Customizing Facebook Privacy Settings: A Guide for Students

As you know, we’ve been discussing recent news that employers are asking for job applicants’ Facebook passwords. Applicants have several options for handling these requests during an interview, but it’s also important that they manage their Facebook settings beforehand so that their profiles project a professional image.

April Pierson, an instructional designer at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, developed a guide for one of our business communication instructors to share with her students to help them customize their Facebook privacy settings. Her suggestions, complete with screen shots and easy-to-follow instructions, are available on her Adventures of a Learning Technology Consultant in Higher Education blog. Thank you, April, for sharing your expertise!

Follow-up: Facebook Password Requests

Our March 21 post addressed the issue of employers asking job candidates for their Facebook passwords (see Classroom Talking Point: “Job Seekers Getting Asked for Facebook Passwords”).

The folks at provide some great tips for handling requests for Facebook passwords: “What to Do When a Potential Employer Asks for Your Facebook Password.”

Perhaps you’ve discussed this topic with your classes. If so, please share your tips and advice.

(NOTE: Many thanks to Marie Flatley for sending us this link so that we could share it with you.)

Classroom Talking Point: “Job Seekers Getting Asked for Facebook Passwords”

I saw the link to the Associated Press article “Job Seekers Getting Asked for Facebook Passwords” in my Facebook news feed from a local television station.

My first thoughts were 1) Who would think that it’s acceptable to ask for someone’s password? and 2) Who would give up his/her password? Then I thought about my students—vulnerable 20-somethings in a job interview, clearly in no position of authority and just wanting to land some gainful employment.

We already know students need to be careful in many ways when it comes to their social networking practices. This is just one more topic to add to the list. My students and I will be talking about this article in class on Monday, and I thought you might be interested in having the same discussion with your students. Is this ethical? What should students do if they are asked to surrender their passwords? We definitely live in some interesting times.

“Social” Business Presentations

Earlier this week, I happened across this article from, “5 Tips for Making Your Presentations More Social,” and began to wonder how these tips might transfer to the classroom.

What intrigues me is the idea that student presentations could go beyond the traditional PowerPoint and all its neat features and engage both the student presenter and student audience in a way that makes presentations more interesting and dynamic.

The article says social media enables presenters to

  • Create anticipation
  • Create social friendly presentations
  • Use interactive polling
  • Use the backchannel
  • Keep the conversation going after the presentation.

As I extrapolate the suggestions from the article onto the classroom, I envision students using Twitter to get feedback on their topic during the planning and preparation stage. They might also use LinkedIn to network with possible sources for their presentations. I can see students bringing laptops or other mobile devices to class and using Twitter or interactive polling to provide feedback during a presentation or to ask questions of the presenter. After presentation, students might continue the discussion via social media.

You may already be incorporating social media in your presentations courses. If so, we want to hear what you’re doing.

Happy Birthday, Email!

As email celebrates its 40th anniversary, I am thinking about how I frame the discussion of email in my classroom. Email is really no longer a cutting-edge technology. Though not as old as the letter or memo, at 40 email has likely assumed its place among the more traditional forms of business communication given other available and even more immediate communication technologies.

At the same time, though, it is frequently used as a business communication tool. The trick is getting students to realize that in a world of texing, IM-ing, and social networking, email communication is still prevalent and desirable—and at least for now, a primary means of communicating in my classroom.

One of my students commented that “Email is soooo 20th century.” The comment was made as a joke; however, there is a ring of truth to it. When I post course announcements, I post them in D2L and send them via email. Occasionally, students will say, “I don’t even check my email anymore” or “I only check my email once a week.” Really? I still check mine several times a day, even though I am on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and once in a great while am known text or IM.

Am I against using Facebook or Twitter in the classroom? No. I know some teachers use these technologies successfully for classroom communication, but I have yet to find a way to do this without having it seem like an intrusion of my professional life into my personal life or in a way that is as efficient (or more so) than using D2L and email.

Do you use Facebook, Twitter, or other social networking tools to communicate in your classroom? Please share your experiences.  We’d really like to know how you make this work.

Meanwhile, check out this article from Mashable: “The History of Email.” The infographic is cool and would be a great talking point in the classroom. You may also want to check out the link in this article to an article on email acronyms. Who knew that “OMG” has been around since 1917 or that LOL translated to “little old lady” in the 1960s?

Many thanks to Marie Flatley for sending this article our way.

A Resource for Social Media/Networking Etiquette

This past week, I was trolling the Internet in search of  a resource on etiquette for using social media/social networking. As you might imagine, I received millions of hits. Of course, some offered better advice than others, but I was particularly taken with one source, and thought I’d share it in this week’s blog post.

It’s Robert Half’s Business Etiquette: The New Rules for a Digital Age. This FREE download is short—only 28 pages—but it’s a timely, visually appealing, and informative read. It provides etiquette tips for communicating with LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter; email; instant messaging; mobile devices; phone, video, and Web conferencing. It also includes  “Sticky Etiquette Q&A” on topics such as whether to friend one’s boss or coworkers. Interspersed among the tips and tricks are statistics, graphics, and anecdotes (e.g., “Are Etiquette Breaches a Career Killer?”) that present interesting discussion topics for any business communication class.

I wish I could say that I happened upon this site through a carefully planned Google search, but in all honesty, I landed on it by luck. I’m guessing that others who are more savvy Web surfers than I have found some pretty amazing resources on this topic as well. If you have, please share them. We’d love to see them.

Social Networking: The More Things Change…

Don’t get me wrong. I love social networking. I can spend hours on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn not only to keep in touch with friends and family but also to see how companies use these tools to communicate with customers, clients, or even employees within the company.

Social Networking Hype

Whenever I see a headline telling people to use social networking to “grow their businesses” or “leverage technology” or read advertisements by marketing and public relations firms, in trade publications, and even by some textbook publishers that sound as though the use of social networking technology itself is the mark of a pedagogically sound book or sound marketing strategy, I wonder and I worry. I wonder how prominently communication and rhetoric figure in this discussion, and I worry that the hype surrounding the technology marginalizes the discussion of less sexy topics such as the “you view” and reader-centered communication—foundational issues in any business communication, regardless of the channel.

Business Communication and Social Networking

While social networking itself may be revolutionary, the principles for using the technology as a communication tool are not. Indeed, sometimes the more things change, the more they must stay the same. A pedagogically sound approach to social networking should not ignore standard rhetorical business communication principles. If anything, these principles become the important constants in a business writer’s world as the technology continually evolves.

Dell is an excellent example of a company that has paid attention to using sound business writing principles in a social networking environment and has achieved great success. It has numerous blogs and Twitter feeds, each tailored to various audiences. This investment has paid off. Dell is rated as the top social brand in Headstream’s Social Brand 100 Report, the company said in 2009 that it had made $3 million as a result of its Twitter feeds, and its Facebook page has nearly a half a million “likes.”

Even my introductory business writing students can figure out why Dell has been successful with social networking: The writing is reader-centered, exhibits good “you-view,” employs basic persuasive strategies, is infinitely positive and courteous, and demonstrates visual appeal—writing and rhetorical practices that have little to do with the technology behind the communication.

Teaching Social Networking

Some ideas for incorporating principles of business communication in a classroom discussion of social networking include the following. If you have others, please share them with us.

1. Analyze a blog or other social networking site.

Find a company with a strong social networking presence, such as one listed in Headstream’s report. Because these companies tend to be large, you may also want to select a smaller local company for comparison. Have students analyze who the audience is for the site, what parts of the site are well written (i.e., are reader centered, have good you-view), and which parts of the site need improvement.

2. Analyze three distinct audiences and plan a blog for each audience.

Identify three distinct audiences and have students think about how an organization might tailor a blog (or other social networking site) for each audience (e.g., a healthcare facility creating blogs for people over 65, new parents and parents with small children, and individuals in their 40s and 50s). Students can discuss not only the demographics of the audience but also consider what information might be important to that audience, how or if the tone and style of the writing will differ, and what a writer can do to ensure that each communicates the message, promotes goodwill, and presents a professional image.

3. Discuss issues of audience, control, and communication channel.

When business professionals write letters or emails, they control the message and, in large part, direct the type of response desired. However, writers in social networking contexts relinquish much control over their messages and their audiences because messages can be shared and responded to so quickly and publicly. The case of Nestle vs. Greenpeace (“Nestle Mess Shows Sticky Side of Facebook Pages”)  provides an excellent talking point for this discussion, as does the “Mayo Clinic Facebook Controversy.”