Facebook 210: Professional Profile, Personal Privacy

Note: This post is part of the Facebook curriculum at Social Media University, Global.

I have written previously that the ability to segregate personal and professional friends in Facebook will be essential to its growth into the all-purpose social and business networking platform. I also said this separation was logically required if Facebook is to accomplish its goal of accurately representing real-world relationships in the online environment. The reality is not all friends are the same.

Facebook made some progress toward this goal in December when it introduced Friend Lists, which enable users to group friends according to common characteristics. So, for example, here’s my list of Friend Lists:

But that only accomplished half of the goal: grouping is great, but the real need was to have different privacy settings that enable users to fully engage in Facebook personally and professionally without worrying about their work colleagues or customers getting “too much information” about their past or present extracurricular activities. What if a high school friend writes on your Wall and calls you by a nickname you’ve tried to put in your past? Or a college buddy tags you in a picture that you now find embarassing? The only solution was a single limited profile.

About a month or so ago, Facebook took the next step by enabling users to specify different privacy settings for particular groups or individuals. At the time, however, some users said the settings were hard to figure out. And I was busy at the time with launching a new work-related blog, so I didn’t have time to work with it.

Now that I’ve explored the privacy settings, I have to say Facebook has done a good job with implementation, and I’ve developed this 200-level course for Social Media University, Global students. The slideshow below includes an audio track, in which I describe:

  1. The societal trends that support development of a unified personal/professional networking platform
  2. The barriers to adoption of such a platform
  3. How Facebook has addressed the potential concerns
  4. How I have implemented these privacy controls to create an all-purpose networking site on Facebook, including the rationale for which portions I have made off-limits to professional friends.

Homework Assignments:

  1. Join Facebook if you haven’t already done so, and enroll in SMUG by joining this group.
  2. Add me as a friend. I will add you to my “Blog Friends” list, which has the same privacy settings as my “Professional Friends” list.
  3. Create your own “Professional Friends” or “SMUG Friends” list in Facebook, and adjust your Privacy settings either according to what I’ve done, or in a way that makes sense to you. Add me to that list.
  4. Send me an e-mail message when you’re created that list and adjusted your privacy settings, and I will reply and send you a screen shot of your Professional profile in Facebook.

In this way, Facebook can be both your souped-up Rolodex (and the way you represent your personal brand on the Internet), while still allowing you to make personal, non-professional connections. LinkedIN, by contrast, only allows one kind of connection: professional.

What do you think? How would you adjust your privacy settings for professional networking in Facebook? Are there still elements in Facebook you would like to be able to make off-limits to professional colleagues and customers?

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Author: Lee Aase

Married father of six and grandfather of seven, and the Chancellor of SMUG - Social Media University, Global. By day I'm the Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. Whatever I say here is my personal opinion, and doesn't reflect the positions of my employer.

7 thoughts on “Facebook 210: Professional Profile, Personal Privacy”

  1. thanks for the great tutorial and your stand for privacy! I’m completed my “homework” and look forward to getting your snapshot of my profile – I’ll email you too per your request.

    I did notice there is a new option to view as another user sees your page and particularly interested whether or not you can see my photo page. the feature looks like it works for excluding the wall but doesn’t seem to be working for photos – you can tell me the actual truth 🙂

    I also did not see a way to exclude certain boxes – I would like to exclude my “list of groups” I am part of, for example.

    hope this stirs up the conversation a bit!

  2. Your site is so great!! Especially for someone like me who needs all this coursework. Thanks, thanks, thanks.
    Question: Now that Facebook has changed (loosened) its privacy policies, how has the above info changed? I’ll look around in your site for your latest posts, but in case you haven’t addressed this yet, I’m interested to know.

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