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How to Follow Business Etiquette on Facebook

As Facebook grows, so do the surprising number of embarrassing faux pas committed by individuals and companies alike. The occasional slips of the tongue, the odd photos, and, everyone’s favorite: the embarrassing tags in photos or videos. You can and must protect your brand’s reputation on Facebook, as well as maintain the utmost respect for the Facebook community.

Understand that business is personal

It’s important that you understand the level of personal intimacy your prospects and customers expect from you, or at least what your role is in the customer relationship. This helps you appreciate the degree to which people will seek out your Facebook profile to learn more about you and your beliefs and values, which in turn will influence their decision to do business with you.

Don’t drink and Facebook

Your ability to communicate can be impaired by drinking. Naturally, drinking and e-mailing or social networking just don’t go together. It takes only one bad or off-color post to get you reported in Facebook. Members tend to be vigilant about things that they find offensive.

A restaurant in Boston recently learned this after it replied to a fan with curse words and insults. Not only did the restaurant’s actions turn off scores of potential customers, but several business blogs wrote about the incident as an example of how not to treat your Facebook fan base. Ouch!

Keep it clean and civilized

Sending threatening, harassing, or sexually explicit messages to Facebook users is a no-no, as it is in the real world! Also, unsolicited messages selling a product or service aren’t tolerated. You should refrain from any of these activities or you may risk receiving a warning from Facebook or possibly having your account disabled by Facebook.

Be careful friending strangers

You can overdo Facebook many ways. First, don’t randomly add people to your personal profile in the hopes of convincing them to become fans of your Page. Befriending random people is considered poor form and may make you look like a stalker. The social boundaries between people and businesses on Facebook generally reflect what happens in the real world.

Dress up your page with applications

Independent developers have written an endless sea of apps for Facebook. One or more of those could make a great fit for your business, so find an app or two that you can use to make your Page more engaging. The nice thing is that apps are easy to install and don’t require any knowledge of how to build or modify them.

Each tab has a unique URL, so consider creating individual tabs for each application. You can even send out an e-mail to your customer base, asking them to engage with your new application. But be careful not to overdo it.

Respect the timeline

Your timeline is one of the most important places on your Page. It’s where your fans can leave messages and start a discussion. All messages on your timeline are visible to all Facebook users in the Posts By Others stream. Think of this as a place of public conversation, so make sure you’re professional and courteous to everyone. Make an effort to reply to all posts with gratitude and generosity.

Be careful when talking to strangers

Sometimes written communication can seem flat and impersonal, so choose your words carefully, especially if the situation is getting heated. Better yet, if you think the conversation is getting too heated, take it off Facebook and address the person via e-mail. Remember, reply with gratitude and generosity.

Don’t be afraid to ignore people

Many people feel compelled to respond to every message in their e-mail inboxes. Similarly, in Facebook, people feel the need to respond to every comment or post. Sometimes fans can overuse the various communication features in Facebook.

It’s a good idea to always welcome new fans and respond to comments and posts on your timeline within 12 hours, but know when to let the conversation rest. For example, if the same fan leaves several comments on a single post, replying once should be enough.

Deal with your irate users

Irate users pose one of the biggest challenges that this medium has to offer. You have several ways to deal with an irate fan:

  • Honestly consider his point and try to find something (anything) to agree with. Finding and establishing common ground is a great way to get the conversation back on track.

  • Correct factual inaccuracies in a very tactful and pleasant way. The fan may not have all the data.

  • If you don’t know the solution to a particular situation, don’t bluff your way out of it. Be honest, commit to finding out more, and give the fan a date when you’ll get back to him.

  • Don’t forget that you can always take your conversation offline.

Don’t forget birthday greetings

With the power of Facebook, you can never forget a friend’s birthday. Why not make it a point each day to see whether fans of your Page are having a birthday? Just visit their profiles and leave a birthday greeting on their timelines or send a Facebook e-mail to their inboxes.

And if that isn’t enough, you may want to offer them something unique that only you can provide for their birthday. The power of this platform is there and surprisingly few companies are taking advantage of this personalized happy birthday greeting opportunity.

Maintain your privacy

For some business owners, privacy is of paramount concern. If you’re a local business owner, you might not want to list any personal information on the Info tab of your personal profile. Make sure that your profile settings are set to Private rather than Public, which makes your personal information available to Internet search engines for all prying eyes to see.

Also, be careful what groups you join. If someone you know in business sees controversial political, sexual, or religious activist groups on your profile, they might stop shopping at your store.

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