Reclaim Your Life! A Small Business Owner’s Guide To Using FaceBook Efficiently and Effectively

UPDATE: 1/29/10: While this is an informative post, I discovered that it is against FaceBook's Terms Of Service to have more than one FaceBook account, so I deleted the personal account.
Last September, I shared my new FaceBook social networking strategy, designed to help me stay connected to business colleagues and friends, as well as intimate friends and family members. Because FaceBook presumes that each person will only have one profile page, it can be challenging for small business owners like me to fully portray the numerous aspects of our personalities online. In September, I thought my new strategy would allow me to wear a business hat and a personal hat without compromising either. I was wrong.

My FaceBook Collage

So, I've adopted a new 3-pronged approach to FaceBook, and this time, it's one I can work with (at least until FaceBook changes something that forces me back to the drawing board). In order to put this into context, a little of my FaceBook history is in order.

My FaceBook Story, In 3 Parts

  1. Part One: Personal Account: I set up my first FaceBook account a few years ago. I never added a profile photo and the account just sat there. I eventually completely forgot about it.
  2. Part Two: Professional Account: Some months later, I set up a new account using the Indie Business vanity URL to match my blog, social network and newsletter. Before long, I had about 1,000 friends at this account, most of whom were business colleagues. Over time, I noticed that my family members were using FaceBook more to share news, personal photos and other intimacies. Unfortunately, because I used this account for personal and professional purposes, it was a bit chaotic.

  3. Part Three: Fan Page. I set up a FaceBook Page to display my public persona and share business expertise, blog posts and small business news items.

While I am wholly devoted to my IBN members and clients, I make conscious decisions each day to put my family first. Using the single Professional Account for private and professional use made it difficult to give my family members the special attention they deserve. I began to feel a loss of closeness with them, and I did not like that.

In September, I thought that ending non-family connections at the Professional Account was the only solution to my dilemma. At that time, it did not occur to me to set up a personal account, and I had completely forgotten about the one I set up a few years ago.

One day, out of the blue, a family member sent me a friend request through the first account. I was astounded to remember it, and immediately logged in (after trying a dozen login combinations!) to see that the account was totally empty. I knew I had found the solution to my problem!!

My 3-Pronged FaceBook Approach

  1. Personal Account. At the first FaceBook account — I call it the Personal Account — I connect with people to whom I am related by blood or marriage, or who are such close friends that I consider them to be family. Because it has a separate login, I can easily focus on my family while I'm there. I can share intimacies, and those closest to me are not lost in a sea of business communications. I check my Personal Account first thing in the morning.

    The best thing about this account is that it is all but completely hidden! No one can see it unless they are connected to a family member who is also connected to me through the Professional Account or the Fan Page. The few people who do find it have to really look for it, and it's easy to check my friend requests there and direct non-family members to one of the other two options. Another great thing is that the email folder at my Personal Account is not flooded with a bunch of business emails. I like being able to give my family my undivided attention, and this account allows me to do that.

  2. Professional Account. I use the Professional Account to connect with acquaintances, business colleagues, professional friends and people to whom I am not related by blood or marriage. My avatar at this account includes a transparent version of my logo so I can quickly see “which dM” is logged into FaceBook at any given time.
  3. Fan Page. This is connected to my Professional Account and I use it to connect with people who know of me through IBN, my books, speaking appearances and advocacy work. Some people connect with me through the Fan Page and the Professional Page, while others choose just one. Most business colleagues choose the ). Family members can connect with me at all or none of them, but most of them choose the Personal Account only.

This arrangement has several benefits:

  1. People Can Choose Quickly. People can easily see which place makes the most sense to send me a friend request. This helps prevent confusion and creates predictable personal and professional relationships.
  2. I'm Not Stressed Out. I can maintain two distinct personalities on FaceBook without feeling like I have multiple personality disorder. I can log in as Donna the wife, cousin, sister-in-law and pal, and devote full attention to the people who are my highest priorities in life. When I'm ready, I can remove my curlers and put on my business suit to connect in the professional world. I am able to change how I interact based on the fact that I'm logged in as a business leader and not as someone's confidant, sister or lifelong friend.
  3. I Can Speak Freely. I can speak freely with my family members about issues I would not discuss “in public.” This ensures that familial ties and intimacies remain strong. This is very important to me since my family is the most important thing in the world to me.
  4. It's Efficient.When I'm logged into the Professional Account, I can easily go back and forth between it and the Fan Page, keeping seamless business conversations in motion all the time.This makes using FaceBook efficient, which is quite an accomplishment for me.

While some people might conclude that maintaining three separate pieces of FaceBook real estate is cumbersome, I assure you that it is not. This approach creates a sort of firewall that allows me to integrate and cultivate all areas of my life without any one of them infringing on or compromising another.

One Final Note

I am certain this will not be the last time I have to re-visit this issue. FaceBook changes constantly, so who knows when a new update will force me to make another change. For now, I am pleased that my family members will not be bombarded with business updates they don't care about.

I am also happy that my business colleagues and I can have fun sharing the ups and downs of entrepreneurship without having to see 20-year old tagged photos of me in my bunny slippers (or whatever).

Question: How do you fully embrace all aspects of your personality on FaceBook? Is it time to re-think your FaceBook strategy?

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.