There is a lot of debate over what should and should not be posted on Facebook, and where it should and should not be posted. A good, conservative rule of thumb is this…don’t post it, if you wouldn’t want it to appear on the front page of a national newspaper. Sure, this is a bit extreme, but it’s a good place to start. If nothing else, keeping this in mind might keep you from hitting that ‘post’ button on something you might regret later. You should also consider anything you post on Facebook to be permanent, as in ‘out there, somewhere, forever’. While there are ways to delete posts from certain areas, that does not necessarily make them gone. First, they will most likely be archived or backed up by the Facebook system. While they might never just reappear on their own, they are still in existence, and their recovery and viewing by someone other than you (admin, hacker) is very possible. More importantly, though, if a friend decides to ‘share’ your post, on their wall, blog, etc., it becomes their post, and will carry on, even if you delete the original. Again, it’s better not to post sensitive items in the first place.
So, if you never post anything sensitive, why do you need a separate business page? Because there are items that while not sensitive, per se, still don’t belong on a business page. The types of things appropriate for a personal page, and not a business page, vary, but there are some basic guidelines.
The business page needs to be primarily about the business. One of the first things people will look at when they come to a business page is the wall, and it is here that they will form their first impressions about the business. If they have to search through lots of reposted links, local news, personal stories, etc., to find out what you’re business is all about, they might give up, and just leave the page. Along these same lines, people who end up ‘liking’ your page will get your posts in their newsfeed. Since it’s safe to assume that they liked your page because they are interested in what your business is about, it’s also safe to assume that they expect the majority of your posts to be about what interests them (your business), as well. Flooding them with non-business posts could encourage them to ‘dislike’ your page. General interest posts should also be screened to make sure that your posting of them is not inadvertently causing you to advertise for your competitor.
Within the category of non-business posts, lay personal posts. There is a difference, and personal posts need even further scrutiny. How high the level of scrutiny largely depends on the business structure, purpose, and personal comfort of the business owner, but here are a couple of guidelines:
- A Business page for something other than a solopreneur business, admined by an employee or representative. Here, occasional public interest, and other non-business commentary can be appropriate, but the admin should not be posting personal stuff, like political opinions (especially things that might not represent the feelings of management, owners, etc.), what they did last night (unless they were working, or at a business function), and the like. This might sound like common sense, but I’ve seen mistakes made here more than a couple of times. And remember, these mistakes are permanent.
- A Business page from a solopreneur. Here, since the poster is the business, more personal stuff can be appropriate. Just how personal depends on the person, and the business. If it is something of a very personal nature, such as a coach, counselor, spiritual advisor, etc., a client’s decision to use that business is strongly driven by feelings about the person behind it. Therefore, a high level of personal interaction is appropriate. The business / client bonds formed here are likely to be very tight, and these traits / thoughts / beliefs are likely to come out anyway. Further, since many of these relationships are based on a feeling of ‘kindred spirits’, getting your true self out there is key to finding your ideal clients. If your posted views repel certain people, they would be better served looking elsewhere, whereas aligning viewpoints can lead to increased revenue.
The less personal the work, the less personal the comments need to, and should, be. For example, if I were to post on my 3P Social Media page that I ride a motorcycle or some pictures from a motorcycle event, that would be fine, as long as they are occasional, or directly relate to my business. It might even bring me a few clients that prefer to give their money to a fellow biker, and probably wouldn’t serve to alienate more than a few fringe people, who had bad experiences with motorcycles or something like that. Now if I was a member of some hardcore biker gang (which I am not), I probably don’t want that fact posted. While it might get me some business from fellow outlaws (if it didn’t get me killed), far more people would probably find it offensive enough to not deal with me at all.
A less extreme example would be something like me posting how much I like Hank Williams Jr. over the past year. This takes on a whole new marketing connotation with what he has said publicly in the past week, despite whether or not I agree with him. Some people might be repelled while others attracted by my fondness for him (which might have just been for his music in the first place). In either case, it is an unintended and likely unwanted consequence of some simple posts.
Other reasons to use a business page
Beyond the business / personal separation, there are other advantages to a business page, as well.
- A business page gives you additional search engine possibilities, particularly if your business name is not the same as your personal name. It will not only show up in the Facebook search, but in external search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) as well.
- Business pages also allow the creation of a ‘welcome’ page, where first time visitors will land. In addition to providing a clean, content rich place for first time visitors, it can also be used to give incentives to ‘like’ a page, as well as to present an opt in box, where visitors can sign in to your newsletter. This feature is not available on personal profiles.
- Facebook advertising is only available for business pages. If used correctly, this can be a very valuable tool for building your fan base, and getting your word out.
It’s also worth noting that the Facebook Terms of Service directly prohibit using a personal profile for a business. At this time, it’s pretty clear that they don’t enforce this, but who’s to say what might happen down the road.
The next round of benefits comes from the differences between ‘friend’ and ‘like’. ‘Friending’ someone on Facebook has certain requirements and consequences. For one, it requires action by of both parties. They have to ask, and you have to accept. Unless you have your personal profile set to ‘public’ (which I do not recommend), this can limit their access to your content and updates until you act. On the other hand, content on a business page is immediately available (even without liking) and liking the page only requires action on their part. This gives them immediate access to your content and updates.
On the other side of this, when a potential client and you become ‘friends’ via your personal profile, they not only get access to your content, and your updates, you also gain access to theirs. ‘Liking’ a page however, is not a two way street. Your potential client does not inherit privacy concerns, and you don’t inherit more stuff in your news feed.
Facebook’s latest round of changes, most importantly the ability of people to ‘subscribe to’ vs. ‘friend’ people, and new post privacy levels / friend grouping, do improve the functionality of using a personal profile as a business page, but I still don’t recommend it. You still need to create a business page, and maintain a conscious separation between it and your personal profile.