Facebook may not be for YOUR business

Lately I’ve been inundated with requests from people to build them a Facebook page. One client told me of a conference in which the speaker told the entire room they had to have a Facebook page or their businesses would simply not survive.

While it’s true that Facebook is the largest network of it’s kind in the world and growing at an amazing rate, that doesn’t mean it’s good for your business.

Facebook is great for touching base with your long lost school friends, posting your family pictures or participating in one of the many groups on a personal level, but therein lies the problem with Facebook. It’s entirely too personal. You can create a profile on Facebook and post only your professional information. You can create a group for your business and a fan club for your products. What you can’t really do is effectively control where it goes from there.

If people “friend” you or join your group, you’re opening the door to their profiles and their friends’ profiles and you’d be amazed what people post out there. Before you know it, you and your market can be knee deep in invitations to hook up, embarrassing videos and pictures of friends and loved ones or people you don’t even know, and a host of invitations to time-sucking games and vampire battles. Employers have used the network to do background checks on potential employees.

Virgin Atlantic fired a group of service attendants for their discussions on their Facebook group even though Virgin has their own Facebook page for the company. The employees were not following company policy and they paid for it.

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for Facebook in your social media plan. I’ve got a profile and I have thrown a sheep and had a werewolf fight or two myself. What I AM saying is that Facebook is not where I go to connect or collaborate professionally.

In addition, with the advent of Facebook Connect, the new web-wide sign-in system, pretty much anything you or your friends do online becomes shareable data.

OK, so when IS Facebook good for business?

There are cases where Facebook worked beautifully for a business. Dean Koontz built both a Facebook nd MySpace profile for character in his book “Odd Thomas” the two sites quickly became fan sites and fairly effective for sales of the books, complete with fan testimonials.

Many wineries and restaurants are using the site to create fan clubs or contests for their customers. Small software companies like Serena software built private groups for their employees to use as an intranet for its 800 employees instead of installing expensive custom software.

Apps that play on the fun aspects of Facebook have been a big success. Facebook’s iPhone App had over 1 million users in just a couple of months after launch. Other popular apps “sell” for a few dollars, but the number of users quickly translates to big bucks.

Visa created the “Visa Business Network” app, which takes information about users to help them better network with other small business owners. They also worked with Facebook to offer those that install the app a credit towards advertising on Facebook.

Facebook polls are a wonderful way to reach a large market and sample their opinions. IF the people taking the poll are in your market.

So, bottom line?

I know there are those who say Facebook is the be-all end-all for business. The fact is, it’s not for all businesses at all. The people who tell you it’s a necessity may mean it’s a necessity for them. They’d love to build you a Facebook page. It’s one of the easiet things you can do on a network yet people make a living doing it for you.

Before you decide to go there, take a good long look at what you want to accomplish and what your options are. If Facebook is a good fit for you great, but if it’s not? Don’t lose any sleep over it.