Gave a talk in Akron last week that ended with the typical question and answer session. Â One of the questions was how to handle inviting business associates to be friends on Facebook. Â I will confess – I don’t allow business associates to be friends on Facebook. Â That is just for my friends. That isn’t to say some of my business contacts don’t become friends because they do and we are friends on Facebook. But if I met you through a business relationship, I will never initiate being friends on Facebook. Â Mostly I do this because I talk about personal stuff on Facebook as do my friends. It isn’t stuff I would “hide” from business associates, but much of it isn’t stuff they would care about.
So, for this woman, we all did a little digging. Why do you want to be friends with clients on Facebook? Â In her case, her relationship is infrequent. They come in, buy her product, and may not be back for years. But when they come back, she wants them to remember her. So if she can stay in front of them on social media, that is a benefit to her. Â I was recently asked by a vendor of this type to be friends on Facebook and I turned her down. Â I instead offered to connect on LinkedIn which is actually better for me because I update it and visit it more often. Â She was quite put out that I wouldn’t share with her my personal life. In fact, she made me feel bad. Not bad enough to friend her, but bad enough to not recommend her to people looking for services! But I digress.
In the first case, since there is a reason to stay in front of people, we recommended she offer multiple contact points. Offer people the option of connecting on Facebook or LinkedIn or both. Â Then we stressed she make it clear there are no hard feelings regardless – she just wants to keep in touch. Â I even went so far as to tell her to put in the message how to reject her friend request if they don’t want it so they know she means what she said. Â I believe she will actually get more acceptance if she’s up front and honest about it.
Another woman in the group said she has the opposite problem. Clients who know her well in the office want to be friends and she doesn’t want to mix the two relationships. Â The problem is her relationships at the office are often very involved in her client’s personal lives so when she doesn’t accept their request, it becomes more of an issue. Â I suggested as the Office Manager she make it an office policy that clients shouldn’t be friends on Facebook (she only has two employees who have all expressed concerns over the same issue). Â If it were “company policy”, then clients would completely understand it wasn’t her fault when she declined. Â We also recommended she offer LinkedIn as an alternative so they do feel there is a connection.
So what do you think? Yea or Nay on the business associates who aren’t friends being friends on Facebook?