Friday, February 12, 2010

Should You Friend Your Clients on Facebook?

I have this come up every so often. Several of my clients use Facebook for business networking. Naturally, they want to network with me.

I use Facebook to keep up with my friends—so my Facebook profile is geared toward that. While there’s nothing on there that’s offensive or scandalous, I’m much more comfortable keeping my business and personal lives separate. On my Facebook profile, I like to be able to think I can be myself—post links to videos, update my profile, and post photos that show my goofy side, without worrying what someone who works with me would think.

In the past, I’ve allowed a few clients to connect with me on Facebook because I’ve felt it would be rude to refuse. With some clients, the relationship has transitioned easily to something more casual and I don’t worry about friending them. But with others, the relationship is much more formal—and it does feel a little strange to let them into my private life.

There are definitely times when I’ve thought twice about saying something on Facebook because of what clients and former clients might think. I’m of two minds about this, though. One side of me says I should be able to be myself on my Facebook page. Another side of me says that the things I put up on my profile will likely be up there for a long time—even if I delete my profile—and it’s good to have that check on what I post.

What’s your position on friending clients, your boss or others you know professionally but not personally?


Carson said...

I'll friend them.

If they don't like what they see, I suppose they can always cut ties. I haven't had that happen yet, though.

If my expressed distaste for a particular political figure with whom they're in love, my decision to let the world know that I'm listening to John Lee Hooker, my desire to share the wonder of Reed's Ginger Beer with the world, my decision to join a particular group or to crack a smart-ass joke turns them off, so be it.

I don't really want to work with people who are going to be that judgmental.

One of the reasons I decided to work for myself was so that I could do things my way. I wanted a more authentic professional experience, one that was an integrated part of my life instead of a nuisance that interfered with it.

Then again, I don't use Facebook to share my deepest, darkest personal secrets with a close cadre of friends. If I did, I'd probably feel differently about it.

Jennifer Williamson said...

Carson, I like your point--as entrepreneurs, we got out of the rat race so we wouldn't have to worry about that stuff. And I don't share anything deeply personal. Obscure song lyrics as status posts, sure. Embarrassingly personal stuff...not so much.

It still makes me feel weird sometimes. Not with every client..but with some.

Mike Chen said...

I keep clients/partners/vendors separate. If they friend me, I add them to LinkedIn. The only difference is if I get to know them personally.

Even though it'd be fine 99% of the time, I just don't want to censor myself if I feel the need to bitch about business.

Unknown said...

No. I don't. I have a few colleagues I've made Facebook friends with, but I won't do so with clients. That's my personal space. For the same reason, I won't accept links from non-work friends on LinkedIn. That's my professional space. Unless I can trust that friend to keep it entirely about business, it's not happening.

Eileen Coale said...

Facebook is for family and friends, and Linkedin for professional connections. Period. Occasionally, someone I'm connected with professionally will send a friend request on facebook; I always reply with a nice note telling them I'd welcome a connection on linkedin instead.

Kathy@TheFlawlessWord said...

My short answer is: It depends. I'll befriend clients on Facebook only if they are longtime clients with whom I feel compfortable discussing semi-private details about my life. For example, I have one client whose brother is a semi-pro/pro hockey player. The brother used to play for our local hockey team and my client got me free tickets for my dad a lot. When my dad had a heart attack a year and a half ago, this particular client was very supportive throughout the ordeal. Hence, I consider him a client and a friend.

Of course, I'm like you in that I don't reveal anything embarrassing on Facebook anyway, but I just don't think casual, random clients need to know who I'm dating, where I'm traveling and what I think about certain news stories. And they really don't need to know when they're a one-time client for a reason. :)

AnnaLisa Michalski said...

Just look at the range of responses to this already! Clearly there's no single "right" answer.

For me, it's No. I tried having the Facebook option for business by creating a page, but I found the separation between personal profile and business page wasn't hard enough to suit my taste. So I deleted the business page and haven't looked back. There are a thousand other places I am more comfortable with for business networking than Facebook.