In Defense of Using a Personal Facebook Profile for Business

Let me first get a couple of things out of the way:

1. This post is for people who own very small businesses. It is not about brands, corporations, or conglomerates.

2. If you have a Facebook profile (where you must send and accept friend requests) with a name like “Sister Sue’s Cafe” you are doing it wrong and you need to hire someone to help you build a Page for your business ASAP. Call me. I’ll refer you to someone good.

3. This is my opinion and reflects my experience. I have done no studies, have no scientific or statistical evidence to back anything I say, and am offering advice from my own perspective.

Whew. Now that’s all out there, we can get on with things. I have a page for Smiling Tree Writing on Facebook. I mostly publish links to posts from this the face of a true friend!

blog there, but sometimes offer writing tips or let loose with rants about poor grammar. I also have a personal Facebook profile, which is for family,  friends, spying on my kids, keeping up with people I barely remember from school, and even for playing Words with Friends now and then.

For a while, I worried every time someone I know through my work as a writer sent me a friend request on Facebook. I don’t have lists set up, so pretty much everything I post is visible to all of my connections. Sometimes, in status updates, I curse. Sometimes I post links to political articles. Sometimes I make jokes that only certain people get. I even torture my Facebook friends with poetry once in awhile. How would a prospective client feel about that stuff?

So, I tried to direct people to my business page rather than my personal profile. But it really didn’t work. Past clients sent me referrals – to my personal page. People I met at networking events sent me friend requests. Past colleagues did, too.

Finally, I came to a decision: Accept their requests, and let them see the “real” dava – honest opinions, bad photos, silly poems and all. I still suggest that people “like” my professional page, but I don’t turn them away from my personal profile.

I’m not great at “sales” in the sort of stereotypical sense of the word. I am good at building relationships, though, and that ability helps me find and keep clients. As it turns out, one of the most important parts of building relationships is allowing people to get to know you. Allowing clients, prospects, and others from my professional life see a bit of my personal life through Facebook is a pretty simple way to let them know me.

This probably goes against every bit of expert advice you have ever read or heard. You’re probably remembering how many times people you respect have exhorted you to use the privacy settings on Facebook, to use business pages for business and to keep personal stuff personal. There are a few reasons ignoring all of that has worked for me:

1. I own my own business. I do not have a boss who will read something on my Facebook profile and be offended. I cannot injure the reputation of any company except my own.

2. Similarly, I get to decide with whom I do business. If a client says ugly things about one of my poems, I can fire them. I probably wouldn’t, but the knowledge that Icould makes me feel better about the situation.

3. Part of the reason I love what I do is that I get to be me – fully and totally dava. I spent years trying to suppress parts of my personality, or trying to be more like others in order to fit into various work cultures, and it never worked for me.

4. While I post relatively frequently on Facebook, I dothink about each post. I have never (and hopefully will never) posted a personal tirade in the heat of the moment. I may have taken part in a few online debates, but you can be sure I considered every word carefully. While I am open about my opinions and thoughts and to some extent, my emotions, on Facebook, I am also a little cautious.

It works for me. I am Facebook friends with at least 5 or 6 clients. If any of them are offended by my opinions or they don’t like what they have learned about my personal life, it hasn’t stopped any of them from continuing to send me work.

Do you mix personal and professional on Facebook? Do you have barriers in place so that your professional contacts only see some things you post? Do you  have any Facebook/work horror stories?

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