In High School, did you have a hangout? Was there somewhere that you and all of your friends would go to spend time together, catch up, and swap gossip? Maybe you were on the lookout for the appearance of a crush, or moping in a corner watching an ex, or swapping yearbook photos. Maybe you got together to study, recap the latest football game, or celebrate the opening of the school play. Over the summer, you might have found a summer job connection while chatting with your friends over French Fries or an arcade game. (Remember those??)
Take out the French Fries, and you've got Facebook.
Just like the movie said, Facebook is the social network. Social Media Etiquette expert Daniel Post Senning of the Emily Post Institute says that cliché holds true and that, when it comes to social media, Facebook is "the 800 lb. gorilla in the room"- it's massive and it's everywhere. It ranks as one of the most popular websites in the country, as well as in the world.
Yet, this popularity contest has an unexpected side. "A lot of people see it as the portal sites of old," Daniel says. In fact, he reminds us that the average age on Facebook is 38 and rising: "We see Grandparents that can’t open email, but they’re on FB because their grandchildren are, and they know they can see pictures of them!" In essence, it can feel like that time your parents had dinner two booths away from you and all of your friends at the local diner- even though you may claim it for your own, EVERYONE hangs out there.
Because Facebook is so social (and often so personal), it is sometimes difficult to navigate the proper etiquette and conduct. While some notions are becoming more common knowledge, there are etiquette ideas to bear in mind when on the Social Network.
1. Know your audience: Just as we advise when giving a presentation, knowing your virtual audience is key when it comes to social media. Relationship building expert and image consultant Dawn Stanyon of Professionality says that when it comes to your professional Facebook endeavors, "You need to know who your audience is – then frequent the media they follow." In other words, make sure you know who your friends or fans are on Facebook, and make sure that is the platform to convey your message. To take that even a step further:
2. REALLY know your audience: Are your friends and fans a mix of personal and business associates? If you've made the choice to allow your professional and business worlds to collide on your Facebook page, think long and hard about what you are sending out into the Facebook world. No matter how cool your boss is, chances are they're not going to "like" your drunken New Year's Eve pictures. The same goes for your fans- while people interested in your business definitely want to know more about YOU, they might not need to know what you had for lunch. Or that you're heading to the gym. Or that you just "checked in" to bed.
3. Worth Repeating: As Dawn mentioned before, "Nothing. Is. Ever. Private." Because of the social and often unrestricted feel of Facebook, we can be tempted to overshare. (You can find Daniel's thoughts on oversharing here.) But the danger is that, even on a private page, that information gets disseminated. And will live on. Bear in mind that, even if you keep your professional and your personal social media worlds separate, it is not out of the realm of possibility that your employer (or a potential employer) can see your posts. So:
3. Apply the thought test: We advise you to think before you post, but not just quickly in passing. Truly take a moment, remove your hands from the keyboard, and think about what you're about to say. If there is any little voice in your head that says, "maybe I shouldn't post this..." don't post it.
4. "Create informal filters": Great advice from Dawn, echoed by Daniel, which we strongly support. There is nothing wrong with politely telling a boss or coworker that you keep your social media worlds separate, and you'd prefer to connect with them on LinkedIn. Daniel encourages starting friends and family groups to share information with a small number of people that not everyone needs, or wants, to see. He refers to this idea as maintaining "professionallly appropriate access to your Facebook page."
5. Enjoy it!: One of the great things about the less structured, more personal feel of Facebook is that you're not restricted by Twitter's 140 characters. So, you can really have a conversation with your friends and fans. Whether your sharing something on your professional or your personal page, don't just share an article or video- engage your audience! Share your thoughts, or ask a question, encourage interaction. Facebook alows your to have an indepth discussion without having to restrict your characters. Respond to comments and enjoy it!
Our series with Daniel and Dawn is nearing the end, but there's still more to come! Check back for our next installment, with thoughts on LinkedIn!