There’s an old business saying that a friend used to remind me time and time again: “There are no friends in business.”
Of course at the time I used to scoff at the notion, citing family business (though many would argue they may not still be ‘friends’), dinner parties with colleagues old and new and the ‘buddy system’ upon which much business is conducted, amongst others.
But I was missing the point. The point of course being that when it comes to business, all relationships should not be seen for anything more than a conduit to doing business – despite there being considerable crossover into our social lives and some genuine friendships that can ensue.
Does anyone really believe that the invitation to the corporate box is purely to extend the hand of friendship?
Your best Friends in business
And like most things interpersonal, social networking is not exempt from this blurring of the business/pleasure lines.
Take, for example, the number of Business Groups springing up in Facebook.
Now, under Facebook rules of engagement, businesses (or their pages) are not able to join their special interest Groups. You can only join Groups under your personal profile, presumably to stop Group discussions being bombarded with spam from faceless businesses – though that hasn’t stopped some Facebook Groups becoming essentially noticeboards of spam.
And therein lies the rub.
Exposing a little too much
Because you are commenting in Groups under your own personal name and profile, it’s your personal details that, subject to your privacy settings, members of that Group can see, rummage through and potentially be offended by – or use to their competitive advantage.
Let’s face it, not everyone shares our views on social habits, humour or footy team. And not everyone is interested in pics of the children/grandchildren/family/pets nor how besotted we may be with them.
Not that I have that much to hide from fellow business people. I think my behaviour and social commentary would be regarded as pretty mild. But few would not curtail some of their personal behaviour in the interests of good business and its all-important ‘good rep’.
And you never know exactly which remark or joke may be misconstrued when business acquaintances aren’t familiar with your life story or sense of humour.
Then there is plain old privacy. As much as I don’t mind business acquaintances checking my attempts at funny pics and quips, there are just some things you really don’t want to share with people you hardly know, and may tarnish your rep for any number of reasons the viewer might have for doing so. Not to mention the slim but ever present threat of identity theft.
And for many, let’s not discount safety when it comes to one’s personal information.
Introducing ‘business Craig’
It’s for these reasons that I’ve decided to create a separate personal Facebook profile strictly for conducting business conversations within Facebook.
This profile will be the straight-laced, professionally photographed me who strictly discusses matters of business. This ‘business version’ will still be Friendly and still have a sense of humour, but will not comment on personal happenings, beliefs or favourite albums.
Instead it will be the same fella you might see at local business events. Buttoned up, combed down and less likely to hit the local papers for all the wrong reasons.
This fella is likely to have fewer Friends than the ‘real’ one, but at least he will be able to sleep at night, safe in the knowledge that that smartish remark will go no further than the Friends he has chosen rather than those who have followed him home from a Business Group.
A quick survey in one of my favourite business Groups confirms that some have already taken this step to ensure they keep business separate from pleasure.
Is it time for you to make the same move?
Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which services the website and web marketing needs of SMEs.