I’m No Longer Two-Faced

Previously I reported on how I created two separate Facebook accounts; one for my personal social network and a second for a more business related social network. But after months of neglect I have decide to deactivate the business account. I found that it was just too much of a hassle to maintain two separate accounts, and I tended to gravitate to my “personal” account almost exclusively. With other social networking tools competing for face time (pun intended) I just stopped managing two different personas.

Throw In The Towel?

But I haven’t given up on the concept of Facebook being a valuable business development tool. But you must be very selective on who you friend and what you post. I would reserve Facebook to only those contacts you already know and have a strong comfort level that they will accept your personality. Because even if you are very cautious about what you post, you cannot escape the likelihood that some very personal information will eventually make it’s way to your home wall or someone else’s wall.

It could be as innocent as an old high school or college buddy posting and tagging pictures of you from some frat party. (Tagging is when thy click on your image and enter your name so folks viewing the picture know it’s you!). Or perhaps you and you family share comments about a birthday, graduation or other family oriented life event. There is nothing inherently wrong with that information, it’s just that it opens your personal life up to business contacts that you ordinarily wouldn’t share. There are some security settings where you can restrict what information is visible, but sometimes these settings can create a false sense of security. If you post a comment on a friends page, and then another person who is not your friend but shares your first friend comments on the same thread, he or she can see you comments. So you had better think twice before you post comments.

So Why Should I Use Facebook Anyway?

But the same issues that may lead you to be leery in “friending” business contacts can also be the exact reason why you want to friend them. You will gain insight into their personality. Collecting birthdays is an obvious benefit. But you can easily start to pick up on facts about family members, spouse & children’s names, school events, extra-curricular activities, likes and dislikes. If you pay attention you can harvest a wealth of information. Now you can leverage this information to initiate conversations or use to deepen relationships as you blend personal information with business conversations. Good salespersons are expert at this technique as are experienced rainmaker attorneys. That’s why lunch meetings, sporting events and other social gatherings are used to strengthen business relationships. With Facebook you can gather this information on contacts without expending the time and money on lunch or golf.

Enter What You Learn into Your CRM

Be sure to leverage your CRM as you gather this information. At the very least you should be entering bits of information in your email address book notes so you can refer to them when you plan a call or meeting. Ideally you should condense the most pertinent details in a shared notes field so that your colleagues on your team have good data when they make or receive calls. You don’t need to share everything as that may tend to be spooky if it isn’t worked into the conversation properly. You may have a valid conversation entry point as you can say “I noticed on your Facebook status that your daughter just graduated, congratulations!” But a colleague who is not on the contact’s friend list should never use  that type of data. But you could add data such as A favorite sport team or hobby. Then your teammate can lead with “John tells me you’re a big Notre Dame fan…” This also highlights the importance of identifying the source of your notes in the CRM, even your personal notes. You should always make note of the date and source of the information. This let’s you frame it’s use properly, such as referring to Facebook in the first example, or by allowing others in shared notes to cite their source of the information.

For example, for a personal note the entry may look like this:

 “5/27/09 From Facebook: John commented on his daughter’s graduation from Notre Dame with a degree in sociology. He graduated from ND and is a booster of their basketball program”

Whereas the shared note may look like this:

 “5/27/09 from Bill Vannerson: John graduated from Notre Dame and is a boster of their basketball program.”

Documenting shared notes like this allows the reader to refer back to you if they have questions or need clarification.

Alsonote that you can also learn valuable tidbits by looking at the contact’s profile for what Facebook groups they are “fans” or “friends.”  Again, take the time to convert this knowledge into CRM notes so you have access to them in one central application.

At all times you should respect the privacy of your contacts and be extra careful with sensitive information. Misuse of this information, even if it’s made public on Facebook, can be disastrous you your relationship if the contact is offended or even scared by your approach.

Facebook has a valid business development role for attorneys, but you must

  • be very cautious on what you share about your life,
  • select your friends very carefully (some things never change),
  • be alert and pick up valuable relationship building clues, and
  • record what you learn in your CRM software.
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