Got Facebook?

By Jennifer J. Ator

Facebook is for friends, enemies, lovers, and exes. But, these days, it is also for grandmas, clients, teenagers, teachers, mothers, co-workers, priests, politicians, and plumbers. These are just the people that I am “friends” with.

Facebook was founded in 2004 by a Harvard University student. It was originally only for students, but by the end of 2008 more than 50 percent of those using Facebook were outside of college. According to Elliott Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of communications, public policy, and platform marketing, Facebook had 140 million active users at the end of 2008, and in a typical hour it saw 900,000 status updates, 1.5 million wall posts, and 1.6 million uploaded photos. In 2008 alone there were 6.6 billion (that’s right: BILLION) friend requests approved. If you don’t know what status updates, wall posts, uploaded photos, or friend requests are, you at least understand what these large numbers mean. It is time to jump on the Facebook bandwagon.

However, unlike the marketing gurus that beat the “never miss an opportunity to market yourself” drum, I advocate keeping your personal life personal—and that includes your Facebook presence.

Facebookers need to better understand the result of posting Fantasy Fest photos, college fraternity photos from 20 years ago (before the hazing rules tightened up), and nude photos of their children. Yes, I enjoy reminiscing online with people I have not spoken to in ten years, but I am not sure how much of that my secretary, neighbor, or client should know or have access to knowing. I strongly believe people should be very careful about mixing business with pleasure.

I joined Facebook in May after I was nagged into creating a profile. Even then, my husband had to set it up—I just did not have any interest. I started with a few “friends” and a true love for Scrabulous (until Hasbro sued under some trademark theory and the application was removed frowning face [that is an “emoticon” for those of you not familiar]). I never became very active on Facebook. I did not even learn how to post photos until 2009. I audibly gasped when my mother, colleagues I considered “old,” and even a great-grandmother from my DAR Chapter sent me “friend requests.” I became more entrenched in my belief that this Facebook explosion was a runaway train that was going to end up as a disaster for a lot of users. As a result of my horror, I started talking to a lot of people. Actually, pretty much anyone who allowed me to engage them in a discussion about the networking utility fell victim. I learned a lot of people love Facebook. Here is what else I discovered:

Facebook is an ever-changing application that must be managed by each user. When I say managed, I mean controlled, adapted, and monitored. Using the standard settings, you don’t have a lot of control about what is linked to your page. Your “friends” are given a lot of access and a lot of discretion. These settings can be changed—and they should be. By digging into the heart of the Facebook program, you can do a lot with a little bit of effort and very little money. So here it is, my top ten things you need to know about Facebook as a professional who relies largely on reputation and image.

1.        Don’t become “friends” with clients; instead, set up a Facebook page through the business solutions and allow your “friends” to become a fan of your practice. It is as easy as setting up your Facebook page, more effective, and will keep your private life private.

Not interested in a page? Below are some further tips:

2.        You can control what each individual sees on your profile. Go to Settings from your home page, then Privacy Settings, then Profile, and finally drop down on any of the options. For example, go from Photos Tagged of You to Customize—in that box you can exclude any “friend” from seeing the photos tagged of you.

3.        Need to remove someone as a “friend”?Go to the friend’s page. Scroll to the bottom. On the left-hand side on the bottom is a link Remove from Friends. Don’t sweat it. Removed “friends” are not notified and probably will never notice.

4.        Have colleagues or clients as “friends”? Time to get rid of all those frivolous applications. Unfortunately, it’s not much easier than getting rid of a “friend.”Go to the Edit link in the Applications section on your home page. When you open it, your applications will be listed with three options: Edit Settings, About, and an X. Choose the X. Follow the prompts (it will ask you if you are sure you want to remove the application).

5.        Like your applications but want to limit who can see them? To do this, follow the instructions under number 4, but choose Edit Settings. Choose the Profile tab. Drop down to Customize. You can exclude any “friend” from seeing any of your applications or any photo album.

6.        Excluding one person at a time is time consuming—just another reason to refer to number 1, above. By the way, it is a little-known fact that if you decline a “friend request,” the “friend” is not notified.

7.        Use the Notes application to post interesting things you are doing or short articles you have written. A lawyer I know published a few paragraphs about a victory in federal court. Interesting stuff.

8.        Even better, use the Posted Items application and throw out links related to your work. Donna Leinwand, a writer for USA Today, sends links of her stories through posted items. Because I don’t always read USA Today, I am happy to get the link.

9.        Consider paying to advertise. Notice those ads in the right-hand column? If you are in a practice area that benefits from name recognition, Face- book can be an effective target marketing tool in your local area.

10.      Finally, Facebook can be fun. In doing this article I rediscovered Scrabulous. It has been reborn as Wordscraper—and it is even improved. Woohoo!

Jennifer J. Ator practices with Hankins & Ator, PL. She may be reached at .

Copyright 2009

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