Today, life and business move at warp speed, as do the technologies and social media systems that power both. For many small and independent business owners, there is increasing overlap between our business and our personal lives. I have called this the work-life merger. While there are benefits to viewing life in this holistic sense, in practice, it's not so intuitive. Often, as soon as we create a process for using a new technology, the technology changes or evolves, thus forcing us to change and evolve too. Such is the case for me with FaceBook.
When I first discovered it, I saw it as a tool to communicate with my IBN members and other business stakeholders. I did not appreciate its amazing ability to keep me intimately connected with my closest friends and family members. Over the months, I accumulated over 1,000 personal profile (as opposed to Page) FaceBook connections, many of whom I was connected to only because I was a friend of a friend. At first, this was exciting because I was discovering exciting new people from all over.
“Friend,” As Defined By FaceBook
Some friends were IBN members, some were not. Some were newsletter subscribers, some were not. Some I met once at a speaking engagement, some I had never met at all. I also became “friends” with some famous people, including Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes (through my brother), musician Wynton Marsalis (not sure how that happened) and politician Charlene Drew Jarvis (the mother of a childhood pal, a former DC council member before whom I testified in my days as a corporate attorney and the daughter of blood transfusion pioneer Charles Drew).
I even accepted friend requests from men I once dated. While it was really nice to hear from them, and fun to see photos of them, their wives and children, we do not need to be connected on a routine basis in order to reminisce a bit and wish each other well. If they had really wanted to connect with me, it's easy to find my email address and/or phone number at my website contact pages.
This Was Fun, But …
Since I am a natural social butterfly, all of this connecting and catching up was great. Why not accept a friend request from someone who had taken time from their busy schedule to appear on my radio show? Why not connect with a prominent politician who was also the daughter of an amazing medical pioneer?
As I connected with these wonderful people on FaceBook, slowly but surely, I found out why not. Because I had substituted FaceBook's definition of “friend” for my own.
And because I began to lose touch with my family members and close personal friends. For example, when my brother posted pictures of a relative visiting his Washington, DC home, I did not see them until weeks after. Slowly but surely, my work-life merger had no limits and this was not a good thing.
I Had To Act
Then I read some posts by business leaders I respect and admire. In early August, Robert Scoble unfollowed 106,000 people on Twitter. He published this to his blog on August 5, but for some reason, the post has been deleted. (It is still visible in my Google Reader shared items.) Then Michael Hyatt unfriended all but his most intimate FaceBook associates. I knew I too had to act.
Yesterday, I terminated personal profile FaceBook relationships with over 1,000 people, all of whom I respect, personally like and admire.
It wasn't that I no longer want to be associated with people who are not friends or family members. I do. But I want to channel the associations appropriately. I am now friends, according to my definition and not FaceBook's, with 41 close personal friends and family members: my brother, my husband's family members, my nephew, a former in-law, a few friends from grade school, college and former jobs and my Delta Sigma Theta Sorority pledge sisters. I am also friends with some people who started out strictly as business associates, but who have, over a very significant period of time and consistent interaction on a personal level, become my friends.
I am now appropriately connected with professional business colleagues, IBN members and other valued associates through our FaceBook Fan Pages and through other social networking tools.
Change Is Good
This pruning process was neither easy nor fun. But after completing it, I discovered family photos posted by relatives that I do not have a chance to interact with often. It was like opening Christmas gifts!
Yesterday, I FaceBooked a photo of my husband and son playing a LeapFrog counting game together. Watching that special bonding moment nearly took my breath away. I could not have comfortably FaceBooked that photo to a thousand people.
Work-Life Merger, Redefined
A successful business and a fulfilling life don't just happen. We must intentionally and proactively employ strategies for success when it comes to using and controlling our social networking activities.
I will always welcome, enjoy and insist on some level of work-life merger because that's part of what makes it fun for me and others. But to maintain personal and professional order in my life, and to remain focused on my highest priorities, I am today implementing a new FaceBook and Social Networking strategy.
I'm sharing it with you because I have spoken to dozens of people who are becoming overwhelmed by new social technologies. Perhaps some of the components of my strategy can help you refine yours.
My FaceBook and Social Networking Strategy
- Personal FaceBook friends are divided into these categories: family, close friends, sorority line sisters and personal friend Fan Pages.
- Professional FaceBook friends are those with businesses, books and other exciting professional endeavors. I will become a fan of all Fan Pages of IBN members. (If you are an IBN member with a Fan Page, leave your Fan Page link below so I can partner in your success!)
- Business networking will remain vibrant and exciting using through a variety of business focused digital tools. I will reach out regularly through the Indie Business FaceBook Fan Page, current IBN member Fan Pages, through my social network, at LinkedIn, at this blog, at other people's blogs and via my weekly Indie Business newsletter. (I am also available by phone and email as anyone who visits my websites can quickly see.) I will accept LinkedIn connection invitations from IBN members, from people I have had a professional encounter with, and from professional connections who refer their professional connections. If you are an IBN member with a FaceBook Fan Page and a LinkedIn Group, I will join the one that makes the most sense. I will remove myself from groups, pages and activities where there is little to no productive activity. There's only so much space in my head.
- On Twitter, I follow all current IBN members and anyone who has anything original and informative to say about small and independent business ownership. I also follow people who Tweet about things I enjoy, including fitness, labor statistics, marriage and family relationships, recipes and women's health, beauty and lifestyle issues. Due to an error that I have not yet figured out how to reverse, I automatically follow everyone who follows me on Twitter. Until I can get that fixed, I'm happy to follow those who do not spam me or send me repeated requests to retweet things. I will not only unfollow, but block, the hint of spam or inappropriate retweet requests and interruptions that try to take advantage of my circle of Twitter connections.
I am sure this will continue to evolve over time. A productive integration of life and business requires constant reinvention. All of us must continue to refine and update our social networking activities to ensure accomplishment of the specific goals that make our lives not only fun, but also fruitful and productive.
Question: What do you think of my decisions? Have you made similar ones? Will you?