Facebook and Privacy
Last month, Brian (not his real name) started an email exchange with me after he and his wife attended one of our adoption networking & advertising workshops. Brian and his wife started to set up a Facebook account so they could more easily advertise their desire to adopt, but they were worried about losing their anonymity with prospective birth families. They wanted to be sure that they shared confidential information thoughtfully and on their terms.
Brian decided to email his sister-in-law, a Facebook user, to get her opinion about creating an adoption Facebook page. His sister-in-law replied that she had actually recently seen something similar. “One of my friends,” she said, “must have become a fan of some couple’s page or something because it popped up on my home page.” She sent Brian the link. After Brian and his wife clicked the link they immediately recognized the couple. This couple, who just happened to “pop up” on Brian’s sister-in-law’s page, actually sat right next to Brian and his wife during the workshop. Small world? Yep, and that’s why adoption networking and advertising are so powerful.
Brian and his wife are still considering their options, but the power of Facebook was certainly eye-opening to them. Brian’s sister-in-law did not even know this couple, but the information about them was “pushed” to her because a friend of hers “liked” the couple’s adoption page.
The question that families typically struggle answering when considering how to leverage Facebook is exactly what Brian and his wife are struggling to answer:
How do you spread the word using Facebook while
simultaneously maintaining control of confidential information?
Let’s start with the Facebook facts.
Facebook’s reputation on privacy is not great. In December 2009, Facebook revamped its privacy settings. Not long afterward, 10 privacy and consumer groups filed a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Almost every day another article comes out deriding Facebook and its privacy approach and just yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled his company’s revamped privacy tools to address the criticism.
Facebook has two privacy-related challenges:
- They need to keep some level of information public because the core of its business model rests on the need to enable friends to find each other. That’s what social networking is. If users hide all of their identifying information, no one can find their friends.
- Facebook also wants users to share information because the more they share, the easier it is for marketers to advertise to their target markets and the more money Facebook can make as a result.
Facebook continues to search for the right balance and the right way to give users control. That being said, Facebook’s privacy settings are not even an issue when it comes to creating a Facebook page similar to what the family from Brian’s workshop created. The reason, ironically, is that you don’t want to limit who can see your information. To understand this statement you need to know that Facebook offers two types of accounts: personal “Profile” accounts and more business-oriented “Page” accounts.
Profile accounts are for individuals only and per Facebook’s policy, must contain the person’s real first and last name. Most Facebook users create a profile account. A profile account allows friends to find you and you to find them. For adoption outreach purposes, these personal profile accounts are a great tool to use to expand your network and ask your friends to help you spread the word about your adoption plans.
Page accounts represent a business; a brand, product, or organization; or an artist, band, or public figure. A page account is visible to anyone on the Internet (unlike a profile account where you would likely want to greatly limit what everyone, especially “non-friends,” can see). During our training we suggest that families create an adoption page just like what the family who sat next to Brian did.
If a Facebook user wants to follow a business or artist they can “Like” the page (this was previously called “Become a Fan”). Liking a business page means they automatically see the business’s posts, links, and other information on their personal profile page. The link that Brian’s sister-in-law sent him was to a “business” page because it showed up on her profile when a friend of hers “liked” it.
Pages are a great advertising vehicle because as we learned from Brian, word spreads quickly outside of your direct network. One person “likes” your page and their friends see it. Some of them will check it out and hopefully some of those people will “like” it, too. An example of a Facebook “page” is the My Adoption Advisor page (Have you “Liked” us yet by the way?).
The Bottom Line
So now that you know the difference between a profile account (e.g. Tom Smith) and a page account (e.g. Tom & Sue are Hoping to Adopt) and that you want everyone on the Internet to be able to see your adoption page information, how on earth do you protect your privacy when creating a Facebook adoption page? It’s simple. Do not put confidential information on your page! It actually has nothing to do with Facebook’s privacy settings.
- Don’t share your last name.
- Don’t “Like” your page from your personal profile account (that contains your last name) or someone can match pictures and identify your last name from your profile account.
- Don’t share your home phone number on your page. Anyone can do a reverse lookup on your phone number to find your last name, current address, previous cities that you have lived in, and relatives. And that’s only the information that is available for free!
- Don’t share your work email address since you do not want anyone to know where you work.
- Don’t create an email address with your last name.
- Don’t put confidential information in your posts.
- Don’t forget to analyze closely any pictures that you post to your page. Do they communicate something you don’t want to communicate?
- Don’t forget to monitor what others post on your page. You want friends and others to post supporting information so expectant parents can learn a little more about you, but those who post do not think about what they are saying from a privacy or adoption perspective. It is your job to delete inappropriate posts on your page (which you have access to do).
A Facebook page is a free and powerful tool
that is great for adoption networking and advertising purposes.
You control the content and what others can learn about you.
Don’t let concerns about Facebook privacy settings
prevent you from leveraging Facebook business/adoption pages.