No matter what business you’re in…no matter whether you’re a business owner or a professional working for someone else’s company…at some point in time a client will request to be friends with you via your personal Facebook account.
Should you accept? Should you decline?
I was curious to find out how others in my network handle those requests from their clients. I’ve shared their interesting insight below. If you haven’t yet decided on a policy for handling Facebook friend requests from your clients, you might gain some clarity on the risks and rewards by reading further.
As for me, I do accept Facebook friend requests from clients—and sometimes even from prospective clients. I don’t, however, initiate requests to be their friends, because I don’t want them to feel put on the spot if they prefer not to mix our business relationships with the more personal side of our lives.
Overall, I’ve found that having a more personal connection with my clients has helped my business. Knowing about my clients’ interests, families, hobbies, triumphs, and challenges enables me to understand them better—and I believe vice versa. I’ve found that connection has created a stronger bond in business.
That said, it also makes me a little more cautious about what I post on Facebook. I generally refrain from liking, commenting on, and posting anything that is politically or religiously charged. I also steer clear of posting “woe is me” posts that complain about this, that, or other people.
To my knowledge, being friends with clients on Facebook has never hurt me professionally—it has helped me build my brand as a solopreneur.
But enough about me.
Here’s how several of my Facebook friends (a combination of clients, subcontractors, and vendors) handle “to friend or not to friend” situations.
Rose Boettinger, Freelance Writer and Virtual Assistant
I tend not to accept Facebook friend requests from clients.
Although nothing is private once posted on the internet, I believe “personal” Facebook accounts should solely be used as a means of communication with friends and family. If you become friends with your clients, they’re able to see everything you post (unless you adjust your settings accordingly for each post, which just wastes more time) and the frequency at which you post.
Clients may have religious beliefs and/or morals and values that differ greatly from your own and may be offended by some of what you post. They may also not share your sense of humor, again leading to your unintentionally offensive posts.
Your clients may also be put out when they notice how often you post and when you post, noting that you aren’t serving their needs at that particular time. This may also lead them to question your work ethic and dedication to their businesses, despite the fact that you’re still providing them with quality service in a timely fashion.
I’ve only declined one client request thus far, and that was after explaining in person at my last meeting that I tend not to accept friend requests from clients—nothing personal. I then proceeded to tell the client that I have both LinkedIn and Twitter accounts targeted more towards my industry, and I’d be happy to accept any requests that may come to my LinkedIn account.
The client wasn’t offended, just slightly disappointed, saying he doesn’t typically utilize those particular sites as often.
A good way to avoid this snag would be to create your own [business] page on Facebook, separate from and in addition to your personal account. Note that pages are different than profiles (I’d be willing to bet not everyone recognizes that fact).
About three years ago I decided to friend people in my professional network on Facebook, which included prospective and current clients. I use a lot of discretion when I post, but my true self is visible on Facebook. I try to stay away from posting controversial topics (politics, religion, sensitive topics, etc.), but I do occasionally go down that rabbit hole. I had the mentality that I am who I am and I would hope that my professional contacts can embrace this. I would do the same if they either accept my friend request or I accept their request.
I wouldn’t say that I can directly put a finger on any problems or issues that came from this decision, but I do know that some of my Facebook friends who are also professional connections have treated me a bit differently since I opened that door (friending them on Facebook) into my more personal life. When I say differently, I wouldn’t say in a bad way, but I can tell that their opinion of me has been altered by me allowing myself to peel back layers about myself that they might not have gotten from an occasional interaction via business or networking. Turning the tables, I can say that I have also formed some opinions of several of my Facebook friends whom are also professional connections. I guess it just goes with the territory.
As it exists now, I am very selective in friending clients. I have to have a good relationship and amount of respect for them on a personal level (and vice versa) before I will open that door and peel back those layers via a Facebook friend connection. A decent percentage of my professional communication on Facebook, mostly via Messenger, is on Facebook, so I would confidently say that there are distinct advantages to friending professional connections. A good alternative is Facebook Groups, which provides an excellent way to communicate about business on Facebook, but that is another topic for another day.
At Pipedream, we are very selective when accepting Facebook friend requests. We don’t initiate them with clients and typically don’t accept them. But we have a couple of longstanding clients with whom we have become friendly, and so we have accepted those friend requests.
LinkedIn is another story! We typically try to link in with all of our clients and prospects and we accept most requests from others to link in. Prompting the difference in how we treat those two networks is the inherent personal nature of Facebook and the business networking nature of LinkedIn.
I feel very strongly that mixing business and personal beliefs/information is not the best choice for my specific situation. I typically do not accept friend requests from anyone that is not a personal friend, which is why I have very few “friends” on Facebook.
However, if I have built a friendship in the past with someone who happens to become a business partner, I will continue to be friends on Facebook, but am sometimes choosy with what I share with them.
In the past, I have been connected with managers of business partners and feel that doing so interfered with our business relationship. This may not be the case with all business relationships but in this one specific situation, personal information (the death of a loved one) was used against us in a way to justify an unethical situation. After this happened, I realized that sharing personal information with business partners was more of an issue than a positive. From this point on, I made it a personal policy to not become “friends” with clients on Facebook.
Although I have nothing to hide as an honest and genuine person, allowing a business partner into my personal life is not something that I want to allow. To be honest, so much can be misconstrued on Facebook, and I would much rather build personal relations rather than cyber relationship.
When declining an invitation to be a friend on Facebook, I typically message or email the client to politely tell them that I do not mix business with my personal life, and that I would be happy to connect with them on more business related platforms such as LinkedIn.
I have never had an issue declining a friend request. I typically do not receive many friend requests from partners, because I feel there is an unspoken social media etiquette or invisible line drawn in our industry to separate business from personal lives.
I do allow clients to be my Facebook friends, and often I initiate the friending process.
As a friend, I am able to get a glimpse into their lives. I can keep track of important life changes, find topics (sports, TV shows, hunting, etc.) that I can potentially connect with them on.
At this point, being friends with clients has created no problems or issues that I am aware of. I very intentionally limit what I post on all platforms to be things that won’t offend my clients, and if I don’t want them to know something, I don’t post it on social media.
A few additional thoughts…
To friend or not to friend depends on your goals for your client relationships. I want to be as close as possible to my clients. I want to be the trusted confidant they turn to for guidance in making business and marketing decisions. The closer I can get on a relationship level, the more successful it allows me to be and to help them to be. The more I understand their pain points, vision, passions, and goals, the better I can serve them.
I consider myself an open networker so I will accept most friend requests even those from clients. I don’t actively pursue connections with clients on Facebook as I would on LinkedIn, but I do have some clients amongst my collection of Facebook friends.
We haven’t seen any direct orders as a result of these connections. I try to be conscious of what I post knowing that those beyond immediate friends and family will see it. Some topics will add to the friendly banter when we next encounter a client, something like “I had no idea you…”
We’ve encountered no problems so far as I know from being Facebook friends with clients. Again, I try to be careful not to post anything offensive or to like something that some people might consider off color, there have been a few exceptions with posts that were just too funny not to like!
I absolutely welcome being friends with clients on Facebook. In fact, I proactively “friend” my clients in most circumstances.
I consider my clients as friends—and even family—in some circumstances, so Facebook helps me to further my relationship with them. I like to know when their children have birthdays or when they’re going through a hardship, because these instances are not often something people share via email or another social channel.
In today’s world, there’s little separation between a professional and personal brand. One thing I’ve learned is that our business brand is only as strong as our personal brand. This is especially true for solopreneurs and small business owners. At the same time, I respect that clients may want to share their personal lives with only their closest friends and family. I would never overstep that boundary, because I understand that Facebook can be a personal thing to some people.
I don’t recall ever experiencing any problems with being Facebook friends with clients. In fact, it’s enhanced my relationships with clients, especially former clients because we have a way to stay in touch.
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when deciding whether or not to “friend” clients on Facebook. Ultimately, you need to decide what makes you and your clients most comfortable–and what makes the most sense for your business.
Your turn! What’s your policy on friending clients on Facebook?
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