Monday, July 30, 2007

On Using Facebook Professionally

I never gave that much thought to using Facebook as a professional tool. Sure, my thinking when I got the account is that it should be reflective of my professional status. I often make the joke with some students that they are not going to find my drunken pictures in my Facebook. To my two readers, don't get too excited. There are no drunken pictures of me anywhere. At any rate, Stephen Abrams points to two posts on using Facebook professionally. The posts are well worth a look. The one from Web Worker Daily is the one that started it all. Here is the list, with some of my thoughts on the matter:

  • "Think of it like personalizing your desk." This is a pretty good way to look at it. You would not put up a picture of yourself in your office desk hanging out with some stripper. You may hang it in your garage, but certainly not in the office or cubicle. Personally, I don't usually keep photos at my desk. I do have small knick knacks, a poster here or there, but photos are rare. I guess for me photos are a very personal thing. That I put some pictures of myself during my recent road trip (see the Flickr link in the right column) was a big leap for me. Notice the pics are of me. I left my family out of it for now. What you choose to put on your FB profile tells a lot about you as your desk does.
  • "Look for old coworkers and current connections." I have not used FB for this a whole lot. However, the attempts I have made to look up any old coworkers have pretty much failed to yield any results. None of the ones I looked up have a profile on FB. Not a one. So, at least for me, this advice is not very useful considering also I am not too likely to invite anyone to join FB. I am not one to impose on others.
  • "Add friends selectively." This should be self-explanatory.
  • "Add apps selectively." See above. When FB opened its system for developers to make applications, a concern out there on the blogosphere is that FB would become like FB. I will admit my bias here: a big reason I stay out MySpace is that MySpace is pretty much a big mess. Facebook was supposed to be a bit more tidy; then again, it was supposed to be for the college people, and we know how that ended. Adding one application too many is a surefire way of making your profile look messy. Is that the impression you really want to give others? I recently added the Flixster movie application to my profile, mostly to experiment with adding an application. The jury is still out on that one for me since the integration does not seem totally flawless. I was debating on adding the GoodReads application, since I have an account there as well (thanks to a recent invite by a friend), but my concern is if adding one more would add too much clutter. I like the WWD author idea that one could add an application and not let FB display it publicly. I may consider that as I experiment more. This goes with the next list item I am highlighting:
  • "Incorporate the tools you are already using into your profile." I would say to do it if it makes sense to you, and if it will help to maintain that professional image.
  • "Edit your profile and security settings." This is another one that should not need explanation. Folks, make sure you edit your privacy and security to your satisfaction. To do this, you do have to take some time to look over the settings. There are controls, but you have to use them.
  • "Join groups related to your business interests." This is basically to say "be selective" here as well. The WWB author observes that there are a lot of dumb FB groups out there. I know. I have taken the time to look at a few of them, only to wonder what some people were thinking in creating, let alone joining certain groups. Personally, I am not one to join many groups. I have a couple of groups related to librarianship and to my old school. However, if my old high school chums start putting things in the group that may be questionable, rest assured I jettisoning it out of my profile (or at least changing my privacy settings).
Now, I know that Facebook was not necessarily made to be a professional tool. It was made to be a social tool for college students. It has been discovered by college faculty and staff as well as others by now. That is fine. But if you are a professional, and you want to keep some sense of professional decorum in your profile, the advice from the posts is pretty good to consider.

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