6 Facebook Flubs Your Company Must Avoid

By Linsey Knerl on 7 February 2010 (Updated 24 April 2010) 0 comments
Photo: Yuri Arcurs

You’ve got a super-shiny Facebook page and many new fans. You think your company’s social media campaign is heading in the right direction. But online fans are fickle, and one wrong move can wipe out all your hard work in an instant. Find out what your fans are hoping you won’t do, and avoid these common social media mistakes at all costs.

1. Forcing Your Fans to Share

It’s been awhile since our kindergarten teacher made us share our toys, and we’re relieved that, for the most part, we can choose who we want to share with and when. Many of the trendy new Facebook widgets, however, are running counter to that belief, making fans who want to participate in special events or promotional offers “share” with others to actually benefit. The large majority of Facebook users agree: “We’ll pass along your promos as we see fit. Please, don’t make us send it on to 9 friends, unless we really want to.”

Expert Tip: Instead of requiring Facebook users to pass promos and information along, try encouraging them. Companies have found success in using Facebook Gifts applications to create customized virtual trinkets that they can share with friends. Consider working with an agency well-versed in virtual goods (or have your in-house developer study up) to make branded gifts your Facebook fans can get excited about. Popular case studies in this practice include Black Friday gifts from Sephora and Bud Light’s successful holiday gift promotions.

2. Forgetting about the Next Generation

Many companies fail to realize that Facebook policies allow users as young as 13 to sign up with an account. This means that a good percentage of your Facebook fan base may be underage (and entirely inappropriate for you to market to). If you run a business that targets adult hobbies or lifestyle practices (including alcohol, dating sites, or even the local pub), take care to not assume your audience wants what you have to sell. (And by all means, check with your legal department before hosting any promotions or communications that could cause you headaches later on.)

Expert Tip: You can get detailed demographic info about your Facebook fan base without ever leaving Facebook. The Insights application allows you to view reports on user exposure, actions, and behavior relating to your social ads and Facebook page. More sensitive information (such as the age of a user group), won’t show up unless a significant number of users make up a particular segment — good information to know if you’re concerned that your target demographic is not being reached.

3. Assuming fans are “in the market”

It’s easy to assume that anyone signing up for your luxury car dealership fan page may be looking to buy a car in the near future — but don’t. For many users, Facebook is more about establishing an identity among the masses than volunteering for a targeted marketing segment. Thousands of fans join popular brand pages every day, expressing their love for designer shoes, gourmet coffee, and professional sports, so that their friends can see what they’re into. Don’t mistake their eagerness to be part of a brand identity as an invitation to sell to them. They aren’t the same thing.

Expert Tip: Do a Facebook search for “Nike,” and you’ll get over 500 results for fan pages and groups relating to the brand. This is proof that users will create their own pages as a tribute to the companies that they love. If you are lucky enough to own an iconic brand, make certain that you differentiate your “official” brand page from the enthusiasts’ pages and that you don’t take advantage of their eagerness to join. Be clear about what kind of communications you will be sending and how often fans can expect them. Remember: if your messages are too spammy, they’ve got 499 other fan groups to choose from.

4. Sleeping at the Wheel

It’s great when a hot company or website establishes an identity on Facebook. In fact, it’s probably very easy to get those first few hundred fans without trying. What you do once they come, however, is very important. Nothing is more irritating than hopping over to your new favorite company’s feed to see…nothing. Either update or get out of the game.

Expert Tip: Facebook’s Notes function is a simple way to incorporate your company’s blog feed directly into your Facebook communications. But don’t stop there — have a live person on call to address questions and comments from users, write on user walls, and facilitate discussion surrounding hot topics. You don’t have to talk about your brand in every message (in fact, we highly recommend that you don’t). Use common tools, like Google Trends, to see what you should be talking about.

5. Inviting without Discretion

Even worse than a company who abandons their fan base is the company who is overzealous about growing it. Don’t send out massive numbers of invites to everyone you come across on Facebook, and don’t abuse the friend lists of those you know to build up your numbers. You’re a living, breathing business — not an indiscriminating telemarketer. Don’t you want your fans to feel special?

Expert Tip: Instead of trying to cull your followers straight from the pages of Facebook, why not offer your regular ">customers a natural way to migrate over? A well-designed Facebook badge placed prominently on all pages of your company website and email communications can give those who are already interested a one-click way to connect with your fan page. (Use the graphics and logos you already have rights to in your design, and save money over hiring an external agency to do this.)

6. Pulling a Bait and Switch

“Hi, my name is Joe, and we went to high school together. Want to be my Facebook friend?” This is the typical message behind a friend request on Facebook, and for the most part, it continues to be about building friendships and reconnecting with old friends. Some businesses have tarnished the system, however, by Friending under a personal account and then using it to send business marketing offers or spam. This is about as effective (and moral) as inviting someone to your cousin’s baptism and then trying to sell them MLM products at the reception. It’s tacky, and it won’t work.

Expert Tip: Keep your work and personal accounts visibly separate, and only link between them when it is most appropriate. An update on your personal feed letting your friends and family know that your company just celebrated a major milestone, for example, would likely be well-received. (Anything more than an important mention, however, should be kept off of your own page.) If you’re determined to bring traffic from your personal page over to your business page, consider adding adequate links and badges to your “Info” tab and profile to make the click-over easy.

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