Facebook marketing is a tricky one and my general position is that it makes little sense for freelance translators to throw themselves actively into it. It is a powerful tool however and having a profile there to connect with those translation agencies that use it to post jobs and call for translators completely makes sense on the other hand. So yes, when it comes to your client acquisition strategy, you can perfectly integrate Facebook to it, in a “passive” way (in other words keeping an eye on potential clients and following what they post in case they post a job that’s in your area of expertise).
However, using Facebook passively for marketing purposes does not mean that you should lower your guard when it comes to what you share. Facebook remains a personal social network – i.e. its core purpose is to help you connect and keep in touch with people you know in real-life, people from your private sphere (family, school friends, university buddies, colleagues you became friendly with, etc.) – and its netiquette is quite clear on that: you should only invite as “Friends” those peope you know “outside of Facebook”. Point is, Facebook was never intended to be a business network. And it’s not – there’s LinkedIn for that, for example. Facebook just happens to have amazing business networking potential and marketing power – and we should use it. It’s okay. But keeping in mind the primary use and spirit of Facebook, it’s a bit tricky to behave there the way you do on LinkedIn, because you have those personal connections posting invites to play Games on your Wall, tagging photos of you, etc.
Because the business use of Facebook came later than the personal one and many people became so comfortable that they share anything and everything – if they feel comfortable doing so with private connections, hey, it’s okay and that’s their absolute right. But here’s the thing: how many of us have absolute zero business connections (or potential ones) among their Facebook Friends? Exactly. And here it is: on LinkedIn, we are “Contacts”or “Connections”. On Facebook, we’re “Friends”. The words are not innocent.
The minute we accepted the first business contact as a Facebook Friend (or invited them), we let the public sphere into the private one.
It became then clearer that something needed to be done in order to make sure that these photos from last night’s party remained visible only to the right people but completely invisible to business contacts. And here begin the headaches over Friends Lists. Truth is, Friends Lists are probably the most awesome thing ever. They enable you to separate all your Facebook contacts in groups (“Friends Lists” in the Facebook terminology) to which you can assign a certain visibility level – for example “Group A” contains your close personal friends and they can see everything on your profile and everything you share. In “Group C”, you put business contacts and you can select precisely what Group C sees and what they don’t see. And people don’t know which list they’re on – it is visible only to you.
Facebook privacy settings are very complete and exhaustive and allow you to choose exactly who sees what you share. And yet still many people are not using them! Yes, it can be a hassle if you already have many friends but those settings are the best thing since sliced bread, seriously.
The above obviously also applies to those using Facebook as a pure personal network – there must be some people in there you are not thaaaaat close with but can’t unfriend either, so those lists enable you to make sure that they don’t see stuff you don’t want them to see on your Facebook – and even better, since the end of last year, you can even choose what you want to see from them. As a Facebook executive put it himself at the last f8 conference in September 2011, it’s a feature for “people you are not really friends with”.
Either way, keeping Facebook to a bare personal level is becoming difficult for many as business contacts add them asd Friends and they feel it may be rude to refuse, while some don’t even try and make their profiles “Open Bar” for the whole world to see. And as freelance translators, there is a real danger there if you also use your Facebook profile as a marketing tool – because there are PMs and agencies and colleagues out there who are among your Facebook Friends. Make sure they see what they should see, and not what belongs to the private sphere because this can backfire and you may never know it – you’ll simply never get any translation job from them. Always remember – your CV is not the most important thing in your reputation building with an agency. Your online behavior and etiquette is just as important – if not more.
And here’s the trickier part: there are hundreds of translation agencies that created profiles on Facebook and use these profiles to connect with any translator, anywhere in the world, and post jobs on their Walls. If you want to see those posts, you need to add those agencies as “Friends”. Make sure that they go straight in the right Friends List of yours – that is a list where you can see all updates from them but where they can’t see any and every update from you – only what you choose to make visible to them.
This problem is non existent when an agency has its Facebook Page that you simply need to “Like”. Pages and Profiles are 2 different things – when you “Like” a Page, you can see everything it posts but the person behind the Page only sees what you made “Public” on your profile (here is a very good and clear explanation of the difference between a Profile and a Page on Facebook).
To see what is public on your profile, go to your Profile settings and click on “View As”. You’ll see “Use this tool to see how your Timeline appears to a specific friend or the public” – just click on “Public” and you’ll see your Facebook profile as it appears to anyone who is not in your contacts – talk about “online reputation management”…
So, to summarize: the ideal is to refuse Friends requests from people that you would not count as “real life buddies/friends” and belong more to your professional world and connect with them on LinkedIn instead – that’s what LinkedIn is for. On the other hand it’s okay if you can’t avoid having business connections among your Facebook Friends, don’t loose sleep over it, and there are so many potential clients using it that you ought to follow them on this platform. If you do so, then create Friends Lists and put those contacts in one restrictive list where they will see little of what you have in your profile and exactly what you want them to see.
Bottom line: on Facebook, whether you want it or not, you can’t avoid having colleagues or clients wanting to connect with you. If you choose to accept them as Friends, then make that you drastically keep private separated from business.