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Facebook Guidelines for a Socially Cleaner Profile

Recently, I wrote an article about how Facebook is dominant on the internet. It is quite clear that Facebook is right now the most important social media tool and knowing how to properly conduct yourself, as an individual or a business, on Facebook, is crucial. Sure, it is much more important for companies to make sure they represent themselves properly, but you’d be surprised how many individuals actually care about their Facebook profile and follow some rules and guidelines too.

Social media is not just to have fun or to communicate with friends and customers. Social media is a huge opportunity for jobs and networking. It can have a positive impact on your career and personal life and it can also work the other way around if not used wisely.

Although I joined Facebook in August 2008, quite late in comparison with the early US users, I have done some work here in the past four years and I think I finally came up with the perfect Facebook guidelines for all of you out there who wish to be better at managing your profile, but do not know where to start. So, without further introduction, here are the two categories.

A. Etiquette for individuals

To do

1. Be the first to interact

In order for others to interact with you, you first need to interact with them. It is you, the social media soon-to-be-expert, that needs to take the first step. Statistics show that users who interact with each other often create better relationships on Facebook. Acknowledging others on Facebook will let them know you are aware of their existence (translated in posts, updates and shares). If you lack interactivity from others, it is probably because you don’t interact enough yourself.

2. Develop rapport with others

The only way to develop rapport with others is to like and comment on their updates and shares. Facebook gives the fast option of “liking” any post, share or update, and allows you to do this with a single click. You will notice that creating an online rapport to people will many times extend out into the real world too.

3. Remember important events

There is no excuse for people who are always available on the internet if they forget about someone’s birthday. With the events reminder clearly visible on the right-hand side of the screen, forgetting about somebody’s birthday is something many will not forget or forgive. I, personally, even removed some of my Facebook contacts after my birthday a few weeks ago. Not only because they forgot my birthday; that was just the icing on the cake. With no interaction at all between me and them and not even a short message for my birthday, why would I want to keep them in my Facebook contacts list? My Facebook profile is not a popularity contest. I would rather have 200 real friends than 4500 fake ones.

Remember people’s special occasions and make sure they know you acknowledge it. Facebook makes our life pretty easy sometimes, we just need to know how to use it to our advantage.

Image by freakgirl.

4. Recommend links

I am not talking about sharing good articles on Facebook, but about linking common friends together. There is no reason for not recommending friends to connect with each other on Facebook, if they both have accounts and are willing to list each other as Friends.

5. Share

This is a key step in having a good relationship with your network. If you know something interesting, make sure to share it, others might be interested as well. If they notice you always share interesting links, they will more likely visit your profile more often or follow you closer than other contacts. Also, sharing an interesting link might stir up a conversation, which means interactivity will be better on your profile.

If you have many designers in your list, post something regarding design. If there are many developers, offer them links to interesting sources for web developers. Briefly “analyze” your audience and come up with the things they are most interested in. By sharing those things you will be one of the centers of interest in their friends list.

6. Update your profile

By keeping your profile updated, including your work and education information, you show others you are active on Facebook and take care of your image. Control the privacy settings on your profile and decide whom you want to be seen by and whom you don’t. There might be some information you don’t want to share with everybody and this is totally understandable.

Not to do

1. Add unknown people

One of the things that bothers me most on Facebook is people adding other contacts only for the sake of having many friends. Without the slightest interest in following their updates or shares, they just add people to show they have many friends. This is something I never do. My Facebook profile has less than 300 friends, which I revise once per month. Most of the times I delete older contacts, which I do not interact with, in order to “make room” for new ones.

Moreover, adding strangers can also be dangerous. It happened a few times in the US that people leaving on vacation posted information about their departure time on Facebook and their homes got robbed while they were away. If somebody wants to add you as their contact, it’s a good idea to send a message and ask for more information about him/her before you proceed in accepting their request.

2. Leak confidential information

You can post your phone number and Yahoo! ID on your profile, but don’t go way too far by posting something like your address, credit card information, passwords and so on. You might think that only because you add your close friends it is not dangerous, but it still is. Not only can they prove to be less friendly than you thought, but their accounts can also be hacked and strangers will immediately have access to your confident information.

3. Post without thinking

It is never a good idea to post updates including personal issues, salaries, professional issues, relationships and so on. You may think that you only post them on your best friend’s wall, but by posting there you actually post the information for the whole network. Revise your privacy settings before starting to post.

Every video or picture you post on your profile can easily be downloaded and later used against you or even used to misinform others about your actions. Depending on how you decide to maintain your own Facebook profile, pictures from the last Friday’s wild party might not be welcomed on your profile. This is the main reason behind me never adding business contacts or prospects on my Facebook profile – I do not want them to have an insight into my personal life, which might be proper or not for a freelancer. But it is entirely up to me if I want to share this or not.

4. Play with fire

Avoid clicking on all applications your friends “liked”, as they might be viruses. Some applications are harmful even on Facebook and avoiding them will only ensure your computer will not be damaged and you will not suffer data loss.

B. Etiquette for companies

To do

1. Maintain activity

Especially since the new timeline profile was introduced, companies whose Facebook profile is not active suffer. If you look at brand pages without activity in a specific month, you will notice how bad they actually look. This should encourage you to keep your page active and interact with your audience and followers. Engaging your users will make them come back to your brand page, as they know activity is at its peak there. Users usually lose interest in pages without activity. Don’t own one of those.

Also, try to maintain consistency. If you post an offer on Twitter, make sure you don’t post it on Facebook two days later. People’s trust in the importance of your Facebook page will decrease and your followers will not be as interested in your brand page anymore.

2. Remember to use the “IF, THEN, ELSE” method

Companies should have a different user approach than individuals have. Difficult situations should be properly managed and the method named above looks like a fitting one. Use it for a scenario like the following one: IF users have concerns, THEN find out the reason and solve the problem, ELSE try to explain to them the situation. By doing everything methodically you will ensure that you do it the right way. Having to deal with different user behaviors is not an easy task and you can only manage to keep up with everything if you are organized and methodical.

3. Monitor user posts

Being able to be 24/7 on your Facebook page doesn’t happen unless you are a big company with financial resources assigned to the PR department. But in either case it is crucial to be able to follow the user posts on your Facebook page and answer them immediately. KLM/Air France has, for example, an excellent Facebook response time. They actually use their brand page to solve client problems. I once had questions about their Flying Blue program – it was late afternoon. I got the answer within two hours. Enough said.

4. Follow trends

It is always a good idea to follow trends on other pages. If it is trendy to use humorous updates, don’t be afraid of doing it. If people are more interested in seeing a video than reading a large chunk of text, then make a video and share it. You don’t only need to know the audience you send the message to, but also the trends, so this step is something that might require further research.

5. Boost some user ego

Basically, all you need to do is make the user feel good on your page. Make them feel important, wanted and appreciated. Acknowledge what everybody says, like their posts, thank people for sharing interesting sources and so on. It is not about you there, it is always about your customers. If they feel good, they will come back and do more business with you. Otherwise they will probably leave you for your close competitor who has a more positive approach.

Not to do

1. Making it about you

Companies use social media to broadcast information to customers and prospects. If you communicate through a one-way flow of information it can get boring and unattractive. It takes a very long time to build rapport, while it only takes a short time for people to lose interest. Failing to properly communicate with your customers will likely cause your Facebook brand page to fail too.

2. Ignoring negative feedback

If positive feedback might as well be ignored or requires only a short amount of time to answer, negative feedback is crucially important to be taken as it comes. A company should not answer negative feedback with anger or negativity. It is the worst thing a company brand page can do.

The first step you need to take is to acknowledge the feedback and assure the customer you are already on it. Then, try to search for clues and see if there is a problem or you’re just dealing with a difficult person. Require immediate answers from the ones responsible. The solution should always come together with an apology showing the company actually cares. The faster the problem is solved, the happier the user will be. What many companies don’t get is that users don’t have anything against businesses they have an issue with, as long as it got solved in a timely manner. They have huge issues with companies that can’t or won’t solve problems.

If you manage (and you should!) to create the impression that you care for your customers, they will be back next time to do business with you. If not, they will not only avoid your business, but will also spread negative feedback about you wherever they can. Remember that all of us have a list with companies we like and don’t like. You don’t want to be on the ‘don’t like’  list, so improve service quality right away if you feel there is a need to.

3. Posting off-topic

If you have a web design company, posting about how Obama won the Presidency in the US will not interest your audience. It will actually more likely make followers think that you are not serious about your brand page. We all know what this usually leads to.

4. Being part of arguments

It is not a good idea for a company to be part of arguments on their Facebook page. If users want to fight with each other over a specific topic, let them burn their energy, but don’t get involved, as this will damage your brand image. If you want to do something about it, you can engage in a one-to-one private communication and solve the issue with the persons involved, but don’t ever get involved in unnecessary arguments with, or in between, your followers.

Image by gilmarcil Ong tay.

5. Deleting your updates

It takes few seconds to delete updates. If you released a incorrect piece of information, apologize for the inconvenience and release the right information. If you acknowledge your mistakes your users will see you are responsible and serious about your business. It is only human to make mistakes. I usually think twice before posting. It is better to think longer first than to think even longer afterwards, in order to solve a problem.

6. Turning sales into the main focus

If you consider sales to be the focus on your brand page, you are mistaken. It shouldn’t be like that. The Facebook page should be used for communication mostly, then for sales. If most of your updates are linked to offers on your website, users will likely lose interest in your brand page. And why wouldn’t they? Basically, you send the same information twice: through the Facebook page and through your website. Why would they follow both of them?

Use the brand page to interact with people and draw their attention and use the website for selling stuff. Doing business the other way around is not something many have been successful with.

7. Getting involved in conflicts with competitors

If engaging in conflicts with your followers is wrong, then doing the same with your competitors is even worse, as this will damage your brand image significantly. If the competitor has an agenda, let him do whatever he wants. Being able to show diplomacy and avoid conflicts is a skill not everybody has today – show it and your customers will reward you.

Bottom line

With Facebook unquestionably being the most important social media tool in today’s web, it is crucially important to know how to use it. Following this guide should make your profile or brand page better and will improve the interactivity and benefits you get from it.

Is there a tip you have? We would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

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