March 5, 2013

Should You Be Facebook Friends with Your Clients?

To friend or not to friend—a perpetual social media question. If you work in client service, or have clients in some capacity, you’ve probably run into this particular dilemma of becoming friends with your clients on Facebook. So, what’s appropriate? If you work for a social media agency or in a social media-based role, might it be expected that you become friends with all of your contacts? Or is it better to keep your business all business and your personal, well, personal?

That depends. A better question may be, “Is Facebook really the best way to connect with your clients in the first place?” While Facebook is best for sharing among people you already know, Twitter and LinkedIn encourage you to share information, articles and other thoughts in a public space. These two platforms are natural places where you’d want to conduct conversations with professional contacts and new leads. Since your tweets can reveal as much or as little personal info as you’d like, you can intersperse your content with personal tidbits like photos without also giving access to your Spring Break photo albums from college.

As opposed to a few years ago, most people now are on LinkedIn and check it more often (i.e., not only when they’re on the job hunt). More frequent use is even broadening the type of content shared. Rather than always posting industry shop talk, more and more users are occasionally sharing content of personal interest to appear like a real person who’s more than his or her career. Like Twitter, LinkedIn allows you to develop your professional image while you conscientiously share certain types of content that convey the real you.

It’s also easier and less intimidating to follow clients (or have them follow you) on Twitter and LinkedIn. My Facebook public profile may seem innocuous enough because most of my info is friends-only, but if you’re a new friend, I honestly don’t know what you might find if you dig deep enough in my profile—that thing is almost 10 years old! I’d rather take our relationship online via Twitter, where my content is fairly ephemeral, or LinkedIn, which started out as my “professional” channel, and then I’ll share bits of my personal life with you there.

Being a client services person in the social media world doesn’t mean being an open book, but rather using the right networks to connect with your clients and contacts in a meaningful, yet appropriate way. And what do you do if a client friends you? Dawn Mentzer, aka the Insatiable Solopreneur, advises establishing a consistent “Facebook friend policy” for clients—you’ll either accept client friend requests, or kindly inform them that while you use Facebook to keep up with family and college friends, you’d love to connect with them on Twitter and LinkedIn (and follow through by connecting with them on these networks).

I’m sure a lot of you have thoughts on connecting with clients on social media, and I’d love to hear them! On what networks do you connect with your clients? Has connecting with clients on social media led to any success stories or cautionary tales?

As you might have guessed, Melissa Komadina works in Account Service at Renegade. Feel free to tweet her or find her on LinkedIn.