Killer Mistake: Friend Requesting by Brands. Make it stop!

Among the mistakes I see brands/businesses making on Facebook, the cardinal sins of creating poor profiles for their business/brand seem to know no end. To this day, I come across at least 3 per week that are posing as individuals. And at least one “friend requests” me every week. There a number of reasons why this is not only poor business practice, and why it harms your business/brand in the end. In my best Seth Meyers & Amy Poehler voice, I say. “REALLY??!”

Cutting corners in social media marketing by handing over responsibility to an unfamiliar intern, unknowledgeable employee, or worse yet, paying an “expert” to make mistakes on behalf of your brand is even worse. Here’s why what you don’t know can hurt you and your business long term.

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  1. Using Facebook to pose as an individual rather than creating a Page is against the Facebook Terms of Service (TOS). If someone reports your page, or complains about your violations of the TOS (perhaps a competitor), you could see your “friend” page disappear along with all of your “friends”, posts, videos, pictures and history. This would not be ideal for any serious business or brand.
  2. Friends vs Fans: The Victoria’s Secret Fan Page has 18M fans and counting. This is a very good thing. There is NO limit on the number of fans or “Likes” a Facebook Page can have. On the other hand, an individual profile page can only have 5,000 friends. Do you really want to limit the number of Fans that can interact with your business and share your brand message? One Winnipeg restaurant is currently operating with a “Friend” profile. As of today, they have 4, 723 “friends”. What happens when they can no longer accept “friend requests”? Will customers and Fans know the difference? Moreover, will they care? No, they’ll just think the business is ignoring them, or the business will have to fess up that they were inept at setting up their Facebook business page and can no longer accept new friends. Does either scenario sound like one you want to be in? I didn’t think so. DO it right from the start and never worry about how you’re going to migrate Fans to a new Business page. (Hint: it rarely works. You might get 10-15% to follow you. The others just plain won’t. In this scenario, everyone loses.)
  3. Missing the SEO Boat: When people are searching for your business, it’s likely a Facebook Business Page will be near the top of search results. This is because Pages are indexed by search engines. Operating under an individual profile means you are missing out on huge SEO opportunities. Business/brands need to be leveraging any opportunity to improve search ranking. An optimized Business Page featuring a vanity URL (ie. http://www.facebook.com/sparkerstrategy) goes a long way to boosting your online visibility, makes it easy to find your business, and creates a positive first-impression for any customer searching for you in the social space.
  4. Get Stat Happy: Metrics are important. They tell us where we’ve been successful and what missed the mark. Business Pages have built-in “Insights” displayed in a graphical format within Facebook. These stats can even be exported to Excel for sharing and comparison. There are high-level stats (overall likes, new likes, etc.) and drill-down stats where demographics, gender and age breakdown are available too. Facebook Insights also play nicely with Google Analytics. These stats are invaluable when it comes to determining next steps, ROI, and ensuring your Facebook Business page gives your Fans more useful and engaging content. Operating under a personal profile means no such information is available. Do you really want to miss out on this wealth of free information about your customers?

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Upcoming changes to the way Facebook Pages are administered and used will be ushered in as all pages are switched over to the new Timeline format. There will be a number of new features for brands and businesses meant to improve engagement and boost interaction.

  • Cover images: Under the timeline format, pages will feature a large cover photo that appears like a banner across the top of the page. But there will be strict rules about what and how this image can be used. For instance, cover images must be at least 399 pixels wide and may not contain:
  1. Price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it at our website”
  2. Contact information, such as web address, email, mailing address or other information intended for your Page’s About Section
  3. References to user interface elements, such as Like or Share, or any other Facebook site features
  4. Calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends”

For further information and help about rules governing new Facebook Pages, check here. http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=167124440013852

  • Messages: Business Page currently cannot send private messages. In order to directly contact a Fan, you had to have a public discussion on your Page, or request they call a 1-800 customer care line. Either way, it was clunky to take a customer beef (or bouquet) “offline”. With the Timeline format, this is no longer true. Now private messages can become the forum where contact details or private information may be exchanged discreetly.

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Other benefits to using a Facebook Page properly can include:

  1. Networking – Use your Facebook Brand Page to “Like” colleagues’ business pages, vendors, suppliers, and other contemporaries that could benefit or even partner with your brand. These “Likes” should be followed by comments, sharing, and engaging on others’ Pages. The potential here is these comments or interactions leave a footprint for your business and help raise your Brand profile within Facebook and overall SEO rankings.
  2. Competitive Intelligence – Any brand using Facebook or other social media should be maximizing the amount of competitive intelligence out there for the taking. A quick glance at any Brand page can provide some interesting info: number of “likes”, current promotions, key staff in charge of Facebook account, etc. Pay attention to what others around you are doing. Are they interacting enough? How quickly do they respond to customer inquiries or complaints? Learn from their mistakes and successes. Then do it better.
  3. Lead Generation – “Like” and interact with the brands you want to do business with. This may seem simple but it is an oversight for many brands out there. It makes sense to align with brands and business that reflect your business values or that could benefit from your products and services. Interacting with their content by posting, commenting, and sharing is sure to get you noticed and reciprocity will ultimately help your brand/business too, and could lead to much more. Also, use refined search terms when using Facebook ads to finely tune your target market. Facebook has made this easier than ever and new customers are around every corner with a well-placed Facebook ad campaign.

Dear readers, I hope I’ve convinced you best practices for your brand/business page have great potential to improve your presence in the social space. Stop limiting your possibilities by setting up a personal profile for what should be a Brand/Business page. As the Timeline format unrolls for all brands at the end of this month, the possibilities continue to grow for Facebook and brands/business. Use your valuable real estate within Facebook to produce compelling content, leverage your existing website, drive traffic from your Brand page to your website and locations, and ultimately boost sales. Start something brilliant today!

12 thoughts on “Killer Mistake: Friend Requesting by Brands. Make it stop!

  1. Colin Finlay says:

    Great post Susie! Full of good ideas and things to watch out for when enterinig the social media world.

    • susieparker says:

      Thanks, Colin. I hope I can help stop someone from making these mistakes. It’s too bad when it’s gone too far already. Not a good situation to be in.
      Susie

  2. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! 😀

    • susieparker says:

      Haha! Corey, tell me how you really feel? I know you know because you do it so well! :) thanks for reading, Corey.

  3. Wendy says:

    Great tips Susie. Things change so fast on the social media scene especially facebook, II find the challenge lies in keeping the rest of your team informed. I’ve been guilty of some of these things only because the employer didn’t see the benefit to a fanpage or understand the difference between a profile and fanpage.

  4. Shannon says:

    Thanks so much! Your tips and advice are excellent :) Thanks for giving out this valuable info for free!!! Much appreciated!

  5. Very valuable!! FB page for biz is yet one more thing to master… appreciate your tips for truly, gettin a handle! Thank you!

  6. […] clue about Terms of Service or simply ignore them. Our post about brands “friend requesting” individuals on Facebook is still going strong and popu… Just this past week, I met someone working for a local business who was the in-house “social […]

  7. Reed Botwright says:

    Great post! I don’t know how many times I have to reject a “friend” request from a local business and sigh. And unfortunately, the ones I see are from sole proprietors doing it themselves who have little to no experience with social media. I shake my head because I know they will keep doing then look back and say “Social media doesn’t work!”

    • Susie Parker says:

      Hi Reed, thanks for your comment. And yes, that is frustrating to hear how social media didn’t work but it was because they were not leveraging all the tools at their disposal properly.