**Editor’s Note: Much is being said and written about social media these days. And with this in mind, I thought the following article pinpointing the benefits and pitfalls of Facebook makes for interesting reading.**
By Rhonda R. Savage,
There’s no doubt that Facebook participation can be an asset to any business. The question is, how can you use it to promote your products and company, yet be sure your team members are cautious in the way they use it?
What should the owner and office manager post? Where is the line between personal and professional? Knowing the good, the bad and the ugly of Facebook for business, your company can take full advantage of this tool and watch your business grow.
The Good: One benefit Facebook offers for business is it lets the customers and potential clients know your company on a personal level. Clients come to you for a relationship. They assume you know how to take care of their needs. Being accessible on social media sites helps your clients and customers feel connected to your company.
A Facebook page can also help bring people to your website. Customers will look for your presence on the Internet and a Facebook profile is just another way they can find you, leading them to your website to find out more information and possibly contact you.
Facebook can be a tremendous networking tool. Business pages on Facebook can elevate your website status through Search Engine Optimization. In addition, if you have a Facebook business page link on the opening page of your website, potential clients can feel that they know you and your office before coming in for their new customer experience. Several companies have gained new clients simply because of their Facebook page.
The Bad: A recent study of companies with 1,000 employees found that 8% of their employees have actually been dismissed for their behavior on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. That’s double from the previous year!
Companies have also fired employees for sharing sensitive details about the business and their clients. In addition, team members have been sanctioned and fired for making unprofessional remarks about their boss via social networking sites.
The Ugly: Realize that even if you use Facebook privacy settings, you may still be in danger. Remember going to high school and doing things you thought your parents would never know about and yet somehow they always found out? The same is true of social media. Avoid bad -mouthing your boss, co-worker or anyone in your professional life in such a public way on a public forum.
Every business should have specific guidelines that apply to social media use. There are two factors at work here: employers need to be closely monitoring social media sites and employees need to use common sense when posting about work life. Employees need to be careful about sharing sensitive information as well as making foolish remarks about their employer.
The owner needs to set the vision and goals for the office regarding social media with the help of the team with the development of a mission-driven ethical use policy.
Following are some basic guidelines for using social media in business. The guidelines listed below must apply to every member of the team member, including the owner:
Never post anything that directly or indirectly insults customers, clients or the business itself.
When posting on personal and social media sites, be nice and keep it clean. Develop verbal cue cards on "what to say and not to say" on social media. Have clearly developed expectations that apply to all team members.
Consider leveraging your office’s Facebook profile to start positive conversations about your employees and your services. You can do this by regularly posting testimonials from current or past clients.
With your customers’ permission, involve them in your efforts. You can do this by connecting with them and posting information about their business.
If you have a personal page and a business page, consider your policy regarding clients who want to become your personal friend. One business owner lost a family of customers who requested to be his personal friend and he said "no."
Create a page in your office policy manual regarding Facebook and social media posting so each employee understands what to do and what not to do.
Designate one or more specific employees to be responsible for posting on and updating your sites. Business page content will need to be updated frequently and consistently to ensure the Wall tab stays fresh. Carve out one to two hours/week for this responsibility dedicated to marketing on the web.
With a clearly established policy and understanding of the good, bad and the ugly, Facebook and social media can be a great asset to your business. By enforcing social media policies and following these guidelines, you’ll see great results from your efforts!
Rhonda Savage is an internationally acclaimed speaker and CEO for a well-known practice management and consulting business. Dr. Savage is a noted motivational speaker on leadership, women’s issues and communication.