Help, I’m famous and I’m on Facebook!

Help, I’m famous and I’m on Facebook!

A question I get asked a lot by people who are fairly present in the public sphere is: Should I have my own Facebook page, separate from my personal profile? There’s no straightforward answer to it, so I thought I’d spend a few minutes giving you all an explanation of the different options that are available to you, and how you might implement them.

Engaging in public conversation is one of the best ways to build your professional identity–one that’s comfortably separate from the more intimate details of your personal life. (Note that I hate the term “personal brand.” Like my friend Tara Hunt said so wisely so long ago: “You don’t need a personal brand, you just need a personality.”) There’s certainly a need for some overlap between the personal and the professional; we’re not automatons with completely separate identities that never intersect, so we can’t really expect our digital versions of ourselves to completely do so, either. But with whom do you share which pieces, and how? Unfortunately, that’s entirely up to you, and largely depends on what you’re trying to accomplish in the world. Here are some factors to consider:

  • If you’re in the media regularly, or want to be, having a designated space separate from your personal life where you interact with people who may become fans of your work, or offer (gasp) criticism, is extremely valuable.
  • If media appearances are more a byproduct of the overall work that you do–say, you’re an executive director of a mission-oriented organization, or the founder of a startup–it may be a less valuable or interesting use of your time to have a separate professional space. You might want to consider directing conversations to your organization’s/company’s public sphere.
  • If you’re a covert operative and public discourse doesn’t have a direct effect on how much, say, income you make, they yeah, then I wouldn’t worry so much about any of this.

There are plenty of ways to incorporate multiple platforms to account for your set of needs, but for the purposes of answering this platform-specific question, I’m going to focus solely on The Book of Faces. Here’s what I’m considering:

1. What are you options for implementing your personal/professional identities?
2. How much time does it take to do it right?
3. What are the privacy concerns that I should think about?

OPTION 1: THE LOCKDOWN

  • Only add/accept people that you know and trust offline, or with whom have a strong digital relationship
  • Defriend anyone who you don’t know
  • Set your posts to “Friends only” and review other privacy settings for your comfort level. (I’d explain them here, but they change every other day, so there’s that.)
  • Content shared includes a mix of personal and professional. People in your life want to know what’s up with you, so your professional passions should be included there. Some people use a variety of privacy settings to adjust who in their worlds can see what, particularly if politics are an issue. That’s okay, just time consuming.

OPTION 2: PLEASE DON’T TALK TO MY UNCLE THAT WAY
(this is the one I do)

  • Only add/accept people that you know and trust offline, or with whom have a strong digital relationship
  • Defriend anyone who you don’t know (noticing a pattern yet?)
  • Set your posts to be “Public” and turn on “following” by choosing “Everybody” for the first option, allowing anyone to see your public posts. Then set your comments setting to just “Friends.” This means that anyone can see what you’re up to, but only people you’re friends with can interact with you, and one another. This generally means that you will get lower numbers of followers than if you had a page, and obviously, no engagement with people you don’t know.
  • Content shared can include whatever mix you’re comfortable with. You can change individual posts to be “Friends-only,” for example, if you have personal news to share that you don’t want your wider, public community to know.

OPTION 3: INTO THE THICK OF IT

  • Only add/accept people that you know and trust offline, or with whom have a strong digital relationship
  • Defriend anyone who you don’t know
  • Change your privacy settings to whatever you’re comfortable with for your personal profile.
  • Create a Page for yourself, with your public identity and bio and all that.
  • Content shared on the Page should be a wide mix of both your own work, and curating the work of others that you find interesting. Consider posting here 1-3x/day.
  • Be prepared to answer questions, engage with comments, and expect a fair amount of trolling, especially if you’re not a cis, white, able-bodied straight dude. Decide how you’re going to handle these interactions– a good place to start is Ann Friedman’s Disapproval matrix.

Since I’m not an Option 3 grrl myself, I took a few minutes to interview Adam Mordecai, Editor-at-Large at Upworthy, who is ALL about the Option 3. He gave me some insights as to why and how he built his 130,000-person community on his Facebook Page.

At Upworthy, they’re interested in creating space for their staff to create professional identities both based on their work at the organization, and that they can carry with them when it’s time to move on. Facebook has been an excellent driver of traffic to the website and their content, from sheer volume alone–for example, they are just more users of Facebook than Twitter, so that’s a big factor for them in creating these identities for their writers and editors. Whenever they publish pieces on the site, or contribute elsewhere to public conversation, they’re encouraged to link back to their public Facebook pages. (“Like Adam on Facebook!”)

Adam estimates that he spends about an hour a day working on his Facebook page. This includes scheduling posts, interacting with commenters, and doing administrative work. He stresses that it’s incredibly important not just to shill your own work, but to share the work of others. He finds a lot of value in his interactions on his Page, he says, because it gives him a place to offer a more nuanced, personal view of his work–or sometimes, to admit that he’s not perfect–versus the more straight-up ways of dealing with the community in a website or blog space. He finds that this builds trust, and creates a stronger relationship with his community (which I love that he’s thinking that way, of course).

Naturally, dealing with trolls and harassment is always a question in this space. Adam freely admits that as a cis, straight, white guy, he doesn’t have to deal with NEARLY the amount of soul-depleting crap that many other people do, so his engagement level overall is quite high. But he also thinks it’s possible to take 5-7 minutes a day and schedule a few posts to be shared, and walk away from the engagement end of things. I’m not entirely sure if that’s okay, but I’d love to hear your thoughts if you operate like this.

As far as building your community, Adam gave two great tips:

  • Keep an eye on trending topics, and post content containing references and commentary while they’re trending. This is a good way to spread into communities you may not have reached before.
  • Use your Page identity to comment on other Page’s posts– for example, Adam uses his Page to comment on Upworthy posts, so that when people see him there, it’s easy for them to then “like” his page.

Now: your turn! What tactics and strategies do you employ? What questions do you have about the nuances of implementing these things?



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