Rhonda 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 or a 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 valuable tool. One benefit Facebook offers is it lets 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 Web site. 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 site to find out more information and possibly contact you.

Of course, Facebook also can be a tremendous networking tool. Business pages on Facebook can elevate your Web site status through search engine optimization. In addition, if you have a Facebook business page link on the opening page of your site, customers can feel that they know you before coming in for their new experience. Several companies have gained new clients simply because of their Facebook page.

On the minus side, a recent study of companies with 1,000 or more employees found that 8 percent of employees have been dismissed for their behavior on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Companies have also fired employees for sharing sensitive details about the business and their clients. In addition, team members have been sanctioned and/or fired for making unprofessional remarks about their bosses via social networking sites.

Know 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-workers 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: 1) employers need to be closely monitoring social media sites; and 2) employees need to use common sense when posting about work life, and they need to be careful about sharing sensitive information.

Employers need to set the vision and goals regarding social media, with the help of the team, through the development of a mission-driven ethical use policy. The following are some basic guidelines:

• 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. Have clearly developed expectations that apply to all team members.

• Consider leveraging your company or property’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 customers.

• With your customers’ permission, involve them in your efforts. You can do this by connecting with them via social media.

• 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 friends and he said no.

• Create a page in your policy manual regarding Facebook and social media postings so each employee understands what to do and what not to do.

• Designate one or more 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 (in the case of Facebook) stays fresh. Carve out one to two hours a week for this responsibility.

With a clearly established policy and an understanding of the good, bad and the ugly, Facebook and social media can be a great asset to your business. By establishing policies and following them, you’ll see great results from your efforts.