Question: Should I stay on Facebook?

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been asked this question more than a few times, both face-to-face and via email/Twitter. The on-going privacy policy battles with Facebook have turned off a lot of people on the large (and growing larger) service, but for the foreseeable future, if you leave Facebook, you might just be reducing your social media effectiveness.

First, let me say that I haven’t had a large problem with Facebook privacy settings for two important reasons.

  1. I joined Facebook after it had opened up for everyone, not just limited groups of high school and college students so I never developed an assumption of privacy there.

  2. As with any social media, I consider anything and everything I post there to be public by default, so changes in Facebook’s privacy policy didn’t really effect me or the way I used the service.

For most people, you want (and perhaps, need) to be on Facebook for one very important reason…it is where the people are. In shear numbers, Facebook far outweighs any other social network and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Removing yourself from that mass of people will limit the effectiveness of any social media campaign, both person and professional, that you might care to create. You need to connect with the quorum of people that exist on Facebook to spread your message as far as possible. Deleting your Facebook account might make your feel better, but your online relationships and business will suffer.

Will Facebook always be the big event in town? No. History has shown that companies ebb and flow over the years and sometime, somewhere, someone will create a new and better service and will do to Facebook, what it did to Myspace (and others). Until then, we all need to “dance with those that brought us.”

That said, if you want to continue to have private conversations via Facebook, you need to look elsewhere. Facebook has shown every indication that they will be “public by default.” Even if you manage your Facebook Privacy Settings perfectly, you will be exposing your “private” updates to any number of people. Look towards closed email lists or other services which promise closed communications and leave Facebook for your public-facing activities. Remember, though, that even then information can leak out of these so-called “private” realms very easily. A forwarded email, a Twitter message, a casual mention by a fellow group member over the phone show you just how fragile privacy can be. In some cases, the only way to truly private about something is to be the only person who knows about it.

You need to engage on Facebook, publicly, if you want spread your message and thoughts to the widest audience possible. Move your private conversations elsewhere. Facebook isn’t going back so you need to do what is best for you.

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