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Currently, Facebook is undoubtedly the No. 1 social network in the world, nearing the 1 billion user mark as of June of 2012. It’s also currently the heaviest trafficked website in the world, even surpassing Google in terms of time spent online by its users.
This is proof that, when used affectively, Facebook is a powerful tool for businesses to reach and interact with customers. Even so there are best practices to follow when maintaining a business page.
In essence, what does a Facebook page do and what can it be used for? Perhaps Facebook itself puts it best: “A Facebook Page gives a voice to any brand, business or organization to join the conversation with Facebook users.”
As we noted above, there are a lot of Facebook users and, like in any culture — online or otherwise — there are established manners that, when followed diligently, will ensure the success of a business’ Facebook page. Maybe some people might even “like” it enough to deem it cool.
Understanding the medium
A key to Facebook success is understanding it. For one, the majority of people on Facebook are there to “hang out.” A typical user will scroll through their feed to see the latest updates from their friends and brands they follow — this could be in the form of a personal statement, recent pics from a vacation or a music video. Users can choose to “Like” just about anything — basically an acknowledgement that they do indeed actually like something. Or a user can choose to comment on an update, weighing in their opinion, or simply ignore the update and move on to the next.
A business page acts like another Facebook user. It can post updates, “Like” things and add comments to just about anything. This autonomy makes it especially important to interact with Facebook users in ethical and transparent ways.
- Business and pleasure are two separate things. A business page represents a business, unlike a personal profile, which represents an individual. The Facebook admin for a business page should keep this in mind and avoid expressing personal opinions, in most cases using “we” rather than “I” to post updates or comments. Also, give serious thought to the proper tone to use for the company. Is it professional and informative? Young and quirky? Edgy and fun?
- Avoid excessive self promotion. Remember, most users are on Facebook to hang out and have fun. When a company is continually patting itself on the back or constantly posting updates of specials and promotions, it can very easily turn off other users. At first a business’ fans may just ignore the excessive noise, but eventually they’ll return specifically to “Unlike” the brand.
Quality over quantity
This seems to be a golden rule that many Facebook business pages habitually break. Broadcasting trivial updates and calls to action are fine if they are in context and relevant to a business’ fans. For example, trying to start a Facebook conversation about a popular sporting event or television show is not a good idea for a grocery store, whereas asking fans what they’d like to see more of in the store is a very good idea. And generally exceeding two or three posts per day is considered overkill.
- Choose the best times to broadcast. If a business’ Facebook fans are early birds, broadcast to them first thing in the morning. If the fans are young people, perhaps weekends could be key times to reach the majority of them while they’re online. Better yet, pick a couple times a day to broadcast to ensure you’ll reach nearly all of your fans on a daily basis.
- Be consistent. Don’t go long periods of time without updating, as people will forgot a page exists if they aren’t at least occasionally reminded of it. Also, adhere to good grammar standards, including avoiding excessive use of exclamation points.
Interacting and moderating
Once a business understands Facebook as a medium and is consistently broadcasting quality content to its fans, the next step to work on is how to properly interact with Facebook users. This area can get tricky, as a business can’t control what its fans do. Establishing a consistent voice that can communicate in a personable way is key.
- Don’t ignore fans. It’s hard to put an exact dollar amount on the worth of a Facebook fan, but each one is no doubt valuable. This being so, it’s important not to ignore fans when they comment on a business’ update or post. Most fan comments will be positive. Responding with a quick thanks or simply “liking” their comment is apropos. Negative comments require discretion and should never be simply ignored. A fan comment, positive or negative, that goes unaddressed for days has a detrimental affect on a business’ brand, so daily moderation is necessary.
- Allow fans to post on the business’ wall. Facebook works best when people can jump in on or create any conversation they so desire. For a business to not allow fans to post on the business page’s Facebook wall is not only discouraging interaction, but giving fans the perception that the business is unapproachable. Who wants to shop at an unapproachable grocery store? The mission of the company, whatever it may be, should translate flawlessly into using Facebook for business — just think of fans as customers (because they are).
- Avoid auto responses. When a customer directs a question towards a business via Facebook, some companies respond with the same cut-and-paste answer, something like “Thanks for the question, please call us to speak to a company representative.” One would naturally think if a customer had a question to ask over the phone, he would go ahead and call. Likewise if a customer asks a question on Facebook, it should be addressed on Facebook. Auto responses make a business appear inauthentic and generally disinterested with the idea of actually interacting with customers.
If a company is going to use Facebook for business purposes, it should done right or not at all.
By Will Silvey Simons • @silveywill
Look for future installments of Social Media Etiquette for Senior Management each Wednesday.