Avoid a Facebook faux pas: Treat all of your clients like Facebook virgins

Earlier this summer I had a brilliant idea for the organization I work for: let’s move some content we normally put on a web page to Facebook. The idea inception went well, and it ended well, but in the middle, my brilliance almost blew up in my face because I forgot to do one important thing we must all do when it comes to social media: never assume our clients and others with whom we work know as much about social media as we do.

We have to analyze the situation from every point of view. The nature of social media is free flowing and engaging, so it’s inevitable that sometimes a fan or follower isn’t going to love our brand as much as the majority of fans or followers do. And they can voice their dislikes, loudly and publicly. This happened with the Facebook page I created, unexpectedly and quickly (about two days after the page went live).

In a nutshell: someone created an anonymous profile (someone associated with the brand, not a random stranger), fanned our page, and on several separate occasions voiced discontent with the brand.

My first reaction was a calm one, almost an excited one: Ok, this project isn’t going as planned, but that’s ok—it’s adding a little excitement to an otherwise ordinary day. Besides, I thought, this unhappy Facebook fan would eventually go away.

Well, he didn’t. And the client for which I made the Facebook page wasn’t as amused: they wanted the Facebook page taken down. Immediately. This, as we all know, is a big no-no. Luckily, after some consultation, the client’s mind was changed. Unfortunately, because of a less than stellar first-time experience with Facebook, it’s a little unclear as to whether Facebook will be the client’s mode of marketing next time the project rolls around.

Here are a few rules to remember if you find yourself in this type of situation, from inception to final measurement:

1) Regardless of your client’s level of knowledge and expertise, explain from every angle the good potential and the bad potential of using a social media platform, even if certain things seem obvious. Emphasize that with Facebook folks have the right to complain publicly about your product. That’s the nature of Facebook, to encourage engagement…for better or for worse.

2) Once you create a Facebook fan page with a significant number of fans and interaction you cannot, by any means, kill the page. Even if there is a “troublemaker” on hand. Dealing with the comments and posts of a few unhappy fans is easier (for you and for your brand) than dealing with, say, 598 fans who are enjoying and using the Facebook page.

3) Also, don’t block someone who is commenting negatively on your page. Obviously, you can’t allow something to continue that poses a legitimate threat (legally or physically), but just because you don’t like what a fan is saying about your brand doesn’t mean he can’t say it on Facebook. Even if this person refuses to publicize her/his identity, like in my situation. Remember, businesses using Facebook for marketing purposes is a pretty new phenomenon. It’s not a PR platform. It’s a social networking site. Huge difference. Removing a wayward fan makes you look like you have something to hide.

4) Remember that there are always compromises. While Facebook is a social networking site with the sole purpose of encouraging engagement, you can set some limits. For maximum engagement between the brand and fans and then among all the fans, you can open your Facebook page completely: allow fans to comment on pictures, post texts, links, photos and videos on your wall, and comment on posts. To take it down a level, you can disallow folks to post on your wall. You just can’t disallow all engagement, because then, you’d just have a web page. So, to appease my client, we compromised: we took away the option of commenting on the wall. This isn’t my personal style (I prefer total engagement) but…the client is almost always right.

5) Facebook pages police themselves. When our anonymous unhappy fan first began his public tirades, fellow fans jumped in, both supporting him and defending the brand. The deeper we got into this project, the more we saw that this anonymous fan thrived on attention. Other fans began seeing that, too, and after a few interactions, folks stopped responding to his posts. He quieted down significantly. Not completely, but significantly.

6) Finally, reach out to your unhappy fan and see if you can help. Send a private message or an e-mail (if that info is available) and offer to discuss any issues over the phone or privately. The person might refuse the offer (my guy did), but you need to be able to say that you offered.


2 thoughts on “Avoid a Facebook faux pas: Treat all of your clients like Facebook virgins

  1. John Henry Malik says:

    Thanks for offering this advice on the new social phenomenon. All platforms are not equal, as you so well point out. The democratization inherent in the Facebook medium is a two edged sword,and it needs to be managed carefully by the owner. Your advice is well thought out and, to my Medieval mind, quite accurate.

  2. abbymalikpr says:

    Thanks for the comment, John Henry!

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