Clients as Facebook Friends – Yea or Nea

Veronica Wei Sopher brought up a great ethical and business question on Facebook the other day. Simply: Do you accept Facebook requests from clients?

Interesting question, right?

As I contemplated that question, I started thinking about my personal stance on that issue. By nature of being a solo consultant, I tend to view this issue a bit differently than I would if I were working for a large agency. After all, the client is really buying “me”–not ACH Communications (or any other brand name). So, when a client buys you–it usually means 1) They feel you know your stuff, and 2) They believe you’re easy to work with and like you (and not always in that order). So, for me, the “friend” issue is pretty darn important. And, I actually put a lot of time and effort into breaking down the barriers with my clients.

Back to the question: Should we be ‘friends’ with our clients?

You know my view on this topic now, but let me lay out the reasons I think this is a good idea, even for those not in my particular position (solo consultant):

* Helps build a stronger partnership. By letting your client into your life via Facebook, they’ll learn more about you. They’ll see what you’re up to with your family. They’ll learn more about your interests and passions. They’ll even know when your birthday is (provided you disclose that). All of this makes for tighter partnerships in the end.

* It’s a small world. Sure, your client is the brand manager at X company now. But, where will she be in 5 years? 10 years? Chances are, with a different company. So, if you’re that woman who I worked well with at agency X 8 years ago when I was on the client side, who do you think I am going to come calling when I have a PR need now that I’m with a different organization? You guessed it. By cementing relationships and growing deeper friendships, you set yourself up for “repeat business” down the line (note: This could easily be in the form of a full-time job, too).

* It’s harder to be rude to a friend. I’ve seen rude behavior on both sides of the fence–from agency partners and clients. So, agencies aren’t off the hook here. But, it’s MUCH tougher to be an absolute prick (excuse my language) to a client if you’ve developed a deeper friendship with them–and vice versa. Again, in the end, it makes for a better team–and isn’t that what you’re really after?

* It just makes your day more enjoyable. This one’s for that “I just go to work everyday, do my job and come home” crew. While I can’t tell people in that camp what to do, I can only imagine that kind of existence is pretty stagnant. If you like and enjoy the folks you’re working for and with, your days will go by much faster. Now, I realize we’re not going to be friends with every client. For a variety of reasons, we just don’t get along with some people as we do with others. And, that’s OK. But there will certainly be one or two clients you develop stronger friendships with–stick with those people. And watch your days fly by.

What about you? Where do you stand on the whole “friending” a client issue? I realize my opinion may be in the minority here, so I would love to hear your thoughts.

Note: Photo courtesy of a_sorense via FlickR Creative Commons.

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  •  I think it can be different for people depending on how they intend on using Facebook. I started out when it was only for college kids, so unfortunately my perception of Facebook has changed from being a place for “friends” to being yet another way for brands and advertisers to try to connect with me. My Facebook is private unless I accept a friend request because I feel like I’ve laid out much more of my personal life on Facebook – photos of myself and my family, links to things that I identify with that may/may not be agreeable by another client. For example, I really enjoy craft beer, but every so often I wonder if a client would take my hobby and spin it around to a negative aspect of myself. 
    I also think that there are plenty of other ways to stay in touch that make more sense, such as LinkedIN. If I client friended me on Facebook, I would likely ignore it but search for them on LinkedIN as a substitute.

  • Anonymous

    Great post Arik! I’ve gone back and forth on this issue. I finally opted to be “friends” because at the end of the day, it’s about relationships. I also think as much as I use social media, it’s inevitable. I know some people like to try and keep their personal lives separate from their work lives, but when you work in this particular area that can prove to be difficult.  If I need to vent and/or complain about a serious issue, I try to avoid doing it across social networking platforms. Even if you might think something is “private,” you can never be too sure.

    • Key point: You don’t *always* have to vent your frustrations online. Sometimes your friends/boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband will work just fine 🙂 

  • Anonymous

     @arikhanson Putting your perspective into light i s something that we all need to keep in mind with sites like FB as anyone can see them. Instead of asking would mom be embarrassed  by posting this, it should be will posting this hurt my career.

    I take most friend requests on there from people I work with and could see how for your line of work the relationship is clutch. So seeing you with the kids or your B.A.S. gives a personal and welcoming side.

    • That’s the idea, Jeff. The BadAssShoes site is a perfect example. Has nothing to do with business (aside from the fact that I built it on Posterous which allows folks to post to it–there was some thinking there), but has everything to do with who I am as a person.  

      • Anonymous

         And that my friend is why clients and regular joes like me are in your corner.

  • Hey Arik – I was hoping you would elaborate on your comment to my question on Facebook! Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this post. It sounds like you view “friending” on Facebook in a similar way one values coffee/lunches/happy hour with clients. It’s about strengthening the connection and improving the working relationship. I can definitely appreciate your POV.  Perhaps my concern is more about my family and personal friends. By mixing personal and work on Facebook, I could potentially put my family and personal friends’ privacy at risk, and I wouldn’t want my loved ones to feel like they have to sensor themselves when interacting with me on Facebook.

    • That is a concern, yes. But again, your friends/family are who you are. This is what Zuckerberg is after–ultimate transparency. I also tend to think employers are over-doing the whole researching candidates on Facebook thing. I mean, I’m not allowed to enjoy a beer every once in a while? I just think we’ve taken that a bit far now. And, that plays into this conversation, too.

    • How do you handle friends that become clients? 

      • Vsopher

        IMHO the friendship comes first, in life or on Facebook. 🙂 

    • don fizy


  • Corina Sferdenschi

    Hi Arik,
    Great article, I loved reading it. I am opting for the “friends” also because I do believe it’s important to establish connections with people. I am in Communications myself and I started keeping my online profiles more professional with personal touches as well in order to make my friends and public enjoy reading up about me. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Fantastic post, Arik!

    I think this comes down to comfort levels – both with the PR pro and the client.  Some people don’t wish to share their personal life on a professional level, and that is OK.

    However, I’ve found tremendous benefit in being open (perhaps too open).  I have removed certain items from my Facebook info tab, such as religion and politics, and I have restricted myself from posting certain items that may come across as offensive or cause issues with clients.  Now that I have clients following me on Facebook and Twitter and through blogs, certain topics are just off-limits.

    That’s a trade-off I’m comfortable making.

    By the way, trade out “clients” and insert “media,” “in-laws,” “mailman” and countless other people you are involved with and the discussion could look remarkably similar!


    • Agree–FB privacy settings are your friend 😉 

  • Excellent post Arik!  It makes sense to friend those that we actually interact with IRL and reminds me to keep my online presence professional.

  • Tom Kidd

    I totally agree, Arik, that the client is buying you rather than the company. I have no problem at all “friending” clients on Facebook, though I think I have a different definition of “friend.” Having grown up and worked exclusively in Hollywood, “friend” can mean anything from the buddy who picks me up when my car breaks down to someone I rubbed shoulders with at a party. The important part for me is in maintaining boundaries. The buddy who picked me up deserves a freebie every now and then. Maybe I’ll bring him cookies or offer to post a bit about his new CD. The “friend” from the party needs to come up with cash. 

    •  Good point. And, that’s exactly why I’m pretty choosy about my FB friends. I definitely let clients in, but other “friends” I don’t. And, if I’ve never met you or interacted with you in depth, I don’t friend on FB. I do have a line, but it doesn’t involve clients.

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  • I haven’t heard or read about this topic anywhere else before. Actually this is an very important factor, but we dont care about it much. I think having a genuine profile and having clients as friends shouldn’t hurt much.

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  • Lovely post and i agree with this.I liked this a lot.Thanks for sharing.

  • Lauren

    What about extending a facebook request to clients? 

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