Saving face on Facebook

Facebook Privacy Graphic

There’s an unsettled tension in the online world. The battle between public and private information on Facebook came to a head in April as the social media giant debuted sweeping changes to its privacy settings.

Let’s just say the reception wasn’t as warm as Facebook would’ve hoped.

The new changes tore down more privacy walls and tied user profiles with other widely used websites—like CNN and Pandora. The blogosphere exploded. Privacy advocates claimed that the social media giant preyed on unsuspecting users who willingly gave up personal information on the false assumption it was private.

Facebook heard the groans of users tired of privacy changes and revised.

What does this means for the average REALTOR® looking to branch out on social media?

Be careful.

Here are some helpful tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of your online profile:

  • Facebook’s new privacy settings, which are being rolled out over the next few days and weeks, simplify the process of fine-tuning who sees your photos, status updates and listings. The site’s new privacy page describes the settings as “buckets” where users toss their information. Sharing information with “Everyone” is like throwing info into the biggest online bucket, as status updates and contact information show up in Google searches. Or users can tweak settings to allow for only the smallest bucket, “Friends Only,” to catch photos, updates and the like, and share them.
  • Some information will remain public—meaning anyone can find it in a simple Internet search—if users give it to Facebook, like a name, profile picture, gender and network (a workplace, city or university). So if you like receiving those birthday messages, but don’t necessarily want everyone to know your age, just leave out the year.
  • Be the same person online as you are in person, says Peoria REALTOR® Sheryl Grider Whitehurst. “Be diligent with what you post, but don’t let it consume you,” she says. Sheryl uses her Facebook profile as a way to build relationships with clients, but maintains a professional demeanor on her personal page.
  • Instead of managing two separate profiles—one for work and one for play—try using a private profile for friends and family and creating a page for your professional contacts. Pages work like a regular profile, but are specialized. You can still link to blog posts, listings and real estate news, without worrying about compromising your online persona. If you have your listings on REALTOR.com®, there’s a handy Facebook application that makes showing listings on your page even easier.
  • Some online gurus, such as NAR Social Media Manager Todd Carpenter, reiterate that Facebook is meant to be a social circle, not a spam generator. Be cautious about what you post and make sure to always link back to a personal website, where potential homebuyers can find listings and personal accomplishments.

With the term “online privacy” sounding more and more like an oxymoron, the burden eventually comes down on the user. And hopefully with Facebook’s new privacy controls, the process is that much easier.

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