The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

Tips for using Facebook both personally and professionally

Last week, Facebook announced membership had hit 500 million users.  In other words, most everyone using the Internet is on Facebook (or at least it sure seems that way).

The tricky issue is that where Facebook was once primarily used to connect with family and friends (IRL — In Real Life — friends, that is), it has since become an online meeting spot for friends, strangers, businesses and more.  Many users wonder who to friend request?  And perhaps the more delicate question is whose friend request do you accept?  High school and college classmates?  Colleagues at work?  Professional acquaintances?  Your boss?  Readers of your book or blog?  Which leads to the question: can you use your Facebook profile both for personal and professional encounters?  You’d probably get different opinions from different people, but my answer is yes, and I do (largely because maintaining one profile takes enough time; managing two would be impossible).

While there’s nothing wrong with ignoring a friend request (I do when I have absolutely no clue who the requester is, when I can’t see their profile because it’s locked down and when there’s no personal message to me explaining who the heck they are), if I (remember) I’ve had contact with the person — either in real life or over email — I usually do accept the request so as not to seem rude.  And on the upside, becoming friends on Facebook can lead to genuine friendships or at least professional relationships.  Also, my News Feed, made up of status updates from the myriad people and companies I “friend” or “like” is like a personalized newspaper: it serves to provide a good picture of what is going on not only with my “real” friends, but also in the publishing and media worlds.

For those of you who do use Facebook for all aspects of your life (and work), here are a few suggestions about how to manage your online profile:

Turn on your Privacy Settings so your profile can only be viewed by your friends, i.e., people in your network by going to Account (on the upper right hand of the page) and then clicking “Privacy Settings.”  You can have one setting for the entire profile; you can also set additional privacy settings for each portion of your profile — the Wall posts, Photos, Basic Information, Friends, etc.  (At one point, some high school and college students, alarmed that potential employers were scanning their profiles, changed their Facebook names or shut down their profiles entirely, which seems rather complicated and inconvenient since it’s easy enough to prevent people from seeing parts — or all — of your profile.  It’s also possible to hide your profile — also under Privacy Settings — so you won’t even come up in a search of your name.)

Use Facebook’s Friend Lists by going to Account and then “Edit Friends.”  This enables you to make certain posts / photos / sections of your profile available to only certain people (or visible to all your friends except for certain people).  For example, I have a list entitled “People I Don’t Really Know” and the people on that list cannot view certain personal information, photo albums or status updates.

This type of list can be particularly useful for authors — or anyone else — who may wish to grant family / friends more access to a profile than readers / colleagues / random acquaintances.  (In case you’re wondering, no author or colleague has access to my entire profile — I did say I’m pretty liberal about accepting friend requests, so you know the axe is going to fall somewhere — but most friends do see most of it.)  Of course, utilizing Friend Lists for the sake of privacy requires that you add people to Friend Lists — which nowadays can be done when sending or accepting a friend request.  (At one point I did have to go through my then 400-person friend list and add everyone to at least one list.  Better done sooner rather than later, needless to say.)

Turn on notifications for when you’re tagged in a photo or video by going to Account, then Account Settings, then Notifications.  Most Facebook users will use discretion when posting photos of themselves.  But many of us don’t necessarily trust our hundreds (or thousands) of friends to exercise the same discretion while tagging photos of us.  (Of course, sometimes there’s absolutely nothing wrong / illegal / incriminating about a photo other than the fact that you look god awful.)  Either way, by turning on notifications, you’ll know the moment someone tags you in a photo or video, although you’ll need to get to a computer to untag yourself since that can’t be done from a mobile device.  (You can also change your Privacy Settings so that only certain people can see the photos posted — by others — in which you are tagged, which is different from the photos posted — by you — in which you are tagged.)

Hide status updates you don’t want to see.  Let’s face it — some people (and companies) are really boring and it just gets annoying seeing their status updates about politics or religion.  All.  Day.  Long.  To get rid of a status update, let your cursor hover over the right side of the update.  You will see a “Hide” button pop up that will allow you to permanently hide updates from the person.  Status updates from all Facebook applications (like Farmville and Mafia Wars) can also be hidden in the same manner.  FB allows you to block all, say, Farmville updates from a user, without blocking all of that user’s status updates, which is incredibly useful because some Farmville players are really quite witty and amusing when they’re not, say, trading eggs and building barns.  Or perhaps you’d like to see what they’re reading via GoodReads, but not whether they’re riding a tractor.  You get my point.

And lastly, regardless of how high your privacy settings, always post as though your mother and your boss can see everything in your profile.  Murphy’s Law and all …

If you’d like to find out more, check out the All Facebook’s 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know.


Do you use Facebook for both personal and professional reasons?  Why or why not?  And if you do, what are some of your tips for managing the balance?


July 28, 2010 - Posted by | Social Networking | , , ,


  1. I find it easier to keep my Facebook dealings to be of the friendly persuasion and keep business out of it. It allows me to be a bit less market-y. I also don’t post my blog posts other work things there unless it is something that I think my friends would find interesting. A fan page is something I would consider for my book and writing life, but it is nice to have a place where I can ‘relax’ a bit.

    I use Twitter for business, and Linked-In.

    All of my profiles list my book’s website, Twitter handle. If friends want to hear me in that ‘voice’, they are free to join up.

    Comment by Jean Westcott | July 28, 2010 | Reply

  2. Great blog post, Yen. Lots of good tips on how I might edit my Facebook settings and manage friends lists. I use Facebook for personal and business purposes like you and for the same reasons, too much work to have two profiles. I might add that I also created a page for my business, “Susannah Greenberg Public Relations,” related to my personal profile and there I strictly post book business news. I noticed that when I post from my page, as opposed to my profile, it automatically gets posted to related subject pages on Facebook, which is excellent, since I am trying to publicize books and reach their niche communities as well as reach out to book trade and media. I do also follow your sage advice of never posting anything ever that I wouldn’t want a boss or mom to see. Once I posted that I was reading Jane Austen and I thought I was posting only on Goodreads but it went everywhere, so it was lucky it was not an embarrassing post! Thanks for this article.

    Comment by Susannah Greenberg | July 28, 2010 | Reply

  3. Hello Yen, it’s been a while and I wanted to see what you were up to over here 🙂

    Facebook…as an aspiring self-help author…? Let’s put it this way, when it comes to any sort of social media; you can’t not. Period.

    If you are an aspiring writer and you’re a little squeemish about facebook, myspace, twitter, or any some such, you better grab a cold bucket of water and dump it on yourself. Hopefully that woke you up because you will quickly, very quickly, fall by the way side if you are worried about interacting on any form of social media.

    It’s akin to some of the older literary agencies who still insist on utilizing snail mail, ugh. Don’t be a dinosaur, get with the program. Otherwise you may wind up as fossil fuel for newer, more progressive companies that are ready to buy you out and assimilate you like the borg do on Star Trek.

    Social Media/Marketing, whatever it’s going to be called(names are changing, people are talking), is here to stay. If you have a horse and carriage mentality, well that’s very romantic. But, when someone zooms by you doing 90mph in a brand new Audi S5, don’t be suprised if they get to the pie before you 🙂

    Love this Blog Yen, keep it comin’!

    Comment by Chris Pinckley | August 8, 2010 | Reply

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