For many Gen-Yers and young professionals, Facebook started out as a social network. Then, high-schoolers were allowed in. Now, understandably, more and more people are joining that range in age – and in relationship to you. Point in case:

  • My friend recently helped her mom create a Facebook account.
  • Another commented that all her co-workers want her to become a Facebook friend.
  • According to Quantcast, in July 208, 46% of Facebook users are 18-34.
  • in July 2007, ComScore reported a 181% growth of users ages 25-34, and a 98% growth in users 35+.

Thus, with Facebook going from social status —> professional network, it begs the question, what are the new the rules of thumb for one’s Facebook account? So I asked followers on Twitter. The results:

  1. All or nothing. One of the most popular answers was to go all access with everyone. This route shows to your co-workers and professional network that you own who you are. Nothing to hide. Some also responded that this helps increase the office culture and camaraderie.
  2. Oil and water don’t mix. It gets murky. Best to keep Facebook separate. One person commented that you can come to know too much about someone and that can distract from business.
  3. Go Half and Half. Others answered saying they prefer to keep professional work colleagues and co-workers at bay by using the ‘limited profile’ feature on Facebook. Or, setting privacy settings so only certain friends or groups can see certain applications, photos or the wall.
  4. Work It. Lee Aase, on his blog, Social Media University, suggest a shortcut. While waiting for Facebook to devise a way to better differentiate relationships with a system more sophisticated than the limited profile graph, Aase suggest creating a group for your professional contacts and name it “FirstName LastName Professional Contacts.” Aase explains further on his blog. Or, use Facebook’s friend lists to differentiate Aase also suggests.

No matter what you prefer, it’s best to adopt a strategy early, be wise, cautious and careful. Even those that believed in full access agreed that in the past year, they’ve tweaked their their own personal guidelines. i.e. Adopting the self-policy that one must meet someone in their professional network in person before they cozy up on Facebook.

For me, currently, I adopt a mix between the full access and the limited profile. This is largely for one reasons:

  • I want you to get to know me. I have nothing to hide. But, I’d prefer someone get to know me in person, before just reading my profile and making assumptions or place me into some category or description of who they think I might be. It’s one thing to know someone in the office, but it’s another to befriend a person.

Some other guidelines friends mentioned through my Twitter survey. Don’t post:

  • Inappropriate pictures (nudity, over-drinking, kissing, dancing, etc.)
  • Clean up those pictures from college frat days
  • Represent who you are, but be keen to what information sparks controversy
  • Don’t use foul language
  • Review your privacy settings
  • Understand what happens to your profile when you add an application
  • When you ‘become a fan’ or join a group, understand some may not get your inner circle’s inside jokes or may think you are endorsing certain ideas/services/products
  • If you wouldn’t show it to your mom, you probably don’t want your boss to see.
  • Don’t make your profiles busy or hard to read if you want to use it for networking.

What’s your Facebook Professionalism Policy? or, what do you think of mine?

photo credit: Flickr, Amit Gupta (from Newsweek article)

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