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Use Facebook lists to avoid social snubs

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Wendy Schollum

When the modern day version of a social snub is declining a Facebook “friend request”, professionals need to ensure they know how to manage their digital reputations using social network privacy settings (to limit the information their contacts can access), without insulting key business contacts through online exclusion.

For many (me included), keeping a virtual wall up between your personal and professional online persona’s is not only preferable – it’s also good business practice.  After all, what your friends and family may find interesting and endearing (the photos of your cat or latest party escapades) could bore or even offend your professional contacts.

It’s for this reason that, in the past, professionals have avoided “friending” clients, colleagues and networking contacts on Facebook – opting instead to keep this space exclusively for their personal contacts.  But, with it becoming more common for professional contacts to seek each other out on social networks, it’s no longer a viable strategy to merely keep “ignoring” all those friend requests.

In order to maintain some form of control over the exhibitionist information many of us pour onto our Facebook walls, Facebook has included a number of privacy tools that provide professionals with the perfect way to accept professional friend requests, but then limit what that person can find out about them.

The first step to limiting post access is to create (and move your Facebook friends into) lists. 

To do this:

  1. login in Facebook,
  2. Go to the “Home” screen (e.g. where you can see the news feed of all the posts your friends have made recently).
  3. In the left hand panel of the screen, hover over the heading called “lists” and click the “more” link that will appear.
  4. Click the "create list" button.

By default, Facebook will automatically create a number of smart lists that group your current Facebook friends by shared criteria - for example, your high school, your workplace, etc.  However, you can also manually create other lists to help you distinguish certain types of Facebook friends – perfect for separating out clients, colleagues and other professional contacts.

Once you’ve done this, you can then decide which lists will be able to see any new posts you make, by clicking on the drop box next to the “post” button.  In this drop box you can either select a single list that will be able to see the content you’re about to post or you can get complex with your settings by selecting the “custom” option and choosing multiple lists to share the post with (and even dictate what friends or lists will not be able to see your post).

Over time, if you find that you want a specific list (or “custom” list) of contacts to be your default setting (e.g. every time you post to Facebook, then by default only certain lists will be able to see your posts), then you can go to the “Privacy Settings” menu (by clicking the downwards arrow icon in the top right hand side of your screen) and change the settings under the heading “Control Your Default Privacy” to suit your requirements.

While lists provide an easy way to avoid offending professional contacts (by ignoring them online), always consider that anything posted online is there to stay - even if it has been posted to an account with the securest of privacy settings.  Once data has been uploaded to the web its always recorded and vulnerable somewhere, so never post anything online that would damage your reputation if it went public.

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