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Are You Connecting Foolishly On Facebook?

Connecting with professional contacts on Facebook is not inherently a bad thing. It makes networking a little less awkward, helps you remember names, and can provide you with a sneaky way of building friendships and business relationships from virtually nothing. That said, connecting professionally can go badly wrong — and it often does. Here’s how:

• Your friends list out of control. Some people have 500+ friends, and with that many contacts, it’s easy to forget who’s on there. Even if you’re not working with them anymore, it’s likely they’re still in your industry — and you don’t want them talking badly of you to other professionals.
• “Harmless” posts can get you fired or suspended — like pictures of yourself enjoying a drink on a night out. Teachers in Muskegon are prohibited from posting about anything that their students aren’t allowed to do. Given that they shouldn’t be friends with their students on Facebook anyway, this does seem slightly unfair.
• If you call in sick with a migraine and then spend the day on Facebook — even if that’s lying in bed on your iPhone — you can lose your job. It’s happened.
• Your boss isn’t stupid. If they see something on your Facebook profile that makes you look unprofessional (or makes them look bad), you can’t expect them to ignore it.
• Basically, everything on this list.

Now you know how to do it wrong, here’s how to do it right:

• Set your profile to “private”.
• Set professional connections to “restricted” as soon as you add them as friends. This way, there’ll be no slip-ups down the line.
• Check the privacy settings on any post made from a mobile device. It’s supposed to stay the same as it is on your desktop, but who knows? Sometimes it messes up.
• Never complain about your job, insult your boss, or say anything defamatory about those you work with on Facebook. Even if they can’t see, somebody who knows them might — and even if that doesn’t happen, do you really think your friends care? Hint: they don’t.
• Turn on Timeline Review. That way, you get to control what you’re tagged in.

Another thing worth doing is clearing out your friends list. You probably don’t talk to everybody on there, and it’s much easier to control a small group of contacts than it is a sprawling list. And having thousands of friends is pretty much the same as having a public profile anyway.

Readers: do you have professional connections on your personal Facebook page? If so, has this caused you any problems?

You can find Mary C. Long on Twitter or connect with her here.