It will come as no surprise to many of you reading this that I’m a huge fan of Facebook and have been since I signed on about two years ago. As I’ve watched this social network grow by leaps and bounds, I’ve seen more and more business professionals jump on the bandwagon and try to make a go of it, with decidedly mixed results. Truth be told, I’ve also made a few mistakes myself along the way.
In the spirit of sharing, I hereby present my list of 10 tips for business professionals who want to experience the many delights of Facebook without making a fool of themselves:
- Use your real and full name in your profile – Don’t sign on under some cute alias or nickname; nobody’s going to be able to find you, and using a fictional name as your Facebook identity is just begging to get you kicked off since it’s a borderline violation of the Terms of Service.
- Make sure your profile includes a photo of you – If you don’t include a photo of yourself in your profile, you might as well not bother being on Facebook. Very few people, even your friends, will want to add you as their Facebook friend without knowing who they are dealing with. Choose a recent colour or black and white headshot of yourself, and make sure the photo is tasteful.
- Include detailed business information in your profile – Prospective Facebook business friends are going to be viewing your profile to evaluate whether or not they want to add you as a friend, so make sure you include the name of the company you work for, a link to your corporate Website, a link to your blog (if you have one), your email address and phone number.
- Do not invite strangers to be your Facebook friends – This is a huge pet peeve of mine, as I generally will not add anyone as my Facebook friend that I haven’t met in person. They’re called Facebook "friends" for a reason. I also suggest you not let strangers add you as their Facebook friend until you have established a comfort level with them through other means.
- Do not send messages to strangers – This is another pet peeve of mine! Unless you already know the person and are one of their Facebook friends, do not use Facebook to send them messages. If you really need to contact the person, use traditional email or the telephone; don’t bug them on Facebook.
- Do not add useless and/or annoying applications to your profile – Nothing will make you look more like an ass than if you start adding all sorts of time-wasting applications to your Facebook profile that automatically ‘invite’ all your friends to participate. Say no to zombies, vampires, hamsters, funwalls, super pokes, top friends, personality tests, and all the other crap.
- Do not send bulk commercial messages to your friends – Hard to believe I would have to spell this one out, but Facebook is the last place you want to start spamming people. It’s OK to send the occasional business related message to small groups of people at a time, but do this more than once a month and you’re really asking for trouble. (You are free, of course, to create your own Facebook Group, which will allow you to send update messages to anyone who joins the group; nothing wrong with that.)
- Think twice before writing on other people’s Walls – Walls are not the place to have a private conversation because everyone (or at least all your friends) can see the conversation. If you want to have a 1:1 discussion with someone, send a message instead. And to avoid someone inadvertently posting something inappropriate on your Wall, you might want to consider disabling your Wall altogether.
- Be judicious about what information you make available in your profile – Identity theft is a big problem, and so are stalkers. Don’t every list your real birth date on Facebook (or anywhere else online) and be very selective about other personal information you share. The same holds true for photos; be very careful about the photos you upload. Do you really want your business associates to see that photo of you dancing on the bar at the local watering hole?
- Use LinkedIn for pure business connections instead – Yeah, I know, it’s kind of funny to call this a Facebook tip, but often times it’s more appropriate to use LinkedIn to connect with someone since LinkedIn is "all business" whereas Facebook is much more casual. I recommend using both, with Facebook skewed more towards true friends and business "friends" and LinkedIn for more serious business connections (and nothing else).
Don’t let any of this frighten you off Facebook as it is a remarkable personal and business tool. But do tread lightly when you first sign on and spend some time to get to know how it works and what is acceptable behaviour (for business professionals) and what is not.