Social media is still the Wild West, with few unequivocal rules for success. While most people agree that professionals should establish a presence on Facebook, they’re often divided on how this should be accomplished.
The primary point of contention: drawing the line between a personal and professional presence.
There are several possible approaches:
- Create a personal Facebook account, as well as a Facebook account for your business, and keep them separated.
- Build a single page for both personal and professional contacts.
- Utilize the many privacy controls offered by Facebook, managing the flow of information on a single Facebook page.
- Don’t create a Facebook account at all.
Now, let’s talk specifics.
Keep ‘Em Separated
Many experts agree that the wisest solution is to create a personal account and a business account, with complete separation between the two. I’m going to use realtors as an example here.
Many realtors use their business page for updates about new properties they’re selling, sharing helpful information about their area, talking about their background or philosophy related to real estate, and posting news relevant to other realtors or buyers.
This frees up their personal page for pictures of family and friends, chatting about vacations, sharing opinions that they might not want to share with business associates, and – yes, many have done it – giving vent to the occasional gripe about a colleague or client.
Some people are a brand in and of themselves. They’re clever, charismatic, and expert. It may be a personality difference, but these people have little concern about maintaining a private lifestyle, believing that their personal life only adds to their professional persona. If this sounds like you, a hybrid Facebook page could be an option. Think of it as a targeted real estate marketing tool. Building a “cult of personality” and turning professional contacts into friends can help the right person grow their business.
If this is how you choose to proceed, it’s important to remember a few things. They may seem like no-brainers, but you’d be surprised how often savvy folks make these simple mistakes.
- Stay positive! Don’t complain or disparage others in your posts.
- Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t want quoted on the evening news.
- Don’t reveal any sensitive private information.
- Avoid divisive comments about religion or politics.
Become a Control Freak
If you’re a stickler for details with a strong understanding of Facebook, you can maintain a hybrid personal/professional Facebook page. How? With the use of the layered privacy settings on Facebook’s Account management tab in the top right corner of your Facebook Profile Page.
This can get complicated and time consuming. You will have to go through your list of contacts and select Family/Friends vs. Work Contacts. After parsing through your entire contact list, you can then designate which photo albums certain groups of your friends can view, and which status updates and posts go out to which audience. The good news is, once you have gone through your contacts list and divided them into groups, you can easily maintain your chameleon personality on Facebook.
Don’t Do It
With the options I’ve outlined above, I believe that everyone can find a way to make Facebook work for them. If you’re still unsure, don’t feel pressured into opening an account. Social media may be the Wild West, but no one’s going to shoot you (although they may get pretty heated). It’s important to recognize that Facebook must be used correctly if it’s going to help rather than hinder your business. If you can’t commit to posting regularly, responding to comments others make on your page and keeping up with what’s new, you should probably wait to start an account. Or else, hire someone to do it for you.
And anyway, Facebook isn’t the only game in town – although it is, some would argue, the biggest. LinkedIn is another social site that is geared toward the needs of professionals. With over 100 million members, LinkedIn is a great way to create an online presence with less risk of revealing too much personal information.