Thursday, August 30, 2012

Facebook Advice; Request for Comments

FOne of my 1L students has asked me to review his facebook page and suggest items to cull to ensure the page does not offend prospective employers.  I’m disinclined to review the student’s Facebook account line-by-line, photo-by-photo, and inclined instead to give some general advice.  I’ll take my first shot below the jump, but would welcome comments to this post if you have additional advice to add or if you would advise differently.

Here’s the message the student sent me, appropriately enough via Facebook:

This is [ ] from your Civpro class. I hope you are doing well. I had a favor to ask you but it's really okay if you're too busy. I was wondering if you could peruse my Facebook and give me pointers about maybe what I should cull as my class moves forward toward taking the bar and employment. I know employers and the bar association may look into social networking and I figured you had a good idea over what they would look for.

If you can't look at my page, or just don't want to (I'd understand that too), do you have any general tips for having a professional fb? Thank you so much and I'll see you in class tomorrow.

Kudos to the student, of course, for recognizing that his Facebook page can affect him professionally.  Here’s my attempt at providing general advice.  As I said before the jump, please add your thoughts as a comment to this post.

  1. Never, under any circumstances, post (or allow to be posted) anything on your Facebook page that you would not like to see on the front page of your hometown newspaper or the newspaper in the area where you intend to practice law.
  2. Decide whether you want your Facebook page to be primarily social or primarily professional.

a. If social, start by password protecting the site to the maximum extent possible.  Do not “friend” anyone who is not a close relative or a friend in the pre-Facebook sense of the word.  Do not friend any workplace supervisor or anyone up the chain of command from you; be hesitant to friend co-workers even if you have a social relationship outside of work.  Notwithstanding all these precautions, do not ever violate Rule #1.  Post all the non-embarassing photos of your spouse/children/nieces/nephews/etc. you want.  Never say anything negative about any past or present employer.

b. Developing a professional Facebook page can be a very effective marketing tool for junior lawyers.  Post on the types of cases you’re working on (omitting, of course, anything that might remotely be considered confidential) and professional experiences (“Going to Frankfort to take a deposition.”).  A photo of you with your family will help personalize you, but keep the children/family photos to a bare minimum.  Post only photos that look professional -- both in content and in form (no grainy nighttime cell-phone shots).  Note your recent accomplishments, but do so with humility.  Omit personal information, such as relationship status, from your page.  Omit social events/photos, unless they are work-related.  Never say anything negative about any past or present employer; go out of your way to praise and market your current employer.

I'll be the first one to admit that although I tend to divide Facebook pages into personal OR professional, for most folks, it's a blend of both. Is keeping a rigid divide a good idea?  Is it realistic for folks who literally have grown up with the medium?  If blending is either good or inevitable, how can users get the best (and avoid the worst) of both worlds?  Comments are welcome.


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I don't think there's much sense in a 'professional Facebook page.' That's what LinkedIn is for.

Posted by: Chris Davidson | Aug 30, 2012 10:13:18 AM

Just a quick first impression comment, and this is not a critique of your advice (I agree with it), but more a comment on the current state of affairs: regarding a "social" fb page, do not all the necessary safeguards essentially eliminate the social aspect of fb that go to its entire reason for existence? Perhaps it's a comment on the degree of public sociability that our society is willing to tolerate.

Posted by: Robert Sprague | Aug 31, 2012 5:42:39 AM

I plan to refer to this post for my own blog. It is important advice for anyone in school or looking for work. FB, for better or for worse, is where many employers go to check out an applicant. I tell my kids and others that they should view FB as a large cocktail party - you never know who is listening to what you say, so be careful.

Posted by: Tom Crane | Sep 10, 2012 7:32:14 AM

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