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Business networking: Facebook, LinkedIn or neither?

Posted by Ilise Benun on

Last year I launched a solo practice as a corporate writer and
communications consultant. One of the initial questions I asked myself
— right after, "Can I make an honest (or dishonest) living doing
this?" — was where I stood on the whole social networking thing.

first hurdle was deciding whether I even wanted to connect with
prospective clients via online mingling. The second, once I'd given a
half-hearted yes to the first, was whether the people I happened to
mingle with would want to mingle with each other. But I'm getting ahead
of myself…
I'm not on Facebook, for several
reasons. First, the fact that two hundred million people have jumped
onboard doesn't mean much to me. Two hundred million people probably
tune in each week to Dancing with the Stars of Survivor: Krakatoa. That
doesn't mean I have to. In fact it increases the likelihood that I

Second, I have four kids who've been
making their way through university in recent years. Facebook started
out as their place. I think it should stay that way. And popping up
among their online "friends" would be harder to avoid than you may
think. My wife, while firmly in the Facebook camp, has had to write a
couple of gentle thanks-but-no-thanks notes to people in our kids'
orbits offering to connect. Because that's an area where they should be
free to do their own thing, without having to think about maintaining a
PG rating. Besides, I don't need to see a photo of what my daughter
looks like after one too many glasses of chardonnay mixed with Red
Bull. And I don't want to be the online equivalent of the Flandersesque
dad who bursts into a darkened party room announcing, "Hey, kids – I've
got sour-cream-and-chives dip!"
My final
reason for avoiding Facebook: I've spent a lot of the past year writing
about consumer privacy. And while I don't want to get into that here,
it may simply be that I know too much about how social networking sites
compromise your ability to keep your personal life personal.
said, I did create a profile on LinkedIn. And then let it sit there for
10 months with a single contact — my wife (funny how she keeps popping
up) — while her professional network grew to the size of Sao Paulo. I
thought nothing of it, until one day a client sent me an invite to
connect. Well, I wasn't about to say no. But I had to buy some time as
I frantically revisited my lame LinkedIn profile and tried to make
it sound marginally respectable. I felt like someone whose date has
rung the doorbell while he's standing at the ironing board with no
pants on.
Anyway, I made myself presentable,
my contacts doubled from one to two — and a day later I was shocked to
get another invite from another former client I hadn't connected with
in years. So, all right… maybe this was actually going to be better
than a glorified
But then I
hit a glitch I hadn't foreseen. Two people who connected with me were
in the same line of business — were in fact competitors. That I was
linked to both of them made perfect sense: we'd worked together in the
past and might again. But I realized they might feel weird being linked
I decided I couldn't ask them
outright how they felt about it. That just seemed like a recipe for
awkwardness all around. But I went with my gut and changed my LinkedIn
settings so now I can see everyone (and with any luck they can see me)
but they don't see each other. I realize I'm missing out on a whole
other dimension of networking as people potentially discover valuable
connections through me (and go to their graves thanking me for that
brilliant introduction). But I think it's better this way than to have
clients feeling uncomfortable about the company I've made them keep —
after all, I wouldn't invite all of these people to one big  lunch —
or worse, wishing they'd never said yes in the first place. 
course I recognize that this may just be my anti-Facebook churlishness
wrapping itself in a business rationale. But for now I'm sticking with
my gut. And if I want to network, I'll go to other people's LinkedIn
pages to see if, say, that auto parts guy who introduced himself to one
of my contacts on a flight from Cleveland might need a professional
writer — if only to spruce up his résumé. It's all about the

Doug Dolan is a Toronto-based writer (and a favorite long-time client
of Marketing Mentor) with an award-winning web site
( This is his very first (and possibly his
last) blog post.

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