I’ve been wrestling with a problem for ages now, and despite several discussions and debates, still haven’t reached a conclusion. The problem can be summed up as follows:
Should you use your existing personal Facebook account for work purposes, or set up a separate professional profile?
By “work purposes” I mean acting in an official capacity, such as administering an official Facebook Page. For the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to assume everyone we’re talking about already has a personal Facebook account. I realise not everyone is on Facebook, but if you’re not, this isn’t such a problem (although you arguably shouldn’t be in charge of a professional Facebook presence without experience of the platform!).
Why two profiles?
There are quite a few reasons why having separate work and personal profiles would be beneficial:
- It allows you to keep work and home life separate, so that you’re not getting emails from your work’s Page in your personal inbox at the weekend or on holiday
- It avoids the risk of accidentally posting a personal update to a work Page
- It keeps the public away from your personal profile
- If you leave your job, it’s simply a case of deleting your work account, rather than trying to unpick all of the professional associations with your personal account
- Any requirement for an employee to use a personal social media account for work purposes could be a breach of human rights
Additionally, some professions have strict guidelines about the use of social media and Facebook.
The Scottish Social Services Council states:
“Friending” or allowing a person who uses services or their carer to be your online friend or follower is not acceptable for a registered social service worker as it creates a personal relationship outside of your workplace. And it leaves both workers and people who use services open to allegations from comments they might post.
(update – the SSSC tell me that they plan to review their guidance and will be consulting on this later in the year)
Whilst the General Teaching Council for Scotland says:
only use official channels of communication e.g. GLOW and work e-mail addresses
firmly decline student-initiated ‘friend’ requests from pupils and do not
instigate any yourself.
Both are clear, then, that it is inappropriate to have contact with clients or pupils through personal social media accounts or e-mail. So any official use of Facebook to communicate with these groups is hampered – any official Page administrated by one or more personal accounts, linked to personal email addresses, poses a risk. And for the above professions, a serious breach of the guidance could result in disciplinary procedures and potentially being struck off their registers, ending your career.
So it seems fairly obvious – have two accounts and keep your work and home life separate.
Facebook doesn’t agree
However, having two accounts is against Facebook’s terms:
You will not create more than one personal account.
Rule 4.2 of Facebook’s terms
And, although unlikely, I know of people who have had one or both accounts suspended as a result, leaving Pages floating without an admin and clearly impacting the individual’s personal life as well as their work.
(A third option is to create a “false” identity but again it’s clearly against Facebook’s terms and I’ve heard of accounts getting shut down for this too)
This is a contradiction that seems impossible to solve, and I’m yet to find a decent compromise. Sadly the conclusion seems to be that you either break the rules somewhere, or end up not doing Facebook at all. None of these is really acceptable, and the best solution I can think of would be for Facebook to relax its rules.
What’s the answer? Are you facing the same problem? How are you getting around it? Or, if you’re just ignoring the rules, how have you justified that? Please leave a comment below and help me solve this riddle!