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Setting Up Your Business as a Facebook Person Instead of a Fan Page: Should You?

I got the following message from a friend on Facebook last week:

I have a friend who just set up his business as a Facebook Person as opposed to setting it up as a Fan Page. Is there any reason I should tell him it’s better to go it as a Fan Page? I’m racking my brain and can’t really think of any reason why it would make a difference, but the profile looks a little goofy for a business.

The Social Web has embraced Netiquette just as Emily Post would clutch her pearls and Thank You Notes. I’m on facebook, and I’ve established a page for my blogging. There are a number of reasons that your business shouldn’t pose as a person on Facebook. Let’s look at a few of them.

The Bottom Line
You Could Lose Everyone

It is Against The Rules: Yes, really. I pay a lot of attention to rules (terms of service TOS). It’s not because I’m such a fan of rules, it’s because it’s absolutely critical to operate within the rules on a site you don’t own. If you don’t like the rules, buy the site or make your own. Here’s a screen grab of Facebook’s tutorial for reporting accounts.

It will not build community: If your business is thinking of a Facebook presence I’m assuming that it’s because you would like to either build community to build search. Facebook is used by groups of people to talk about themselves. Occasionally folks talk about what they buy, but rest assured Facebook exists for people to talk primarily about themselves. Your brand can be part of the story, and the best way to be part of the story is to have a brand page (fan page) that shares content people care about. What you care about (as a business) is not what other people care about.

Although it’s nice to share coupon codes and whatnot, it’s much nicer to ask people to talk about themselves. Are you selling chairs? What about a gallery of people sitting in your chairs? Do you teach drums? Think about a gallery of videos of your students performing.

Building community means talking about other people.

It won’t sell product:People will feel a little put out if you’ve created a personal page for your business (as opposed to a business page), and in addition to them not buying from you here, you run the very real risk of losing the goodwill you’d previously built up.

I see a number of businesses hopping onto Facebook (and other social media sites) very enthusiastically. Which is great. But sometimes not so great. Ideally brands come to places like Facebook to listen and respond first to their community, and secondly to message them.

If every post is “Enter coupon code WETALKTOOMUCH to get 10% off today only!” There isn’t any real value for you to be there. However, if you were to notice that your customer Jill Jones has a red sofa, and she’s on Facebook, you could point folks to it, and ask them if they are bold enough to have a red sofa. A longstanding coupon code for all facebook fans that doesn’t expire is likely worth more than the daily 10%ers that I see dotting the web.

If you’re in the social web (and not using Groupon) you’re probably looking for loyalty and not coupon clippers.

You Could Lose Everyone: Let’s say that you have created a fake person on facebook, and that you’ve maxed out at 5,000 friends (there is no maximum number of fans). Let’s pretend that you’ve built meaningful relationships with a few of those 5,000 friends, and that your message and image is being posted to their walls.

Now imagine that a few folks get grumpy and report you for being an impostor. *Poof* Gone. All that work, all those relationships will be gone instantaneously, and there’s no way to rebuild a list like that.

There’s a lot of value in building these things right the first time.

At some later date I’ll talk about why you need a Facebook Page, and the very real possibility that you don’t.

12 thoughts on “Setting Up Your Business as a Facebook Person Instead of a Fan Page: Should You?”

  1. Not to mention with a page, you have access to reports, graphs, ads, and other useful business features that you don’t have access to on a personal account. Oh, and you sure don’t want farmville posts showing up on your business page :0

  2. I’m a bit baffled about how to create a page and integrate it with my personal FB account. Should I use the guidelines for creating a fan page and then post about my web site there?

  3. And honestly I’ve gotten to the point I now go.. Yay, this person has named their personal facebook account with their brand: “Mom Stuff” and I click – not friend back.

    They have given me an excuse not to friend them, they aren’t even using a real name.
    The end.

    1. My “about” section says:
      NOTE: if you don’t have a real name in your profile & we don’t share any common friends? I’m not going to accept a friend request.

      Add since they merged the profile stuff (not liking that), it also says:

      PLEASE NOTE: My Friend/Add Policy:
      a) If you don’t have a real name in your profile? I won’t add you.
      b) If we have no friends in common or aren’t connected somewhere else on the Internet or in real life? I won’t add you.
      It’s not personal, it’s just my comfort level. Thanks!

      Surprisingly, they still try to add me.

  4. Amen. It makes me crazy when I see businesses set themselves up as people. I know a few that also have a fan pages. If I follow both (which I have accidentally done) I see duplicate updates on my home feed. It makes me crazy, especially since it’s against the rules. I suspect they set themselves up as people because they can actively friend other people and build up a following faster than a fan page would.

  5. Jessica, you have nailed it. And this is one of my pet peeves. I was even asked to work for an organization that had created a truly fake persona to “lure” people to the organization through fake friendships.

    One problem is that so many businesses and nonprofit organizations do set up their organizations as people on Facebook. This practice gives everyone the illusion that Facebook allows it. You are 100% right that it is AGAINST the Terms of Agreement, and I can attest to the fact that Facebook has shut down all accounts of at least one nonprofit organization and banned it from Facebook because of this violation.

    I can see the temptation: one reason an organization would risk it all is because people can be friends with people and tell them to visit the Facebook Page. Pages cannot directly message or be friends with people on Facebook, thus the organization is unable to reach out to individuals on Facebook personally, through an inbox.

    To this point, one new feature to note of Facebook Pages is the ability to import an email list and invite them to become fans.

  6. Geez. Will you please quit posting things I agree with 100%? It’s starting to make us look bad! ;)

    No seriously, all kidding aside… I have a text file that I copy & paste when someone tries to “friend” me on Facebook using a profile that is a personal one rather than a page. It’s pretty clear that when “Bob’s Shoes” tries to friend me or “Susie-Q BabyProducts” does, that it’s not someone who gets the ToS of Facebook. So the response I send initially says in short “you tried to befriend me as a company. I don’t allow non-persons access to my account. You may not be aware of Pages. Here’s a link to the FB Pages info. Here are some resources I’m completely unaffiliated with. Best Wishes.”
    Last week I had not one but *2* companies respond back snarkily that they were well aware of “Fan Pages” (yeah? They stopped calling them that) but had tried it and found that faking a personal page was a “more effective marketing tool.”
    Yes, my second reply before blocking them & reporting them was along the lines of “here’s the paragraph in the ToS your violating. Here’s the link to the ToS. Since you indicated that you knew what you are doing is wrong but you’re doing it anyways? I have blocked & reported you to FB. Good luck with your spam campaign… may they shut you down soon.”

    I hate spammers who KNOW they are breaking the rules and are self-righteous about it.

    If it doesn’t break the rules? Well, dig your own grave. But if it does and you know it and are still doing it? Here, hand me a shovel, I’ll help you dig faster.

  7. I created a FB fan page for my blog because it is a useful tool that provides another method of communicating with readers and building community. If the blog was my primary or sole source of income I would really work much harder on building the communal aspect.

    The power of social media lies in whether people respond to your call to action. It doesn’t matter if you have a million followers/readers whatever if they don’t respond. The best way to get that response is to build that community, or so it has been in my experience.

  8. Upper Room Real Estate

    I searched several big name real estate companies and they all have a FB page. Tide and Guitar City have pages. I have my personal page and then created a business page for my real estate company. I cannot invite people to business page without first inviting them to my personal. I would love to just be able to invite people to the company side that I am friends with but friends of a different nature (lenders, loan officers, title companies and a million of real estate agents, clients etc.).Often times I cant post as my business page and am forced to post as personal. I dont really want to invite friends and family especially out of state to follow local comments that are more of a professional nature. How come the big companies are able to have their Facebook Pages like an individual. If Facebook just changed that one item of being able to invite people seperately I think that would solve problem of people setting of different accounts.

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