Friday, October 3, 2008

Risks of Social Networking

"I trashed my entire LinkedIn profile. Just got rid of it." Why, I asked. "Because people, other photographers, were contacting my clients through my LinkedIn profile." This photographer, who has asked to remain anonymous, reflects a growing concern about the privacy and interworkings of social networking sites like LinkedIn, Myspace, and Facebook, among others.

(Continued after the Jump)

It would go without saying that if you're working for a company with many employees, you might have clients as your friends/connections. Yet, how are you using the tool? It is a dangerous toy - a place to pass the time, or a communications solution for the newly graduated generation? There are many types of people who use facebook (The Multiple Facebook Personalities, 4/15/08), but instead, there are people with more than one persona on these sites. Having more than one account is a violation of Facebook's Terms of Service, and you risk having both closed. Yet, if you feel you must be on it, maybe you should think about it further.

Many people on Facebook, for example, have been on since college, and they have pictures of them partying, and otherwise just being unprofessional. They remain connected to their past, and keep up with everyone that way. But do you really want your new boss, colleagues, and clients seeing those images? Of course not.

With your boss, or other professional colleagues on Facebook, do you really want your high school friends to be able to contact your employer, or post photos of you that your boss might see from the past weekends' homecoming celebration you were supposedly home from work sick for?

When it comes to freelancers - specifically photographers, it's easy to see nothing wrong with connecting to them. Then going further, it seems a no brainer to connect with your clients. There's where the problem starts. Your friendly photographer colleagues should know that it's wrong to connect with your clients. Yet they don't. Or, they do, and don't care. Further, what if one of your clients is Time, and the other Newsweek? ExxonMobil and Sunoco? Will that create a problem? Surely it could. Do you want to risk it?

I am on Facebook (my profile), and that's where my friends are. I am also on LinkedIn (my profile), and that's where I would be comfortable linking with clients. I try not to have the two cross, but I know that it's happened, and there's the risk. If you want to share with your clients - and prospective clients - what's going on in your world, have a blog that you share your day-to-day assignments and thoughts on. Be sure it's being written with your professional end audience in mind.

Surely some etiquette is in order. Suffice to say - don't go shopping for new clients on social networking sites when those new clients could well come at the expense of your friends. That's not very friendly. Think twice - no three times - before posting embarassing photos of your friends on a public social networking site. It was funny in college - now, not so much. If nothing else, make the photos private.

Above all, be good. Be thoughtful, and do no harm. To yourself, or your friends.

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