Channel Watch

4 Ways to Facebook

I went on a Facebook tear in early January, blasting out friend requests by the dozens and obsessively checking the page throughout the day and on weekends. Facebook's little blue logo with the "f" in it has been everywhere lately with the Goldman Sachs investment and the movie "The Social Network."

Working on this month's cover story and reporting on the way IDC and Gartner both expect breakout years for social media in corporate environments probably had even more to do with my newfound zeal.

I'm not a Luddite, and I haven't just discovered Facebook. My account's a few years old, and I'd cultivated a modest list of a few dozen friends, mostly high school and college acquaintances, relatives, current and past coworkers or people I've met through the kids' school or activities. It's really the business contacts that are new for me.

The potential of Facebook for connecting with professional contacts has always been clear. It's not the value that was an issue, but how to handle the mixing of the business with the personal.

It's something that every professional wrestles with. The Jim Gaffigan joke about not wanting different groups of acquaintances to meet at a party sums up the problem (in an over-the-top way): "These people over here, uh, they don't think I drink." Do you sanitize everything for work, or keep it real with your friends?

I've come across various approaches on Facebook:

There's the multiple-Facebook-accounts approach -- the practice of maintaining one Facebook identity for work contacts and a separate one for personal interactions. This is a little too much like spy tradecraft for me.

There's the passive-aggressive approach of ignoring friend requests from professional acquaintances and hoping they won't notice, or not allowing people to invite you to be friends. The risk here is appearing stand-offish.

There's the Facebook/LinkedIn-firewall approach -- a sensible approach where you keep professional contacts on LinkedIn and personal stuff on Facebook. The question is whether this approach is sustainable as, more and more, Facebook becomes the default social network.

Finally, there's the let-it-all-hang-out approach -- you give up a little bit in personal expression for the utility of having everyone in one place. And it opens new possibilities for finding the kind of interests in common with professional colleagues that will help you make more genuine connections and do better business together.

How are you handling work-life balance on Facebook? Is one of these approaches working for you or failing spectacularly? Is there another way? Let me know about your Facebook/business experience at sbekker@rcpmag.com.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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