To Friend or Not-Friend With Clients on Social Media? Well, are you a Burkini or a Naturist?
Practice Management & Professional Services & Strategic Issues

To Friend or Not-Friend With Clients on Social Media? Well, are you a Burkini or a Naturist?

October 7, 2016

by Tony Vidler  CFP logo   CLU logo  ChFC logo

social-media-friend-requestConnecting with clients on social media can lead to genuine friendships and closer relationships, which equals greater lifetime value of the client, right?  But then….it can kill professional client relationships too.

 

So what is the right thing to do when it comes to befriending clients on social channels?  Friend, or not friend?

 

Well it depends doesn’t it?  It depends on the channel we are talking about to begin with, and then it depends on your own degree of extroversion or desire for privacy and separation in your professional and personal lives.  Then it depends on the potential value you place upon the client relationship, and what you are prepared to do in order to make money from relationships.

 

Whoa….that sort of sounds a little like prostituting oneself when you put it like that, doesn’t it?  However that is a factor in the intensely personal decision about whether to connect with clients on social networks.  How much “value” do you place upon the commercial elements compared to how much value you place upon maintaining privacy? That question, my social media friends, is what it comes down to at the end of the day:

 

Where is the line in my life between building business and having a private life?

 

Whether to friend business colleagues and clients on social networks must be an intensely personal decision.  It’s just like being seen in your swimwear….be that bikini or boardshorts.

 

Let’s be honest on this point: somepeople are totally comfortable with full-on naturism and happy to literally put it all out there.  Some folk feel far more comfortable in a burkini.  For most of us swimwear is somewhere in between those two, but it is really just underwear in a more flamboyant fabric isn’t it?  Being seen in your swimwear (a.k.a. your underthings) is a very personal decision, and the level of comfort you feel in being seen depends on who you are being seen by doesn’t it?

 

There is no absolute right or wrong, and there is no “rule” on when one should or shouldn’t be seen, just as there isn’t an absolute right or wrong on answer on who we should befriend on social media.

 

Some research done by Matt Oeschli on the relationships between advisers and affluent investors suggested strongly that getting more social led to higher levels of client satisfaction and more networking or referral opportunities for the adviser.  Some 65% of those “doing lunch” with their advisers had provided referrals…This is consistent with most professionals’ personal experiences over the years: spend more time getting to know clients and letting them get to know you and more business opportunities follow.  Sometimes genuine friendships grow out of that process too.  

 

Sometimes.

 

Sometimes weirdo’s get into your personal life too though.

 

Maybe that is why the same research by Matt’s firm showed that only around 12% of those affluent investors were friends with their adviser on Facebook.

 

friend-clients-on-social-media

Facebook is really the social network we are talking about here anyway isn’t it?  Of course we are going to connect with clients on LinkedIn – that IS a professional networking site.  It is the whole point of being on LinkedIn for both the client and the adviser.  Following on Twitter is fine too…after all it is essentially the internet flying by at 140 characters per tweet mixed in with a few snappy one-liners that are forgotten 10 seconds later.  Ditto with Instagram, and so on.

 

The one that causes angst and uncertainty really is Facebook.

 

It’s where the pictures of our kids, and passions and life events are.  It’s the social network where we share emotions and thoughts and philosophies on often contentious Where the silly photo’s of people doing dumb things are laughed at by their friends. Those friends who know the real person and who are not judging the professional by a photo of a moment in time…which is not necessarily the case with clients is it?

 

The problem with connecting with clients on Facebook is that you are effectively inviting them into your personal life.  Or you are asking them to let you into theirs.  Awkward.

 

Awkward for everyone in that your newest client can now trawl through your old photo’s going back to school days, which includes quite a few dumb photo’s from wild nights out probably. They can read comments, complete with atrocious language mixed in with some “private” and politically-incorrect arguments with your old mates about politics, sport, religion and controversial topics of the day.  Awkward that.  Just as awkward for clients is that they know you can do exactly the same thing with them….and do they really want to run the risk of their new financial planner or insurance broker suddenly trying to buddy up on-line and get to know all of their friends and family via Facebook?

 

Do they really want you making inane or jolly-happy-chappy comments on everything they post?

 

Do you want them continually making jolly-happy-chappy comments on everything you post?

 

I think not on both counts.  However, as I said earlier this is a very personal decision and I don’t think there is a clear rule for any professional in reality.  For myself (after quite a few years now of being pretty active with social media and having made quite a few great mistakes along the way), this is pretty much how I play it with the main social media channels:

  • Twitter & LinkedIn & Youtube & Pinterest: happy to have anyone follow me (or connect) unless they exhibit troll-like behaviour.  Trolling or abusive stuff gets people immediately blocked and shut out forever.
  • Twitter & LinkedIn & Youtube & Pinterest: happy to follow (or connect with) anyone who is genuinely sharing stuff that interest me.  Equally, I am happy to ignore everyone who doesn’t interest me (note to those selling Twitter followers, or those with a religious/political zealotry agenda of any persuasion, or the thousands of recruiters/web designers/SEO specialists/social media guru’s trying to connect on Linkedin especially: You’re wasting your time with me)
  • Twitter & LinkedIn & Youtube & Pinterest: the above rules work for me because I am clear on the purpose of these social media channels.  They are business networks, or information sources. But they are not personal networks  They are not my life. They are just business.
  • Facebook:  I separate Facebook into 2 realms – there is a “company page” and my personal one.  The company page is deliberately kept light-hearted and really exists to cater to Google’s search algorithms, and as a place to “connect” in an informal way with business peers and colleagues and clients.  THAT is where I am happy to connect in an informal network with clients and business peers.
  • Facebook Personal Page: not for clients.  Unless those clients do in fact become friends and who are people that I am happy to sit in the sun in my boardshorts drinking beer and discussing the woes of the world with.  Because that’s the benchmark for connecting with clients in my own mind…and while it might sound a silly test it is an easy one for me to answer on a case by case basis:

Are we both going to feel comfortable sitting on a beach in just our swimwear a fixing the worlds problems, and laugh while we are doing it?

 

If the answer is “no” then do not connect on Facebook.

 

For me it is has become that simple.

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