Facebook Foibles

Marcel BrownIt really is amazing just how quickly social networking has become engrained into our society. Two years ago, barely anyone that wasn’t on a college campus had heard about services like Facebook and Twitter. Now it has gotten to the point that businesses are scrambling to make sure they have a presence on social networking sites or fear being left behind. However, the quick pace at which social networking has come to prominence has left many opportunities for people and business to make mistakes in the way they set up their accounts on social networking sites. One mistake in particular seems especially pervasive and I’d like to address that now.

Facebook allows for 3 different types of presences. The first is the personal “profile”, which most Facebook users are familiar with. This is where people become your “friends” on Facebook. The second is the business “page”, also known as a fan page because this is where other users can become “fans” of a business. The third is the “group”, which is easy to think of as a sort of online club or meeting place. Facebook users can become “members” of groups. For purposes of this article, I’ll focus on the distinction between profiles and pages.

As my descriptions to this point have alluded, profiles are for personal use and pages are for business use. Unfortunately, it is very easy for new users to Facebook to overlook the fine print describing this and many users create personal profiles for business use. While it may not seem like a big deal, doing so can be problematic. First, profiles are not optimal for use with business. The biggest reason for this is that profiles are not accessible by the general public until you approve them as friends and do not show up in search engine results. Business pages can be found by search engines, can be viewed by anyone without needing your permission, and users can become fans of your page right away. But most importantly, using a personal profile for business use is a violation of Facebook’s terms of service. Facebook can and has terminated personal profile accounts for being used for business purposes.

Now many of you are reading this and thinking to yourself, “oh crap”. Don’t feel bad. I’ve seen many, many businesses make this mistake. Social networking is still a very new phenomenon. Even those who claim to be experts are still learning all the time so don’t think that you are some sort of idiot for creating a “profile” instead of a “page”. It’s an honest mistake and one that Facebook should hold some accountability for because I think they don’t make the distinction clear enough for new users.

So how do you fix this mistake? The first thing to do is stay calm. While Facebook has terminated accounts over this, the reality is that they are not rabidly hunting down violators, especially small businesses with relatively small groups of friends. Second, you need to create a page. The link to create a Facebook page is here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php. Get your page customized with all your pertinent information and logos. Finally, start promoting your new page to the people who are friends of your current profile and get them to turn into fans of your new page. Eventually, you’ll want to deactivate your old profile to avoid confusing people.

Social networking can be a confusing topic, so if you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me. Actually, you might be better off contacting my wife’s company, Queen Bee Consulting, as she is a business coach and has a lot of experience with social networking topics.