Saturday, September 19, 2009

The new Face(book) of business

I love Facebook.

I know, truly an unoriginal, if honest, sentiment. I chew up a lot of time on the world's largest social networking platform, and I enjoy it. But it isn't just social, anymore. Now, it's also business. Big business. And maybe I don't want all of my business and social stuff mixed-up.

I started using Facebook a couple of years ago as it was intended - a place to catch up with friends online. But something about the newsfeed kept itching in the back of my mind. There was something more there - something about the serendipitous discovery of new information that wasn't really serendipity. It was a small group of people providing me with links and videos and thoughts that were sort of pre-screened to be of interest to me. After all, I was friends with these people. I had a connection. Things they found of interest were usually kinda cool. There has to be a broader use for this feed.


So I went merrily on my way, adding content to share with friends, posting links to share with friends, writing silly notes to share with friends, writing politically-provocative things to share with friends. And as the site got busier, and more people joined, I started getting more friend requests from people that were more colleagues and comrades then friends. People that had a work connection, but with whom I didn't necessarily want to share my vacation photos.


We've all been there. What do you do when you get a Facebook request from someone like that? Or, and this has happened a lot to me, from people I haven't actually ever met but who are friends of friends or allies in my work field that just want to network? Do I really want to share a new picture of my kids at the State Fair with absolutely everyone? I decided no. So, I double checked my privacy settings, and blocked my Facebook content to be just friends of mine, not networks beyond that. I politely declined to friend people I haven't met, and awkardly accepted some that I wasn't sure about, but felt too Minnnesota-nice to turn down. And it's been a struggle as the site grows in popularity.

So, I felt a schism was in order. Not a great split of old (I don't have anything nailed to church doors) but I like using the word schism and here's my chance. I split myself into two. My personal Facebook can still be personal and a closed system, but now I have to connect with colleagues and comrades. This system is wide open, thank you very much. All comers are welcome, and it is searchable on the web. I can use those cute little Facebook badges on my personal site now, where I really couldn't before.

The business me, and forgive me for getting all jargon on you, has some brand value. I've worked hard for a lot of years to build relationships with people, and me making some off-hand comment on a quiz can detract from that value. The flip side of this is also true. I have friends - and you know who you are - that are not interested in me going on and on in Facebook about my work. I have things to share in a Facebook newsfeed that are cool, but not to everyone I went to high school with, fer Pete's sake.

Now, the messy part. I have to put some principles into practice to make this work. I've been slowly working my way through the 300 some friends I have on Facebook now, and sending new friend requests to some from my new work account. Some can and maybe will be both personal and work friends, but not everyone wants both. I've got to clean up the lists I have, and the maybe I can start adding a few more in that I have declined in the past. My suggestions on this:

  1. The "you have been to my house" test. If at some point in your life you have actually been in the place I have lived (not necessarily my current house, but one of my addresses over time), then you are a friend of mine. I have people I am friendly with, whom I like and all, but I only see in public contexts. If you've been to my house, you're on my personal account.
  2. The "we have actually met in life" test. I have many people I have met in my career, and I like a great many of them. But I am also getting friend requests from people I have never met in the real world. Most of the folks I have met but not seen socially are going to be in my work account, but some of them I have a real connection with and will see if they want to stay in both worlds.
  3. The "sure connect, but I reserve the right to Hide you" fail-safe. Okay, those of you wanting to connect on Facebook that I have never actually met, let's give it a try on this work thing. But be forewarned: spend your time trying to get me to join your Mafia, and I'm likely to quietly Hide your posts.
Two tactical tips for those considering trying this at home.
  1. You will, of course, need more than one email account. I have seven at last count, so this wasn't much of an issue for me, but for anyone else, perhaps you should just use the work account for work, and the personal account for personal. I've blurred that line too often now, so I'm just going to have to sort it out and I'm using my blog account to start the new one.
  2. Use two browsers. If you use one browser, you will have to log off and log on periodically to check the feed on the two accounts. My primary browser, Firefox, is my personal account. My secondary browser, Chrome, is my work account. Internet Explorer can just go sit in a corner and think about what it has done. This way, I can keep logged in on both and easily update or check either.
If I learn anything cool, I'll let you know.