Facebook, Personal Profiles, and Business Accounts

facebook headquartersThis came up recently in the comments on my Social Media Policies for Staff post, so thought I’d discuss it further. Please add your thoughts!

Here’s the issue: some people and organizations want very much to keep their personal profiles very separate from work stuff – that’s understandable. But to do that, they have created multiple accounts. Individuals create their normal personal profile, and then they also create a separate “worker dude” profile that they only use for official work-related business. Sorta like most of us have separate work and personal email accounts.

I know of at least one library that takes this a bit further, and creates “work-only” profiles for staff to use to administer their organization’s Facebook Page. Their thinking is that the organization owns the profiles, since the organization created them … so they’re not connected to an individual, and therefore ok.

Here’s the problem with that – Facebook really only acknowledges two types of accounts – personal profiles and organizational Pages. Period.

Facebook does allow something they call a “Business account.” What’s that? Here’s what Facebook says about them:

What is the difference between a business account and a user profile?
Business accounts are designed for individuals who only want to use the site to administer Pages and their ad campaigns. For this reason, business accounts do not have the same functionality as personal accounts. Business accounts have limited access to information on the site. An individual with a business account can view all the Pages and Social Ads that they have created, however they will not be able to view the profiles of users on the site or other content on the site that does not live on the Pages they administer. In addition, business accounts cannot be found in search and cannot send or receive friend requests.

So a “business account” is really no more than a very limited-access personal profile for individuals that only want to use it to manage a Page. And even those have to be set up by individuals (not organizations).

Facebook spells that out even further here:

If I already have a user profile, can I create a business account?
Maintaining multiple accounts, regardless of the purpose, is a violation of Facebook’s Terms of Use. If you already have a personal account, then we cannot allow you to create business accounts for any reason. You can manage all the Pages and Socials Ads that you create on your personal account.

Where am I going with this? Just this – I know lots of organizations either already have or are wanting to create a Facebook presence. And I know some organizations and some individuals who are very leery of “showing themselves” on Facebook – using their personal profiles for work AND for personal stuff.

But here’s the rub – Facebook’s Terms of Service really only gives you two options – use your personal account for work, or don’t use Facebook. That third option – creating a fake “work-only” profile? Works great … until you get caught. Then your profile, and potentially your organization’s Page, might get deleted.


pic by researchgirl

  • Guest

    This is a facebook customer service issue – their is a demand for business profiles. And from someone who has been discriminated for posting online (in an anonymous way like this …) content deemed ‘inappropriate’, I can understand why most people DO NOT want their employers nose in their personal business and vice/versa. The web may be open and information wants to be free, but people still cost money. 😉

  • Andrew Gee

    I think Facebook is pretty much a site for individual “faces”, rather than Corporate “images”. Otherwise, wouldn’t it be called something like “CompanyDirectory”? Or even “YellowPages”?

  • http://twitter.com/alexzealand alexzealand

    I found this rule most surprising when I first read it because of the assumption that a person is going to always work at the same place. What does fb expect me – and my organization – to do if I change jobs? Under their current rules, I’d either have to surrender my personal profile to my former job (in order to let them keep the page), or kill the page (making the my former job have to start all over), or admin it from my new job. How do any of those options serve fb’s mission?

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    Yeah – it used to be very much like that! Now, however, you have options. You can add more than one admin to the Page. You can also remove a person’s admin status – even if that admin created the Page.

    Otherwise, yes – you’d have some pretty weird things going on, like former employees still managing FB accounts for their old job. That wouldn’t be a good thing :-)

  • Michael Golrick

    Actually, the rules are very similar to the way domain name registration used to be held. I know because I bought my [then] organization’s domain name in about 1995. When I left, it took a great deal of work to transfer that ownership to someone who was still with that organization. Now…I left that job a decade ago, and at my next place of employment, the person who “bought” the domain is still there (make that the next two places). In all three of those I was the ‘director/CEO.’ I am not sure if domain name purchasing…for organizations…is still like that.

  • Programs

    And yet an increasing number of ads that I see for corporations use the Facebook logo and have a FB presence.

    I find this single persona rule of FB to be just one of the confusing aspects of using the site.

  • Jrogoz

    I’m one of several administrators for our library’s Facebook page, which I access through my personal account. I haven’t found this to be a problem at all. It doesn’t give the public or anyone at the library access to my personal account that they wouldn’t have otherwise, and it is very easy to add or remove administrators if someone leaves.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fauquierlibrary Alison Pruntel

    I am the reluctant admin of our library’s FB page – reluctant because of having to tie to my personal account. One thing you should note is that if you send a message to a patron (we have a patron — whole family have cards — who keeps spamming our wall with her home business. Anyway, I was directed not to block her, since our policy doesn’t say we will block/ban people, but to send her a message stating that we will continue removing her posts and provide a link to our policy. I sent it, but noticed that it comes from my personal account/name, which will surely prompt this patron to wonder why am I messaging her. I wish I would have realized this before I hit “send.”

  • Anne

    I’ve been getting around the personal vs. professional problem simply by using lists. Friends lists are a really powerful way to present yourself appropriately to the different groups of people in your life, and I’m very careful to set permissions for status updates, personal information, and photos (oddly enough, it makes Facebook interactions feel more like real life now that it’s not only my buddies on my friends list). It’s a little bit of a hassle, but it’s worked for me so far.

  • Petar Lukacic

    The problem is that most of Libraries in Croatia (that I know about) don’t care if they have a Personal profile for their Library or professional one. I think that is because they do not know the difference. Another problem is that FB isn’t deleting their profiles and directing them to a professional profile – FB page… What do you people think about that?

  • http://twitter.com/avatarghost Vicki Vacky

    Perhaps the libraries just want to create more intimate and friendly relationships with their patrons… Personally, I really like having my Croatian library as a friend and not being just one of its fans :)

  • Katharine

    This is true – but raises new concerns now that any admin can remove any other admin from the page. there is potential there for a disgruntled employee to remove all other admins and take over the “official” company page and do whatever they like with it. It’s a bit worrying. make sure you trust your admins!!

  • Katharine

    Another issue is whether or not it is acceptable to expect employees to administrate company facebook pages (given that in order to stay within FBs policy they need to sign up for a facebook account, using their real personal details, to do so). If a member of staff makes the personal choice not to join facebook, can their company expect them to do so if managing the company page is expected to be part of their role?