How and Why I Friend Who I Do and Where

I started using Facebook and Twitter as professional experiments. I needed to know about these sites to decide whether and how EPA should use them. I also had a LinkedIn account that sat unused for years, and I joined GovLoop. Along the way, I set up accounts on Slideshare and Scribd to share my presentations and EPA’s blogging guidance.

But Facebook, Twitter and GovLoop are where I spend my time, and I’ve settled into a distinct pattern: Facebook is personal and the others are professional.

When I say I use Facebook for personal purposes, I don’t mean I include only non-work people. In fact, most of my friends there are from work, whether at EPA or not. But I use it mostly for sharing non-work stuff: my photos, funny stuff, etc. I’m pretty happy with how I choose friends there, too. I recently reviewed the couple hundred friends there, and I deleted very few. I do get a steady stream of Facebook friend invites from people I’ve met in various ways. I respond politely to ask whether we know each other, explaining I use that site to stay in touch with real-life friends. I also tell people I accept all friend requests at GovLoop.

Twitter, to me, is an extremely valuable professional networking tool. The people I follow help me filter the flood of relevant info, help me think through problems, and share their own ideas in a way that’s very easy for me to absorb as I have time. That’s why I don’t follow back everyone who follows me. There’s no reason that people who might be interested in my musings on gov’t and social media necessarily talk about that topic themselves. I also know there are loads of people who do, but I don’t spend much time looking. I can’t keep up with the people I do follow. But if you talk to me using an @ reply, I usually respond.

GovLoop is really an amazing resource. I wish I had more time to spend. The percentage of stuff that’s relevant to me is very high, whether it’s as a federal gov’t web manager, a federal employee in general, someone committed to gov 2.0, or just a social media user. Since it’s all professional, and I can’t think of any reason not to, I accept all friend requests there.

LinkedIn is a special case. I believe in LinkedIn’s original premise: personal contacts. I don’t mean to be rude or mean if I reject a connection request from someone I don’t know. And I know many people use it as a massive networking tool. But I don’t use it as a general contact file. I actually barely use it, which makes it more important to me that I connect only with people I genuinely know and could say something about.

Why am I telling you this? Because I think my usage pattern is just one of many, and I want to make the point that there’s no single right way of doing it. But I also think we’re all entitled to use these tools as we see fit. I’ve had people tell me it’s wrong to reject a LinkedIn request or a FB friend request. I’m sorry, but I respectfully disagree.

BTW: this blog is another example of where we have to use the tools as appropriate. I realized recently I hadn’t found time to write anything substantial in several weeks. But that just reflects how busy I’ve been. I’m sure I’ll pick up the pace again at some point.

Anyway, how do YOU use the tools, and the opportunities they create? Maybe I’m missing something!


11 Responses to “How and Why I Friend Who I Do and Where”

  1. 1 Neil Bonner November 12, 2009 at 12:46 am

    I use Twitter both professionally and socially, but I try to keep it as “professional” as possible. I use LinkedIn as my professional “resume” and “rolodex”. I generally don’t accept LinkedIn invites unless I know the person.

    I don’t use Facebook (one of 13 people in the U.S. who doesn’t have a FB account). And I’ve started to blog in order to share my thoughts on issues that are important to me.

    Neil (IrishPrince on Twitter)

  2. 2 Sarah Bourne November 12, 2009 at 12:55 am

    Kind of spooky, Jeffrey: that’s exactly how I use the various options for interacting. Now I don’t have to write it up myself. I’ll just point people to this and say, “Like he said!”

  3. 3 Kaya Walton November 12, 2009 at 1:09 am

    Ditto Sarah’s comments, and great post, Jeffrey. LinkedIn is more of a professional networking tool/online resume for me. Whereas FB is limited to people I know personally, LinkedIn is a larger circle that includes former colleagues, former clients and people in same “interest” communities.

    • 4 Ari Herzog November 12, 2009 at 1:46 am

      You use LinkedIn as your resume, eh? That’s what is for.

      LinkedIn is my rolodex of organic contacts, whereby 95% of my connections are people I’ve either physically met or spoken to on the phone and trust/respect to be able to authentically refer/recommend. About 5% of my LI connections are people I’ve never met or talked with, but we’ve had enough online back and forth brouhaha that the trust and respect is omnipresent and reciprocal.

      But I don’t use LI as my resume.

  4. 5 Alex, aka SocialButterfly November 12, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Jeffrey, Sarah and Kaya–Can I join the club? I pretty much use the sites in the same way Jeffrey described as well. Facebook i is getting a little bit more murky as more “professional” contacts I also consider friends. And as friends, I don’t think they mind the friendly chatter or the occassional shout out I might give to me husband or family (at least I hope not.) =)

    My latest question is for the ladies–how do you handle your name change after getting married? Now that is my current question.

  5. 6 Scott Burns November 12, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Count me on the “me too” list. I am using these tools exactly as you describe except that Facebook has really gone off the deep end as a worship site for my 2-year old since he is far more interesting than me. Once I have more kids at least it will be more diverse…

    As a side note, the recently added connectivity between linkedin and twitter status will be very useful for those of us that put our professional thoughts on twitter. Haven’t connected yet myself, but will soon. When I connected Twitter to Facebook, I got a lot of hilarious feedback from people who had not realized what a nerd I have become… I quickly severed that cross posting.

    Great post!

  6. 7 Karen R. November 13, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    I use Facebook for personal only, though I do have a dormant work account awaiting the day when it’s appropriate to use it.

    I don’t use Linked In as much as I thought I would. It’s, um, stately.

    I have two Twitter accounts. The personal one is mostly for communicating with bloggers in other countries, and a couple friends. The work one is just for lurking. I seldom have anything to say, and my rare requests for info have been barren. :^(

    I regard GovLoop as an annoyingly prolific source of tweets. Since you speak highly of it, I may consider taking a second look.

  7. 8 Deborah from Creative Gift Ideas July 25, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Wow, I found some valuable information here. Thanks for speaking in simple terms that we can understand.
    I think it’s a great idea to have both a personal and professional acct in these networks. It eliminates that “uncomfortable” and “guilty” feeling when you try to do both together. It didn’t work for me on Facebook so I’m going to keep that personal. I did make a page for Creative Gift Ideas but it’s unable to hold its own. I think my mistake was not creating it’s own account but it automatically when into my groups under my personal profile. A situation I plan to change in the very near future.
    Thanks again,

  8. 9 Malcmax2 July 26, 2010 at 9:36 am

    I have to agree with the above that facebook is more social than business. A great place for sharing family photographs with friends etc.
    I find linkedin to be the best for professional business purposes as you get into groups with people in the same profession and share information. There are also good job offers on Linkedin as most groups have a jobs section.
    Twitter I need to look at more closely so no opinion at the moment – apart from you can keep up with what followers are doing.

  9. 10 nigel July 26, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Absolutely agree.
    I’m just working on developing seperate account for my studios ( – it is a tad difficult writing about my artists work (unique handcrafted pottery, glass art, jewellery, wooden bowls etc) to my friends who alrady know about the studios.

  10. 11 cycling jerseys July 27, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    yeah I have to say Linked in is a great asset to network with real people as opposed to band profiles etc

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