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My friend and Social Media Consultant,Ā  Linda Bernstein came up with a good question on her Facebook status, she wanted to know if people friend people whom they do not know. It’s a great question that many people have varied perspectives on. Some people think of Facebook as a place they are building a community, whereas others keep it simple including only “real life” friends, in some cases, colleagues and co-workers.

Facebook is a very particular social network, and the way one handles it, should be different in strategy as compared to a Google +, Linked In, or Twitter.

Social Strategist and Consultant Gigi Peterkin had a great comment to add to the discussion.

Social Strategist and Consultant Gigi Peterkin had a great comment to add to the discussion. You can check her out at http://gigipeterkin.com

Who will you let into your inner circle?

In this post, I am going to focus on the Facebook question as it pertains to individual accounts and not pages.

The first thing I want to clarify here is that Facebook has privacy settings that allow you to keep your information private. Facebook also allows you to hide your existence on Facebook from the public as well. So, let’s start this discussion understanding that Facebook has privacy settings and you are able to create a private environment by using these settings.

With the pending Graph Search, you may also want to consider just how many people you really want to be connected to in your Facebook “private” environment. As I understand it, Graph search will search your friends, and their friends – but

when people are connected to strangers, this is when the implications could be concerning for personal users. For “marketing” and social

business users, this could be viewed as positive and an opportunity to meet more people – so again – your strategy is important when deciding who to friend.

@wordwhacker

What do I do? My Publicist told me to friend everybody!

Some publicists and PR people recommend authors and other online personalities to friend everyone. I can see how they may find that to be a great idea, however that is coming purely from a sales point of view. I do not believe this advice considers anything other than the objective of reaching the most people possible. Important for it’s success is ones ability to post engaging items and ensuring these items fall in line wih personal brand. From a strategic point of view, if no other marketing and social strategies are in place when you are friending everyone under the sun, then it may serve no purpose at all for you, and in fact it may even hurt you if you aren’t on your game when you’re busy posting away.

Do you sell out your personal Facebook to anyone who wants a piece of you?

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First off, in order to be able to answer this question, you need to understand the “non” marketing / networking intent of people’s Facebook accounts.

Facebook users do not sign on to Facebook to advertise themselves. For the most part, the majority of Facebook users are not marketers, authors, social media experts, etc. The majority of people on Facebook, are individuals just living their lives. They look to Facebook to find some comic relief, to connect with other human beings (friends), to look at pictures of their friends and family, to share pictures of their own friends and family, and in general do “private” things. This is why so many people are so concerned with privacy issues, and so many are skeptical of using social sites. They feel their lives are private. It is also why social marketing poses a great challenge to brands and requires creativity in creating content that reaches people. There is a great post about that here.

Is your “privacy” at risk?

For quite some time, many active Facebook users would create multiple accounts, ones for their personal private friends, and other accounts for gaming or other things. Facebook responded to this quite intelligently with some of their more recent site features. Namely:

  • “Subscribe” features on personal Facebook accounts
  • Facebook Pages

Between the two options above, it allows Facebook users to easily create different content for different kinds of followers. The best part is, it allows users to do this without compromising their own personal information, or intimate details of their lives.

 

In Social Media, the big thing is “Being Authentic” – some might argue , why not let your fans join you on Facebook? My answer to this would be to allow you to have some kind of privacy in a personal environment.

  • Imagine you have a nice party with 30 close friends – the atmosphere will likely be quite free, authentic and comfortable for everyone involved – I would define this as the school of thought to only befriending people you know somewhat and are willing to welcome into your “home” to observe you in your natural setting.
  • Now imagine you send a mass email out to everyone you’ve ever met, regardless of whether you had close bonds with them, met them only once in passing, or just saw them at the grocery store. What would you feel like in your home with all those people there? You might feel more pressure to entertain. You might not put out all your most personal photo albums, you might be more careful about what you share, and how you behave. If you just friend anyone who asks you on Facebook, then you need to keep this in mind.

These issues seem to become more important to people with young children. The stage that you are at in your life, will certainly dictate how much of your life you want to share with the general public.

The Flip Side

In addition to what you are allowing others to see of yours, you also need to understand that friending other people who you don’t know so well will flood your personal space with content and information from others. This will take away from your own ability to focus on the people you are interested in seeing and learning about. Just like with the party scenario, have 1000 people over, and you will never have time to speak to them all, or get to know them. You are guaranteed to miss out on many of those conversations. Have your close friends over, the environment is different, conversations involve several people at a time, people whose ideas and thoughts are important to you, people who understand you, and who are in a mutually pleasant situation with you.

You are in control of your Facebook environment. Do as you wish with it, but do not make it a burden.

Finally, Don’t Feel Bad

A lot of people feel bad about things they see in their Facebook. I am sure your must have at some point or other seen a friend post about how they have negative Facebook friends, or are getting drained by the people around them. My answer to that is de-friend them. I know, it’s tough, but really if you allow these kinds of things into your personal environment, it will become very difficult for you to focus on the good things in life.

So what is your answer to all this?

  • Do you friend or follow people just because they ask?
  • Should you feel bad, or rude if someone you don’t know asks to be your friend on Facebook, and you don’t comply?
  • Is it personal if you ask someone to be your friend and they don’t let you in?

Personal “Trust” as an element of the Facebook environment.

On Facebook, the environment on personal accounts is just that: Personal.

If you chose to use it as a marketing tool, then by all means, go ahead. If you don’t want to let people you don’t know into your personal world, then don’t. There is nothing to feel bad about. There are millions of people out there, you can’t be everyone’s friend. Decide what it is you want to be doing on Facebook as an individual, then handle it accordingly.

I for one am very grateful for all my friends on Facebook. All the people who subscribe, all the people who dialogue with me, and especially for those people who let me into their lives by Facebook friending me.

There is not doubt, with every person who I invited into Facebook who I had met before or dialogues with before hand, I have formed deeper and better relationships. For those who I friended, who had not dialogued with me before, but I felt bad into being their friend simply because they asked – nothing came of it. No amazing new dialogue appeared, no deeper learning occurred – the engagement doesn’t come out of nowhere. It comes out of respect, and curiosity, and interest to learn more.

@Gigi_Peterkin

If you don’t have that, maybe Facebook Friends is a little too deep. Relationships have new levels now – I suggest starting at Subscribe. Take it from there, you never know where it will lead you!

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  • wordwhacker

    You’ve about summed up what I love about Facebook. Thanks for the mention Mila.

    • wordwhacker Thank you Linda! I greatly enjoyed the discussion on your Facebook about this issue – you brought out an amazing discussion and I was so glad to be a part of it! Gigi Blum Peterkin also had some great points, thank you both for your inspiration! it is really interesting to see how different people are using Facebook and some of their strategies on this subject!

  • gonzogonzo

    Great post, Mila.
    I had a very similar discussion with a friend just this week as well, so I guess it’s in the air… šŸ˜‰
    You pretty much summed it up in your post. I also recommend connecting with some folks on Linkedin or other platforms as a way to circumvent this issue. A couple of years ago, I remember sending a friend request to an ex-work contact in Toronto. She declined the request on Facebook, but sent me an invitation via Linkedin, explaining that she kept her Facebook for personal friends, and Linkedin for professional and work-related connections. I totally got that, and I thought it was a great approach. Having said that, it was back in 2007 or 2008… now, it seems we have a bigger conundrum with Facebook, simply because of its sheer omnipresence in our everyday lives.

    Playing with settings on Facebook is probably the best option here. I make my posts “friends only” by default, and manually make them “public” when I feel it’s not personal stuff or of general interest to folks you subscribed to receive my posts. Works for me, at least.
    Cheers from Quebec City,
    Frederic

    • gonzogonzo Frederic! So nice to have your comments to add to the discussion. I agree the key is in the Facebook settings. If we as individuals manage ourselves in the settings the experience is quite “safe” – I think the problem lies in that people aren’t fully educated in exploring all these areas, and let’s face it most people are too busy to start tinkering around in the privacy options and other settings. They’ve joined Facebook to share photos with friends or arrange events, and rarely make full use of this incredible network’s capability. It’s only human and understandable, hopefully by talking about the issues, friends can understand the settings better and realize Facebook provides great opportunity to expand connections, drive deeper dialogue and stay in touch. We all need our friends, for personal and professional growth, it’s a shame to shy away because of fear šŸ™‚
      And once again, its now easy to keep up with people simply by hitting subscribe, people need to realize its a great option to get to know each other when relationships are not quite yet at that personal level.

      Thanks again for your comment Frederic! Great to have you in my community!
      Mila