Social Media Marketing for B2B

The “Dirty Little Secret” of Facebook (Access Control)

April 12th, 2011 17 Comments

Recently, I discovered some “dirty truths” about Facebook that I found somewhat disturbing, even though the situation can probably be explained with personal and cultural differences. Nevertheless, I find the practice offensive.

In a nutshell, it’s become more and more popular for people to create “levels” or “castes” of Facebook friends who they give different “access rights” to content on their FB pages.

If you are not familiar with Facebook lists, here is a quick tutorial. This feature allows you to create lists of “friends” and to then limit their access to your Facebook content through settings in the profile area.

Quite some time back, Jeremiah Owyang wrote a block about what to do if your boss wants to be friends with you on FB. There seemed to be a moral dilemma to tell your boss if you’d like to keep your private life separate, that is, you don’t want him to be friends with you on FB.  Coming from German decent (we are very direct), I found this hard to relate to. My believe is that if I can’t tell my boss that I don’t want to share my private life with him, I should probably be looking for a new gig.

I am personally confused by the need to segment your “friends”. Obviously, Facebook is a semi-public tool. For one, very few people trust Facebook security and (should have) consequently have made peace with the possibility that the information they share might end up on Google one day. Second, if you are not limiting your FB page access to close family or your closest circle of friends (most people I know don’t), you are already customizing your postings to sanitize them. Let’s face it FB is a conversation with many people at the same time, and some reputation management is required. If you want a private conversation, pick up the phone or meet in person.

My FB strategy subscribes to the Malcom Gladwell philosophy, that it’s good to not just have “A” and “B” contacts but also stay in touch with “C” and “D” contacts. For example, once you set out to find a new job, your “C” and “D” contacts are much more likely to provide new leads, than your “A” and “B” contacts who you are constantly in close connections with already. You also find out a lot of great information from people in your wider network, stuff you’d not learn from your closest friends. It’s a big world out there and fun to get access to other people’s worlds/lives. Voyeurism is part of FB, be honest.

My rules are simple: I have to know and like you (this means we’ve at least spoken, ideally met but not mandatory); I consider you as a person with enough common sense to not write something embarrassing or stupid about me; I assume you are interested in what I share on FB and I would like to know more about you.

Obviously, my philosophy is not shared by everybody and I was almost shocked to recently learn that it is very common to segment your friends on Facebook into different lists. Well, it happened to me and I take offense. If I ask somebody to “friend” me, I have absolutely no problem in getting no response at all (“Not Now”) or to get an honest response that says “FB is very personal to me, how about we connect on LI (or not even that)”. What I find offensive is to get accepted as a friend – but not really – to end up on a FB wall that I can’t write on. It means, I accepted you as a friend but I did not really want to but did not know how to tell you that.

What is your opinion and experience with this issue?

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17 Responses

  1. I think a lot of people got into a Facebook friend collection competition when they first joined, sending friend requests to everyone they’d ever come into contact with. Then reality sets in and they realized that their personal information is overexposed.

    My strategy with Facebook has been to connect only with my family and close friends, leaving my other connections to Twitter and LinkedIn. When people send me friend requests, I politely decline and offer to connect elsewhere.

    Instead of forcing people to divide friends into castes, Facebook should encourage users facing such situations to simply unfriend each other.

  2. Tom Cenens says:

    Hello Natascha

    Nice blog, I enjoyed reading it.

    I have cleaned out my friends list on facebook some time ago as I had too many so called friends that just wanted a view into my life but have no further interest in me as a person what so ever.

    Social media connections only matter when both parties connect. I rather have a smaller list of real connections on facebook than a huge list of fake friends.

    An interesting view on social networking by Seth Godin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0h0LlCu8Ks

    I have to admit I haven’t been active on Facebook lately due to several reasons. One is time constraint another one is because it kins of lost its momentum from my point of view. I find it to have a lot of noise like farmville spam and other types of spam which I dislike. I also still prefer personal contact and I enjoy visiting family and friends and have face to face conversations instead of facebook conversations.

    I enjoy being active on SAP community network and twitter much more lately.

    Kind regards

    Tom

    • Tom:

      interesting. I know you are active on LinkedIn, why do you think you’d rather communicate there via direct mail than on FB? Trust, convenience, it’s where you spend more time?

      Appreciate the comment, as always and #SAPAdmin :-),

      Natascha

      • Tom Cenens says:

        Hello Natascha

        At the moment it is definitely because I spend more time on twitter and linkedin in general compared to facebook so I would say where I spend time and convience really.

        There are so many tools available nowadays so I basically tend to use whatever I’m using at that particular moment in time given the person who I message is also residing there.

        Thanks for the #SAPAdmin support ;) Appreciate it.

        Kind regards

        Tom

  3. Greg Chase says:

    First of all, calling people friends on Facebook is a misnomer. They should be called acquaintances. You only need to acknowledge some kind of tenuous connection you want to have with them. Given that connections may be stronger or not as strong, there’s definitely reasons to limit access to information you post on Facebook.

    A bigger problem I’ve found is that different populations of people are more or less interested in different subject areas of the content I project. In particular, my professional messages (I’m in marketing for a software company) are not every interesteing to my personal acquaintances. So I received a lot of protests among most of my “friends” about my acronym laden twitter posts when I combined both streams.

    As a result, I created a professional Facebook page for myself in addition to a personal one. This wasn’t an issue of hiding information (I’m quite transparent that I have two pages), it was an issue of channeling information.

  4. Vasuki Narayan says:

    Hey Natascha,

    Nice post. I know of several people who use the lists, and use it well – I have considered doing it. For example, when I post about stuff in India – wishes for festivals, cricket matches and the like, I always wonder if my American friends think I am cluttering up their news feeds. And the other way around – if I am posting about something happening here, I wonder if my Indian friends are going to defriend me because what I am saying is not relevant to them. I mean, how does my rooting for Proposition E in Pleasanton have any relevance whatsoever to someone in Coimbatore, India?

    V

    • Vasuki:

      fully get your point and that seems like a fair way to do it, as you are not classing your friend into categories but by topics you share.

      Personally, I like your cricket comments and other Indian exchanges as it gives me a window into that part of your life that I would normally know nothign about, and it’s obviously a big part of who you are. This way, I get to know you much better and when we meet in person we can connect more deeply.

      Warm regards,

      Natascha

  5. Hello, Natascha!
    Excellent blog post, and one I completely agree with. If I ask to “friend” someone, and then get accepted but placed into some sort of “friend ghetto” then I don’t feel very much like a friend. A simple “Not Now” or even some lame excuse like “I’m sorry, I have too many to keep track of” would be preferable.
    I had the unpleasant experience of having someone “friend” ME, then found out I only had partial access to their pages. THAT definitely offended me, enough so that I “un-friended” them as soon as I realized the situation. Thanks, but no thanks.
    Thanks for the great observation, keep blogging!

    Bill
    PS – Minda says hi, too!

  6. Aslan Noghre-kar says:

    Hi Natascha,

    Great post. I’ve been using the facebook list for a while now and no you’re not on my limited friends list :)

    I believe everyone uses facebook differently. Just as you would behave in a physical social setting, some are timid and only comfortable sharing their personal views with trusted friends, while others maybe more comfortable sharing their views and interests with a larger group in that setting.

    In my case I use lists to separate some work or other formal acquaintances (family friends-distant relatives) from my close friends. What I limit on these lists are only photos and videos that I’m tagged in but my posts and wall as well as images posted by me are available to all my friends on Facebook.

    What I don’t understand is when users limit their friends from posting on their wall directing you to only send a private message and we all know that most popular e-mail services allow you to privately send messages and chat.

    “if I can’t tell my boss that I don’t want to share my private life with him, I should probably be looking for a new gig.” – Totally agree.

    Cheers,
    Aslan.

    • Aslan:

      and we all know that you have a love-hate relationship with FB. You’ve tried to leave but it’s like in that song by the Eagles: “You can check out any time, but you can never leave”.

      Warm regards,

      Natascha

  7. Scotty says:

    Good info. Lucky me I found your site by accident (stumbleupon).
    I’ve book marked it for later!

    • Natascha says:

      Scotty,

      thanks for taking the time to leave this encouraging comment.
      Let me know if there are any particular topics you’d like to see covered.

      Best,

      Natascha

  8. Verena says:

    Good blog you’ve got here.. It’s hard to find high-quality writing like yours nowadays.
    I seriously appreciate people like you! Take care!!

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