Facebook fan pages and their drawbacks

Is it social media blasphemy to suggest that Facebook may not be an appropriate way to invest your company’s time in establishing a fan community?  It seems to be perceived wisdom in many social media circles that getting a brand into social media means opening a Facebook fan page or starting a Facebook group. Yet Facebook is designed as a social network for individuals, not a business space, and while undoubtedly certain types of people and brands have had a great success on Facebook, it is by no means appropriate for all or even most corporate purposes.

Maggie McGary with her post Why Businesses Should Think Twice Before Investing Money or Time in a Facebook Page recently considered the limitations of Facebook as a space for organisations, companies, professionals and brands to interact with their stakeholders.

There are lots of reasons why Facebook may not be appropriate:

Privacy – although Facebook has a variety of privacy settings, it is well-known that these are difficult to understand and not entirely predictable. For example posts may appear in private spaces from people who do not have access to those spaces.  Privacy may well be an issue for some companies than others.

  1. Linked to a profile: As Maggie Mc Gary pointed out, Facebook pages may be linked to a particular profile and if they are then they cannot be transferred to anyone else. This means if that person leaves a company or their profile is suspended by Facebook (which can happen to quite innocent profiles for some unknown transgression. Facebook says “If you violate any of our terms or policies in any way, we may remove you as a page administrator, remove the page and possibly disable your Facebook account.”
  2. Maintenance: Facebook pages take constant maintenance, you will be expected to add news, links, photos, videos, audio regularly to ensure the Wall stays fresh: you’ll need to stimulate interest, attract visitors and This is the kind of social media activity that you’d expect to have to do for your brand – it’s worth linking the Facebook page via a multi-network tool so at least some of the updating can be planned in advance and across networks and social media sites.  A Facebook page is not a simple static brand information site, it makes it easy for “fans” to contribute.
  3. Moderation: If your Facebook fan page becomes popular (and surely you hope it will?) then it could attract a lot of comments and contributions by “fans”. If you want to keep some control about what’s being said about your brand, then you will want to police these comments. However, there are very few moderation tools on Facebook, because it wasn’t intended to be sued that way, so it a laborious job to police a busy page.  And to moderate requires policies and guidelines so that those who maintain and moderate the site know what content is acceptable and what is not, posted either by visitors or by the owners.
  4. Spam: Spamming a corporate page’s Wall is easy to do – if someone posts spam on your Page, you have to remove it manually, and/or remove the specific members.
  5. Membership: It’s only worth having a Facebook page if your demographic are using Facebook. If you’re aiming at young adults, and you have enough resources to have special apps and ads developed, then it might work well, but if you’re aiming at over 50s, they may be on Facebook but they probably won’t be using pages in the same way as the younger generation.

There are many options for engaging with your clients, customers, potential customers and others, but it’s worth thinking in advance before diving in to create a Facebook page that turns out to be more  of a white elephant than a sales tool.