I find Facebook troubling. On the one hand it is a first rate service for keeping in touch with family and close friends. On the other hand, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg thinks that privacy is dead. Concerns continue about how Facebook shares information with third parties. Add in the fact investor types believe Facebook to be a hot investment opportunity based up on its potential for advertising and you end up with an anomaly. The combination does not sit easily with me any more than having to jump around different services.
On the other hand, I would not mind the ability to interact with people inside Facebook but without the overhead of needing to have them as Facebook friends. That requires the creation of a Facebook Fan page. I’m not alone in that thinking.
Last May, Jason Perlow, a fellow ZDNet contributor wrote: Lockdown or Death for your FaceBook Profile: An Advanced User Guide to Social Networking Privacy. Jason says:
FaceBook is an extremely complicated and confusing online service to use, with lots of settings that are needed to secure a profile and prevent undesired dissemination of information. Because I no longer trust the service whatsoever, I’ve created a “How-To” for the advanced user for locking down their profile and minimizing their risk
Keep in mind that this “Lockdown” I created is an extremely draconian method — nobody will be able to share your information or your statuses, you will not have any personally identifying information unless you absolutely choose to, and only the most essential applications will be authorized…
…The user for which I have in mind for “Advanced” is someone who is extremely concerned about their personal privacy and security, but also may wish to have people contact them via a brand or a business or some other following they maintain.
If you have blogs, then you will need Twitter and Feedburner accounts. Both are free. You’ll also need RSS Graffiti, a Facebook application to which you can donate via PayPal. The idea is that you automate the publishing and publicity of blog post feeds via the socializing capability of Feedburner on to Twitter and then on into your Facebook fanpage. In practice, it looks something like this:
I implemented Jason’s solution over the weekend. Be warned: it takes time. I spent around four hours working through all seven steps. I then spent another hour testing and checking the solution.
Deciding who you drop as Facebook friends is the most difficult thing. It can seem anti-social to unfriend people you know from Facebook. Like Jason, I want to distinguish between those people I class as friends and those I class as business colleagues but who are not necessarily in the ‘friend’ category. In other words, I want Facebook and other services to reflect real life as I experience it. I unfriended some 50-60 people. Sorry folks.
The net result for me is that I now have a ‘clean’ Facebook account for friends and family accompanied by a Fan Page that only includes the posts I create here and at ZDNet along with original Tweets. Blog post notifications do not appear on my public profile unless I manually include then via Hootsuite. That way I don’t annoy others who regularly see both my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I also get the added benefit that anyone researching my public stuff sees it all in one place.
This could be a useful way for firms to aggregate public blogs and Twitter action because RSS Graffiti does not restrict you to single Twitter accounts but uses RSS feeds generated by accounts and services you choose.
In a later tweak, I excluded re-tweets and @ responses from the Fan Page. This last step may seem even more draconian than Jason’s method implies but it is necessary. People see enough of my re-tweets etc on Twitter. I doubt they need to see it on Facebook as well. Plus it clutters up a page that is designed to reflect original material only.
Anyone looking at the Facebook Fan Page can interact through discussions. They don’t need to friend me while posts from blogs and Twitter are automated. RSS Graffiti makes the Fan Page a ‘set and go’ option. It is not real time and that’s OK. We don’t all live in the realtime world.
If you find this method too restrictive you can always loosen up your Facebook privacy settings. But then you lose the benefits of a locked down account.
UPDATE: I will add my YouTube feed into the Fan Page. Many of my videos end up as part of posts but I don’t think this will mean too much duplication. If people complain then I’ll kill it.