Facebook TMI

By Katherine Tarbox, Senior Editor, REALTOR® Magazine

A friend sent me this article from The Washington Post, which basically outlines how Facebook plans to overhaul its privacy settings. They want to make our information less private and more searchable by Google in order to compete with Twitter and other social networking tools.

Even though I was one of the earlier Facebook users, I’ve been slow to adopt new applications when they launch a new version of the social networking site. In the earliest iterations of Facebook back in 2004, there were no status updates, let alone pictures, or information about my interests and hobbies.

Back in the Mesozoic Age of Facebook history, it was simply a virtual address book. Over time it seemed the Web site wanted more information about me: my hometown, my occupation, who I’m dating, and so forth. I played along, and updated my information when it was only for my close friends. Then more people began to sign up and request my friendship (my parents and co-workers) and I began cautiously updating my page.

Now that my mother and my colleagues can see my status updates, I constantly struggle with the question: How much information is too much information? I know I’m wary of people who upload photos of their Friday night trysts, announce their breakups (or even divorces) through the site, and give updates about playing with their cat.

Social media experts such as NAR’s manager of social media Todd Carpenter advocate for keeping one Facebook page and to create transparency and authenticity about yourself. This means that real estate practitioners shouldn’t keep separate profiles for business and personal reasons, but rather combine those interests into one page. I imagine most real estate professionals are tackling the same question that I am: How much information about your life do you want other people to see?

I asked Tara Hunt, social media specialist, author of the newly released The Whuffie Factor (Crown Business, 2009), and featured speaker at the 2009 REALTORS® Conference & Expo, about this. She explained you should share as much as you would with someone standing in line at the grocery store. She further said that you should share information that could connect and make you relateable to clients: You had bad day, you’re taking a vacation, you closed a big deal, etc.

The Whuffie Factor By Tara Hunt (Crown Business, 2009)

The Whuffie Factor, by Tara Hunt (Crown Business, 2009)

But that’s where it should stop. Note that she didn’t say to discuss why you’re having a bad day or that you had one too many margaritas on vacation. The information that you make available through Facebook should make you human but at the same time be appropriate for anyone to see (including your mother, my mother, and our co-workers).

How much information do you share on Facebook? How much do you think is too much?

  1. My personal rule of thumb is that I won’t put on the ‘Net anything I wouldn’t want to be seen on the front page of the newspaper,

  2. I’m a fan of the transparency and an active Facebook-er. I’ve strengthened relationships with some from my past/existing sphere and forged new relationships with online “leads.’ I have closed one deal from Facebook alone and can see a several more in the pipeline.

    In the future, younger & greener agents will most certainly be using this tool. I don’t think it’s a fad – I think it’s the next generation of inter-connectivity.

  3. I think individuals or companies using social media to help build their business must approach it strategically.

    It’s important to provide enough information so people can relate to you, but not too much that it could hurt your professional reputation (like drinking heavily as mentioned above).

    I think frequency of use is also important – some of my twitter/facebook contacts post updates every 15 minutes. I wouldn’t recommend this for professionals – it makes users wonder if you are more interested in playing online than doing business.

    Overall I think social media is a great way to generate leads, get feedback on products/services, and to drive traffic to your website, to name a few benefits. But that only works if you are strategic in your approach – it’s important to think of how your target market will interpret your online behaviour.

  4. In Denver, Colorado, the e-tech for contacts, updates, etc is the wave and it will continue to swell. It is a great tool for the market that wants it, and the phone and emails are still very viable for the generations that don’t want to use Facebook, etc. It is an easy and successful approach and I’m all for it