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Three Strategies for Separating Personal and Professional

When I poll the audience in my Facebook trainings and ask “Who is concerned about separating personal and professional on Facebook?” a sea of hands always appears before me in response. This concern must be overcome if you are going to effectively use Facebook as a tool to grow your business. The good news is that there are ample opportunities to manage the line between your personal and professional life on Facebook. The challenge is, as with most things in Facebook marketing, there are multiple ways to achieve success, and the platform constantly evolves. In addition, no one strategy for balancing personal and professional on Facebook is the “right” strategy. Your personal strategy will be influenced by many things: your business goals, your comfort level with Facebook, your privacy line (are you an open book or hyper-private?), your technical skill and the evolving culture of Facebook, to name a few.

To understand what your Facebook personal/professional separation strategy should be, you have to first understand that Facebook is a complex platform that offers four main tools – profiles, pages, groups and ads – for crafting your Facebook marketing strategy. You can get a better understanding of the opportunities for each tool for real estate with my post Facebook Foundations: Facebook’s Marketing Tools Explained.  Each of you may pick different tools for executing your professional/privacy strategy. We’ll focus on the profile and page tools in this article.

Next, you need to understand that the Facebook terms of service (TOS) state that you may not create more than one personal profile. They also define that profiles are to be used only for personal use, and pages are the tool that are to be used for commercial gain. So if you have created two profiles thinking that you will connect with clients on one profile and family on another, you are in violation of the Facebook terms of service and risk having your accounts shut down. Not only is creating two profiles a TOS violation, but it is also complex to manage and creates lots of questions as Facebook will often prompt your Facebook friends to friend your second account using a “people you may know” section. Your friends get confused because they thought they were already connected to you on Facebook. They may wonder if you have de-friended them or question if you are hiding something from them, both of which work against you. This is simply the wrong strategy for separating personal and professional.

So, what are the right ways?  Here are some options:

Strategy 1: Create a Business Page

Creating a business page (also commonly referred to as a “fan page”) is the simplest way to cleanly segregate your personal and professional life on Facebook. This is because Facebook pages – which are optional to create – provide a separate place in Facebook for you to represent your professional life, and the connections to your page (known as “fans” or “likes”) are completely separate from the “friends” connected to your profile. So using the profile/pages separation, you can connect with your family and close friends on your profile and have your business contacts, sphere of influence, vendors and business prospects connect to your page.

Here is an example from REALTOR® Tony Bartos who has deployed this strategy:

Pages and profiles, despite looking very similar in layout, do have functional differences, and because the connections are different, you can maintain a complete separation of your professional life (which will be represented on your page) and your personal life and connections (which will be maintained on your profile). By having a business page, you can decline or re-route friend requests from those you don’t want to “friend” over to your page. You can also lock down the visibility of your profile so that non-friends can’t view your profile details (see next strategy for details).

Business pages can be an outstanding way to incubate relationships with people who you might not accept as your Facebook friends. They are also a great way to reflect your business and professionalism. Check out two examples from Arizona-based REALTORS®: Bob Hertzog of Summit Home Consultants andDru Bloomfield.

You can set up your own business page in Facebook or hire a company like mine to take care of the details for you.

Strategy 2: Use Facebook Privacy Settings to Control Visibility of Your Profile

In addition to having a page, it is also possible to separate your personal and professional life on Facebook using your single profile. (Remember, it is against the terms of service to have two.) Begin by reviewing and selecting the privacy settings associated with your profile. Two essential areas to review are:

Privacy Settings Menu: This setting controls the default privacy of the posts you do on your page.  Make sure it is set to “Friends” not “Public.” This way, you have to approve/accept Facebook friends before they can see what you post on your wall.

Privacy For Your Profile: Second, review the privacy settings of your profile in the “About” and “Friends” sections of your profile by selecting the “Edit” button next to each section and adjusting the visibility to your level of comfort.

Strategy 3:  Use Profile Lists

Beyond the privacy tips outlined in Strategy 2, you can further refine the visibility of your profile content using an optional Facebook feature called “lists.” Facebook lists are a way for you to organize your Facebook friends. Once deployed and mastered, Facebook lists are the ultimate tool in providing a separation between personal and professional on your profile. Lists let you granularly control your profile visibility via permissions. It is possible, for example, to have photos visible to your “family” list but not visible to your “client” list. Note that friends can appear on more than one list, and your friends are not notified when they are added to lists.

There are three categories of lists:

  1. Pre-Defined Lists: Facebook has three predefined lists associated with your account that you can use to organize your friends: Close Friends,Acquaintances and Restricted.

  1. Smart Lists: Smart Lists are lists that Facebook creates and updates automatically based on information you have in common with your Facebook friends in the “education and work” and “current city” sections of your profile.  So if you say that you live in Phoenix on your profile, you’ll have a smart list of all your Facebook friends that live in proximity to Phoenix.  Smart lists update automatically as your friends update their profiles.

  1. Custom Lists: You can create custom lists to organize friends however you like. You choose what the list is named, who goes into these lists and what (if any) privacy restrictions apply.  Custom lists that agents might make include Agents, Clients and Sphere of Influence (SOI).

To access and create lists, go to www.facebook.com/bookmarks/lists. The easiest way to get started with lists for separation of personal and professional is to categorize your friends using the pre-defined lists.

Once you have organized your friends into lists, you can control the visibility of your profile status updates, just one of the many advantages of lists. (There are others.)

Which strategy will you deploy?  For some, you may opt to focus on building a page and not really use your profile at all. This is the route that the Lewin Real Estate Group has taken.  Others may choose to apply lists to their profile and adjust the visibility of photos, posts and other profile date based on permissions applied to those lists. REALTOR® Robin Milonakis does this, with a profile list for “referral agents” in which she groups agents from markets that have a lot of people move to her city.

Remember, there is no single correct answer. You need to decide your objectives and pick the strategy that will work best for you. Whatever your strategy, deciding how to effectively separate your personal and professional life on Facebook sets the stage for Facebook to become a powerful conduit, connecting you with a greater list of people who can ultimately benefit your business.

About the Author

Stacey Harmon

Stacey Harmon is a Facebook expert, principal of Harmon Enterprises and the author of Facebook Page Marketing: Content Strategies for Real Estate. Her company, Harmon Enterprises, is dedicated to helping real estate professionals grow their business with effective Facebook marketing strategies. An engaging, energetic and respected speaker, Stacey is an NAR REALTOR® University trainer and has presented at brokerages, associations and events across the country, including the National Association of REALTORS® Annual Expo, Inman News Real Estate Connect and Agent Reboot. Stacey is a licensed real estate agent with 17 years of real estate industry experience. She holds an MBA from the University of California, Irvine. Like Harmon Enterprises on Facebook to get free Facebook marketing tips for real estate.