A big question worth digging into nowadays is “is it ok to be Facebook (or social media) friends with my clients?” Well, there’s no short answer and it completely depends on the type of client and how comfortable you feel but there are pros and cons that will help you weigh the situation.
Side note: I am personally friends with a lot of my clients. I think there was only one or two in my decade of building websites where I felt uncomfortable or didn’t want them to become friends and it was mainly because I didn’t want that relationship to bleed into personal life. (they were D clients which we’ll talk about)
So to help answer this question and make it very clear for you moving forward, let’s look at some pros and cons:
- It makes the relationship more personal (which is better these days) – They get to know you better, see your family, etc. (also a con in some ways which we’ll talk about next) This can increase the likelihood of them becoming a client for life if they view you as more than just a business associate and it often makes them want to help continue to support you and your family.
- It puts accountability on you – Just like when you do work for someone in your family, personal network, networking group, etc, if it’s someone you’re going to see often, you likely want to do a good job. Otherwise it would be a bit awkward. And I had some of those in my early days. So when it comes to them being your friend on social media, it can make you really want to do a good job.
- Makes it easy (and personal) for referrals – There are actually A LOT of referral benefits for having your clients be Facebook friends; mainly, it makes it easy for them to refer you when they see someone needing a website. Instead of going to your website, they can just reply and tag you (or your business ideally) for a quick referral. AND it often appears more authentic because in my case, people always said something like “oh here’s our web designer, Josh.” or “talk to our web guy.” It creates a warm lead.
- It’s keeps you front of mind – Perhaps the biggest benefit is that it keeps you in the front of your clients mind (or their feed) often! One of the biggest problems in web design is that if you don’t put your clients on an email list and reach out regularly or have them on any recurring services (like maintenance, hosting, etc) they’ll likely forget about you. So this is actually a way to keep your name on their mind moving forward without ever having to do any “content marketing” 😉
- It can lead to ongoing work – Finally, it very often leads to additional work. By sharing recent wins, success stories or if you happen to post about any industry updates or changes, it can often spark the ideas of your clients to get work done on their sites. Otherwise, these things would have to be done via email campaigns, personal reach outs, etc which I still recommend, but how nice is it to just have your Facebook be a round about way to go about this as well?
Now while there are a lot of pros, there are also some cons. Some of these I’ve experienced myself, some I’ve seen happen to colleagues and some are just common sense.
- The lines between personal/professional can get blurred – When you work with someone strictly through email, video calls or whatever project management tool you use, it’s a clearly professional communication path. When clients are friends, the lines can get blurred. Meaning sometimes your inboxes and DM’s, posts and shares can quickly become all business making it hard for you to “turn off.” There are some pros to this but I’ve found one of the biggest struggles with a working from home web design business to be keeping personal vs professional things separate. This can lead to some struggles.
- Client views you as a “friend” over a service provider – Similarly, when a client becomes a Facebook friend or follow, we all know it’s now a friendship vs a professional relationship because it’s Facebook official. Now, this has some pros as we’ll already talked about but this comes with some cons as well. When clients view you as friends over service providers, it can lead to them intentionally or unintentionally taking advantage of you, your rates, your time, your expertise, etc. Just like your family friends who “want a super simple site” and ask you to do it for free. You must be careful of this and stand your ground on your value and your rates.
- It can be awkward if they move on – Finally, if a project goes south, or if they move on for whatever reason, it can always make things a little awkward. For both parties. In some cases they may stick with you for longer than they normally would’ve if they weren’t friends with you because they’re afraid to break the bad news. Or vis versa, you may hang on to a bad or “not so great fit client” because you’re friends and it’s going to be awkward instead of easily making a break in a normal situation. It’s like dating, it’s always a lot easier to break up if the person isn’t in your circle of friends.
So there are just a handful of pros and cons that I’ve seen or experienced myself. My final recommendation is just to weigh the situation and trust your gut as to whether you want to add them or let them be friends on the socials or not.
I also would not rush into an online friendship with new leads. I’d wait until the relationship is established and you have a good feel for them before adding them. Even if you have to let that friend request sit in your inbox for a while. Especially for the ladies. It’s one thing to have a guy client who may error on the creepy side, it’s another to have them as a social media friend. That’s why I got my wife’s phone number first before adding her on the socials!
Have any thoughts on this subject? Any additional pros or cons you’d like to share? Leave a comment below!