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.

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  • As a winery that uses FB to give a human face to the industry I couldn't agree with you more than this. You really don't have to pay someone to do such simple tasks. You only need some time and really care about the people you are contacting.

  • Carla

    Good article, Janet. I agree completely that FB is not for every business.. Thanks for sharing.

    Carla

  • Julien

    I am a little shocked that someone in your line of work would say such a thing. Doesn't your business rely on building Facebook pages for people? I am encouraged by your writing.

  • Sandra

    I hired a team to build our FaceBook page and it was expensive and a waste of time. I didn't know how easy it is and they said it was better design if a professional did it.

    Jose, would you post a link to your page so we can see what you did on your own?

  • Dear Sandra,

    I keep it very simple with feeds from the Winery Blog and Photos from my Flickr account and all twitter post. But you can judge that better if you have a look at my amateur FB – http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1347199977besides that I've created a FB Group to have people subscribing by their will and only receive news about events if they want to – http://www.facebook.com/groups.php?id=1347199977&

  • Nice post Janet. Everyone is telling small business owners to get a Facebook page but it sure seems like very few are really getting much business out of it. Your comment about mixing all the crazy posts of people you hardly know with a personal network of friends is right on. I'm now being much more selective about who I associate with and am now realizing I need to separate my business from personal friends.

  • I admit I was a little nervous about this post. There are a lot of people who believe Facebook is essential, and I'm glad to see I seem to have struck the right balance.

    Jose makes an excellent point that you need to take a little time to build your page or group with care for the people you expect to use it. Like everything else with social media it's about the user engagement and interaction and it needs to be a voluntary conversation.

  • Yes, Julien, it's true that I build Facebook pages, but I don't recommend them for every client, and I often give them the knowledge to do it on their own. Frankly, it doesn't take much to create a Facebook page at all. The interface doesn't allow for full-on customization anyway, it's about the content not the "design" of the page that is important. It's what you do with the page and how you build followers that matters.

  • Funny – I just wrote a post yesterday about "blogging may not be right for your business": http://www.cindyalvarez.com/communication/surpris

    Business have to LISTEN and they have to communicate, but it's not always about using the hip tool of the moment. The tool that is most convenient, most appropriate for your audience, and most conducive to regular, genuine communication – is the right tool for your company.

  • I'm galds to hear some sanity in the incessant "you must use social netoworking or your business will die!". I have been actively social network for over a year and have had few if any real clients come from it. Yet I know people in the same business as myself who do no online promotion and are doing very well in business thank you.

    Social networking is a bit like the rest of the internet marketing hype: a self inflating bubble that makes it money from telling others who to do internet marketing. But real business value?? Questionable.

  • Great blog, Way to show both sides of this and to dispel the anxiety that apps like
    FB give to many solopreneurs and small businesses. Thanks for sharing.

    Chrystal, BlissConnection.com

  • Good points Cindy, not every social media tool is the right one for a particular business.
    That's why you need to get a plan first!

    BTW, I see the post is getting Dugg, if you like it please Digg it!
    http://digg.com/business_finance/Facebook_may_not

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  • Excellent post, Janet — and particularly appropos after this political season. I may have gotten an amazing new client yesterday because of what the principal of the social media company they were going to use posted on Facebook. They decided to check out this person's profile and discovered legions of political posts, events, etc. It's not that they were on the other side of the political fence — they were simply appalled by this company founder's judgement in mashing business and personal. They also had their CEO's kidlet go and in experiment with building a company page — the 14 year old built it in 15 minutes and it looked almost identical to what this social media company said it could do. Now most of the peeps posting here know that it's not just about building that FB page . . . pages that work well typically have an underlying brand strategy, refresh program, etc. But it really breaks trust when over-promises are made. Thanks, as always, for your tell-it-like-it-is savvy!

  • "the 14 year old built it in 15 minutes and it looked almost identical to what this social media company said it could do.".

    Wow, that is exactly the point Sarah! It's not building the page but knowing what to do with it after it's built and whether the page is really going to add value to the marketing plan in the first place.

  • Sorry, here is the page link! I mislead you into my facebook profile. Here is the actual link to my page that I'm still converting from my FB Group – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cortes-de-Cima/4017

  • This brings up a great point. Facebook is pretty cool on a personal level but I agree the platform is not very professional. I don't know if my clients would appreciate being superpoked by me. I think that LinkedIn is a much better platform for professional networking. I have a facebook and I do like it just not so much for business.

  • Hi Janet:

    Excellent post on the use of Facebook for your online business – you have shown the beauty and the beast scenario of this social media. Amazing as this is the way I have seen Facebook over the past few months – To me I have always said it is like talking about "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" – you never know what connections are going to help, hurt or destroy your online business.

    Facebook is an amazing community where you will meet all walks of life here but what we never know are the results we are going to get. What really hurts is when we are abused by others, when we are attempting to do the right thing and just simply connect to advertise our presence and help others out.

    Keep up the great posts Janet.

  • Well thanks Carl,
    Always good to hear when a post strikes a chord. It's so important to get the right fit for a network and some just aren't right for FaceBook. Some of the reason for that is the backbiting and infighting that can happen on FBook or any other fiend site where people play who have a lot of time on their hands.

  • micheal l

    a small company is 800 employees?

  • http://www.linkedin.com/ would be the best option for professional networking.

  • Great post Janet.
    As you've pointed out, it's key to have a business strategy behind choosing to be active on a site like Facebook (same goes for blogging, using Twitter, etc etc).

    We've found with our Facebook group for green businesses with a focus on green business innovation, that it's a great way to find out small green businesses to find out what like-minded businesses are doing.
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=42779921039

    Cheers,
    Patrick

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  • Rick…

    JackZufelt, I have found that LinkedIN is the "business standard" for professional networking. I've used LinkedIN for several years and it is very useful. I'm new to Twitter and Facebook; but, haven't found their utility yet.

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  • I have to say that I agree with this post a very little, but at the same time, I lean toward having a Facebook account in most cases, at least if you have any bit of online business presence. While Facebook is great on a personal level, it can also be a great professional platform in almost all cases.

    It is my belief that all people who have some type of presence online should be building a personal brand based on their career. If this is the case, this person is going to immerse themselves in like minded people and network with these like minded people. If your Facebook profile is networked to professional people, you won't have to worry much about being slapped or poked.

    If you want a professional Facebook profile, have professional friends, and make a professional Facebook profile. This is a GREAT “tool” to draw a stream of traffic back to your home base. And make sure to add family members and CLOSE friends you have because they should be your number one fans of supporting your business.

    If you rather waist your time on building a Facebook profile of random friends from high school that you never talked to and still have nothing in common with, take that route. Then you simply waist Facebook as a social year book.

    It all depends on the user, not the business.
    I recommend choice one to all business people who have any part of business presence online.

    Kelsi Guidry,
    KelsiGuidry.com
    iWants.com

  • I have to say that I agree with this post a very little, but at the same time, I lean toward having a Facebook account in most cases, at least if you have any bit of online business presence. While Facebook is great on a personal level, it can also be a great professional platform in almost all cases.

    It is my belief that all people who have some type of presence online should be building a personal brand based on their career. If this is the case, this person is going to immerse themselves in like minded people and network with these like minded people. If your Facebook profile is networked to professional people, you won't have to worry much about being slapped or poked.

    If you want a professional Facebook profile, have professional friends, and make a professional Facebook profile. This is a GREAT “tool” to draw a stream of traffic back to your home base. And make sure to add family members and CLOSE friends you have because they should be your number one fans of supporting your business.

    If you rather waist your time on building a Facebook profile of random friends from high school that you never talked to and still have nothing in common with, take that route. Then you simply waist Facebook as a social year book.

    It all depends on the user, not the business.
    I recommend choice one to all business people who have any part of business presence online.

    Kelsi Guidry,
    KelsiGuidry.com
    iWants.com

  • Sandra Harriette

    I think this could use some additional insights after the present conclusion to help a business figure out how to compare its goals with the pros of what Facebook has to offer.

  • nofb

    facebook is the destruction of the internet and will lead to wasting of time and cost for employers. I believe it should be used to enhance your websites, but users are fooled into replacing their websites because the interface allows them to be lazy and not be responsible for their time or bandwidth use. It has use for large business but will kill the small guys

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