A guide to being social while staying professional on Facebook

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Social media is proving to be very influential for small businesses but just because the conversation is happening in cyberspace, it doesn’t mean we don’t need to worry about old-fashioned etiquette and rules of engagement.

With over 500 million members, Facebook is a potential goldmine of new customers. But how should you behave? Especially if, until now, you’ve only used it to connect with old friends and share family photos? Here's a quick guide

Profile versus page

Which should you use? Is it a good idea to separate your personal account from your business account? Your existing friend list on Facebook perhaps includes both personal and professional contacts so should you use this profile to also promote your business?

Unfortunately there is no right or wrong answer. Personally, I use Facebook for communicating with friends and as a result my conversations and photos probably wouldn’t do my professional reputation justice. While they’re neither inappropriate nor offensive, I’d just prefer to keep them separate. So, if you’re anything like me, I’d recommend creating a Facebook 'page'.

If you are representing your company in an official capacity and want to create an official page, you can do so by following the basic steps here. Facebook profiles are intended for real people, in contrast to Facebook pages, which were created for businesses and organisations, and the friend limits reflect this difference. Facebook currently puts a 5,000 friend limit on profiles but not on pages - would you want to limit the exposure of your business?

Insights and analytics

Your Facebook page comes with all kinds of analytical data about the people who ‘like’ your page, and can provide great insight into where these clicks come from, including age, location and gender. This is a valuable tool for businesses but can only be harnessed with the Facebook Page.

Who to 'friend'

Never request to connect with someone on Facebook without introducing yourself first – you wouldn’t run through a real life networking event just handing out cards without saying hello, so why do it online? Let them know who you are but don’t rely on programmed software. You have joined this network to be social and if you want to communicate with your audience, you need to do it yourself.

Managing Your Reputation

A Facebook campaign against a brand or business is far from unusual. Carol Arthur from Northern Lights PR says that "disgruntled customers or former employees can criticise a company through their own personal profile, through a brand’s Facebook page or even by setting up a specific page or group to campaign against an organisation or product.”

Carol recommends that “instead of ignoring the complaints, or trying to take down negative comments, you can use Facebook to put your side of the argument, to address customer concerns and to ask customers and people who do rate you to share their positive comments on your Facebook Page. If you have made a mistake, then admit it, but stay cool and don’t get involved in a Facebook catfight.”

Avoid spamming

Don’t pitch your product or service hourly. Conversely, don’t broadcast, but invite questions. If you post an article ask, what do you think of this - do you agree? Then make sure you reply when your fans respond. That’s being social.

Stay up to date

It’s important not to let your profile or page gather dust, first impressions count and if someone stumbles across your page that hasn’t been updated in weeks or months, or that is still promoting an expired offer, it may suggest that you are no longer trading. Above all don’t underestimate the power of Facebook. To use a favourite analogy from Carol Arthur, “LinkedIn is the CBI, the IoD or The Rotary Club, whereas Facebook is more like the local tennis club, the pub or even your hairdresser. All places where you can meet someone you might in future do business with.”

 

Francesca James is the social media manager for Fresh Business Thinking. For more information, videos and advice for SMEs, visit www.freshbusinessthinking.com

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