Should You Be Facebook Friends With Clients?
By Karin Eldor
Social media + business etiquette = it’s complicated.
There’s no widely accepted playbook and there are no written rules, which can cause uncertainty for users. After all, time spent on these social networks accounts for a large part of our day. According to a 2016 report published in The New York Times, users spend close to one hour each day on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. This might not sound like much, but remember that these are only Facebook’s properties. Throw in the other platforms and we’re looking at slightly more than an additional hour per day (according to AdWeek).
So what happens when a client, manager or potential employer sends you a Facebook friend request? We covered the basic etiquette of handling social media requests from your boss or coworkers in this article. Now, as for clients: You might have an incredible supplier-client rapport, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you want them peeping your Facebook or Instagram profile.
In matters of social media and social networking, should the actual networking with clients stay off social and remain in email, on the phone and in person?
The truth is, there are pros and cons to mixing business with pleasure on your social feeds. So before hitting “Accept” on those requests, check out both sides of the debate and how to handle friend requests without ruffling feathers.
Here’s the deal: if you’re an entrepreneur, then social media can become your most valuable marketing tool, without spending a dime. After all, in this day and age, you must be social to get ahead.
In my case as a self-employed copywriter, my social media network is my net worth. I often post my articles with Monster.ca and across social media. As a result connections think of recommending me for future projects. So as my own boss, social media has become my prime self-promotional tool for landing new business.
It’s also critical to see the big picture; someone might not seem like a potential client right away, but they can eventually become an important one and contact you for a large mandate.
Social media is also an easy way to cultivate relationships with future clients or partners; for example, you can innocently like and comment on a connection’s photo, which will keep you top of mind when the need arises to hire someone for a project.
All good, right? Scroll down…
On the flipside, having clients as Facebook or Instagram friends can become costly if you’re posting anything too personal, racy or political. The minute you let your guard down, your professional credibility can be damaged and do irreparable harm.
Facebook can also become harmful if you’re posting photos while away on vacation – especially an unplanned one. Do you really want clients to see you that were “Out Of Office” for a spontaneous long weekend when their email has been sitting in your inbox for days, still unanswered?
Another potential drawback: clients might think of using Facebook Messenger (or your Wall!) as an additional form of communication. Translation: you’ll be bombarded by messages to “check something out ASAP.” Yikes.
And something else to consider: do you really want clients (who are otherwise strangers) to have access to personal information? As a general rule, you never want the vendor-client relationship to get too personal.
One option is to open a separate Facebook account for your business (as a Facebook “Page”), but entrepreneurs usually get more traction on their personal profile since that’s where most of their followers are and most of the engagement is happening.
So, how to deal when you receive Facebook friend requests?
1- Manage your privacy settings
For starters, make sure your Instagram and Facebook accounts are set to “private” if you don’t want your feeds to be accessible to everyone. Some people, such as bloggers and influencers, like to keep their Instagram feed public in order to increase their number of followers. In this case, they might open a secondary Instagram account reserved for personal photos and posts.
The general consensus is that personal Facebook accounts are primarily for social relationships (and not business ones). If a client sends you a Facebook friend request and you want to maintain that relationship without insulting them: here’s what you can do
2- Keep business matters apart
If you want to keep your Facebook and/or Instagram private, then ignore friend or follow requests, and instead add them as friends on LinkedIn and/or follow them on Twitter. If they ever confront you about this, simply tell them you keep Facebook restricted to family and very close friends. (Although it’s doubtful they will follow up about this!)
Everyone should be allowed to maintain Facebook and Instagram as their “personal, safe space” -- to a degree. Remember that whatever you do post represents your brand and the company you work for (if you’re employed). So as a general rule of the thumb, don’t post anything you’ll regret later or that can haunt you. All it takes is someone screen-capturing one of your posts -- there’s no taking that back!
A final tip: Remember that your social media accounts can show up as Google search results. There are also settings in each social media platform to make them “unsearchable” in Google. Keep this in mind if posting anything questionable!
At the end of the day, follow your gut. Some might take an ignored friend request personally; but on the other hand, you might not want these types of people as clients!