other way around. For those really uncomfortable requests, you can always accept them, then limit their access to your page. That is very easy to do.

RayJeff
RayJeff

Is one of many sites used. Last year, I did some volunteer work for one of the major African American IT professional associations. How I came to that was over the past 3 years before, I inquired about joining one of the local chapters. At the time, I wasn't able to join, but I was kept on the local chapter's mailing list. Then, around the end of 2008, I got a friend request from a member of a local chapter in another state. Normally, I would not have accepted the request, but since we had the association as a common bond, I accepted. We corresponded for a little while and then that was it. Several months later, I got another friend request from another member of a local chapter of the association; I accepted them as well. Corresponded for a while and then that was it. A couple of months later, I part of a mass message from the president of the foundation arm of the association. The president was asking for persons within the association to volunteer for some very important projects that were about to start. I can only guess because of me being on the other 2 members friends' list as mutual friends, the president might have basically inquired about me. So, I responded back to the president, filled out a form about my IT background and I was in. During the process, the president sent me a friend request and I accepted. For minorities in IT, whether it's personal or business, it's really important to network. The standard view is that minorities have and need to help each other. You might not be a friend to the person who you have gotten a request from, but you probably work in the same area of IT, so it's a connection regardless. Minorities really can't afford to separate having personal usage and professional usage to specific websites. it's hard to do so when a minority group will have say have a discussion group on several websites for members who have interest in the group. The expose is too good of a positive, because of the potential for creating a network of various professionals in varied disciplines.

altaee
altaee

Real friends !!! This post make no scene at all, what are you hiding? Everything become public, if you really want to have private network then don't come to the Internet. Make it offline else don't think of balance cause privacy is dead.

Mandanae
Mandanae

It's a good way to inform people about new methods and technologies

www.indigotea.com
www.indigotea.com

I've recently added a business page for my consultancy to my Facebook account, in order to address this specific issue. That way I can focus my work-based research and communication to that audience, and reserve my life updates for actual friends. Don't forget you can also create specific groups of friends, and only share certain life details with those groups.

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

You just politely tell them; "I'm sorry, FB is for my personal use only, please look me up on LinkedIn or Twitter.

jfuller05
jfuller05

I've alwasy wondered, "Why does a person that I do not know want to befriend me?" So, I go to their page and see that this person has 500+ friends. This person obviously doesn't use Facebook to catch up with old or existing friends. This person obivously just wants the friend counter to be as high as possible. Not to be a jerk, but I only accept friend requests from people that I know I will truly talk to.

csalas1962
csalas1962

I think it is an issue that many people are facing with the explosion of social networks. I personally decided to create a parallel business profile in Facebook, not just to aboard the balance of personal and business usage but also to handle the fact that many contacts are still not using LinkedIn.

dhoyt
dhoyt

Simple, create a "Fan" page for business, and when you get a friend request politely refer them to your fan page.

RayJeff
RayJeff

To be honest, I have YET to really figure out the purpose of Twitter. Call me crazy, call me very ignorant, but it really doesn't seem useful to me. Ok, if I wanted to follow the musings of my favorite celeb, then yea..I could go with it.

RayJeff
RayJeff

It is really be tiring when you have like 50 requests to join a member or a friend's game group to ignore or block the application. The only game I've really played on Facebook is Uno. And I don't have to send a request to ask someone to join me :)

lars_honeytoast
lars_honeytoast

Amazon protects my card number? My bank doesn't give out my information? I use paypal? I encrypt emails? By your philosophy we should all share everything because the Internet has no security at all.

RayJeff
RayJeff

"Don't forget you can also create specific groups of friends, and only share certain life details with those groups. " Yes, you are very right. But, how many users on FB take advantage of it, much less learn how to use FB to even know how to?

RayJeff
RayJeff

:D A friend told me over the weekend that they noticed I have over 500 friends on my list. I was surprised until I looked for myself. I was really shocked, since I stopped paying attention after 260. My list didn't blow up until the beginning last year. After maybe finding like 3 of my high school classmates, everyone started finding me. It would be like 2-4 every couple of days. I went to a small high school that started from 8th grade to 12th grade. Plus, with the majority of the student body in at least 2 extracurricular activities in school, it was pretty much an "everyone knew everyone" situation. To be honest, it really doesn't bother me that I don't get to talk to everyone of the 500+ on my list; how can you? But, I keep them updated through my status messages. But, truth be told, the majority of users on Facebook aren't the most computer-savvy. It really comes down to the general Facebook (FB) user is someone who heard about FB from one of their friends, thought it would be cool to join and they did.

davidt
davidt

I don't think that any of them should be pursued in a business context, and personally, they're a waste of time in personal lives - for the most part.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I thought the terms of service limited users to one account each. Obviously this would be difficult to enforce as the service is currently configured. I'm just wondering.

MikeG3b
MikeG3b

Trolls are becoming more of an issue every day. I'm betting annoyance at trolls will become a major damper on a lot of online socializing in the next year or so.

creativenrg11
creativenrg11

i set up a simple "work" group for the very small handful of work folks for which i broke my "no work on FB" rule. I don't necessarily remove stuff from view from them, but i prevent updates from being pushed to them. i still remember creating the group and permissions, it took me a considerable amount of time. I can't imagine any non-technical person figuring it out in less than an hour. Plus the selection method was a bit kludgy (sp?) however, that would be the best way to manage business "friends" on FB aside from ignoring them altogether.

Quackula
Quackula

How many of those 500 would you really consider close friends. I have only about 35 friends and would consider 5 as close.

RayJeff
RayJeff

:( I'm sorry, I didn't see it. I don't know how I missed it. But then again, it's was 4 am when I was responding to the posts..I should've been asleep.. :D

Ianpc04
Ianpc04

You are already in a social network , now comes the bored kids or people that get a kick out of pushing your buttons so you can give them some sort of response to there meaning less lives. bottom line the best response is call them a troll (stating a fact your not playing their childish games ) and then place them on ignore before they can respond. simple and efficient. the only problem is some services dont give you a large enough ignore list.

RayJeff
RayJeff

Yes, creating groups is a very involved process. But, considering the time people spend on Facebook, they have all the time in the world to spent figuring out.

RayJeff
RayJeff

Good question to ask. It would probably surprise everyone that there are only a handful of people that I consider really close. My personality is of a loner (picked the right field to work in :D ). That was due to my upbringing. The problem has never been making friends, but when it comes to having friends who moved to the point of being close friends that I feel really comfortable with, not many at all. And then over time, friends come and friends go. I think with how I grew up, even though I am a loner, it doesn't mean that I don't like people. Hey...people like me..I can't turn them away *lol*

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