Should you friend a client on Facebook?

 

Clients on FBPlenty of people use Facebook for business. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that you don’t. Here’s why.

You can’t control what goes up on Facebook. Someone you barely remember from high school can post some photo of you doing something stupid way back when. Or even write something on your wall that is just not true.

Let’s say you start a Facebook account only for business contacts. You start by friending all your clients, all your colleagues in the industry, and even a few people you think might be helpful to your company down the road. So far so good.

But then your mother will get a Facebook account. Maybe your mom doesn’t see you quite the way you want your clients and prospects to see you. Pretty soon she’ll start posting stuff like a photo of you wearing braces and headgear. Or leaving helpful advice on your wall, like maybe about that unsightly rash you had at Thanksgiving.

Your kids, of course, are already on Facebook. In a moment of family harmony, your son or daughter friends you. Then let’s say you’re joshing with a business buddy on Facebook and you find yourself typing certain off-color language that you don’t ordinarily use around your children. Or, heaven forbid, a colleague posts pictures of that trade show in Vegas. (You didn’t let anyone take pictures of that, did you?) You see where I’m going here.

Still not convinced? If you feel certain that you are always exactly the same person in all personal and business relationships and that you have never done any single thing that you wouldn’t want everyone you do business with to know, then sure. Go ahead. Use Facebook for business. With my blessing.

But for the rest of us, it’s better not to. Best to leave Facebook for keeping up with friends and family. It’s a fantastic tool for exactly that.

What if a business contact asks to friend you? Well, that’s tricky. The straightforward way is to come out and say, hey, man, I really want to connect, but how about on LinkedIn? Or Twitter? I use Facebook mostly to keep tabs on my crazy relatives and college buddies.

There’s also the defriending option. You can go ahead and accept their invitation, and let them sit there on your friend list. Try not to interact, so they don’t get used to you being on Facebook. And then one day, quietly go into your All Friends list and click the X beside that name. Facebook will ask you if you’re sure you want to remove that connection. Hit the Remove button and it’s like they never friended you. They won’t get any notification of that move, and with any luck, they’ll never think to look for you in their friends list. If they notice you aren’t there, which they probably won’t, they’re very likely to assume they never asked you.

The passive aggressive method works too. When a business contact makes a friend request, don’t respond. Just let it sit there in your Requests box. Then a few days or weeks down the road, hit the Ignore button and poof! Gone.

Take the high road, if you can. Of these three possible tactics, the least offensive by far is just being straightforward about keeping Facebook for old friends and family. The other two methods are not foolproof. If they backfire, you could hurt someone’s feelings – and maybe lose a friend.

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