Back when social media first came around, I was really stringent about what I’d share and whom I’d share it with. Work colleagues, unless very friendly, were relegated to LinkedIn. Friends could join me on Flickr and no one else could see my photos of my kids. Facebook, when I first adopted it in 2006, was reserved for only those who I knew in real life.
But these rules have changed. Facebook has now become a place where you can connect with anyone in your network – including your clients. Here’s why you might want to consider friending clients and other business connections:
1. Get closer.
Seeing photos of your client’s kids and her reading your status updates paints a bigger picture of each other’s lives. It’s a short cut beyond just the typical business speak that you might be limited to when you present your next proposal.
2. Stay connected.
You might have customers that you see once or twice a year. Keep yourself top of mind by interacting with your client between meetings. While you might not see each other face-to-face, Facebook gives you the feeling that you’ve stayed up to date – an advantage over a competitor who is only seeing your client every so often.
3. The inner circle.
As pervasive as Facebook is, friending someone still feels a bit like being in your own private club. Adding a client, and them adding you, signals to each other that you’ve progressed beyond email and that you trust each other – just enough – to share information about your personal lives. It’s just that extra added social currency to help build mutual loyalty.
4. Just a bit more info.
Companies pay thousands of dollars for sophisticated content management systems just to remember their clients’ birthdays. Facebook gives you that extra edge since you’ll know more stuff about a customer – like how many kids she has, whether he just came back from Maui or what kind of videos she’s sharing – and have additional fodder for conversation.
5. Stay up to date.
If you’re customers are like me, they’ll also post company accomplishments on their personal Facebook pages. Be on top of the moments that matter and participate in the social media celebrations by liking and congratulating. Better yet, stand out and send a card.
Finally, I’ll leave you with the golden rule when it comes to friending clients and other VIP: Once you cross this line, be sure to only say stuff you’d want everyone to know (this is actually probably true no matter what).
Let’s face it, Facebook’s privacy terms are vague and ensuring things are totally private is next to impossible. Stop fighting it and just assume that everything you say might become public. This includes those “private” photos of your kids and the friends you got completely wasted with the night before. If you follow this rule, you’ll (hopefully) avoid big embarrassment with your client and colleagues.
Question: Do you friend your clients?