The same lessons you learned from Miss Manners apply to Facebook

I am a Facebook freak.

I read my feed multiple times daily, including in the car at every red light  (I do think that might be illegal; good thing you don’t know the make and model of my car).

I purposely subscribe to feeds from my news organizations so that I can get all my news in one place.

I “like” companies and products I never use, just to spy on how they use the platform to communicate.  (I’m weird like that.)

Some of my Facebook friends are small business owners themselves and I always “like” their pages to help ‘em out.

And it’s pretty clear: most businesses using Facebook still need lessons in using manners online.

So I’ve put together this list of Facebook etiquette for businesses, based on what I see from the companies with whom I interact.

1. If you are selling something, do it with subtlety.

Facebook status updates are not the place for sales pitches.  Chances are, if I like your page, I’m already a pretty loyal customer, so I know your product or service is awesome.  So sell without selling.  Take this great example from Lowes’ Home Improvement:

However, if you must take the hard sales approach, then make your offer exclusive to your Facebook fans.  This strengthens loyalty and makes your fans feel privy and appreciated.   Lowe’s did this well, too, with a Facebook event surrounding Black Friday last November.

2. It’s rude to do all the talking, so let me get a word in.

If you are making posts and getting very low interaction (likes, comments or clicks), then you are hogging the conversation.  It’s time to re-examine your strategy.

Ask me questions. Show me pictures.  Tell me stories about your company and the people who work there that make me that make me laugh, smile or cry.  Encourage a dialogue by posting content that is just plain interesting.  Rule of thumb: If the content is cool enough to share with a colleague/friend/favorite customer, it’s probably cool fodder for Facebook, too.  I like how the Make-A-Wish Foundation shares pictures of the people they are helping through my donations.

3.  Be personable.

People do business with people, not companies. You’ve heard that before, right?  Facebook is the perfect place to build and strengthen your relationship with customers by letting them get to know you.  When you post content, write in a way that conveys your own personality and voice.  Don’t be afraid to let people get to know you.  Talk about something cool that happened to you, or post photos of you on the job.

I follow a writer that is on the road quite a bit so he posts funny pictures of things he sees and people he meets during his travels. Now I feel like I know him personally (and I just bought his new book which I may not have done if he wasn’t so darn fun on Facebook).

4.  If you wouldn’t say or show it to a child, don’t say or show it to your customers on Facebook.

Stay PG, steer clear of controversial topics and don’t over-complicate the message.

5. Please don’t ignore me.

Countless times I have joined an organization’s Facebook page as a result of some campaign they’ve poured a lot of time and money into, but then they forget to communicate with me when the campaign is over. They stop making posts, I forget about them and I eventually dump them.

So, once you get people to like you, keep communicating.  There’s no point in drumming up a lot of Facebook fans if you don’t keep them engaged.

6.  Don’t shout.

Using exclamation points and LOTS OF CAPITALIZED WORDS give off the wrong impression!!!!!!  If you wouldn’t shout at me in person, please don’t shout at me over the Internet.

7.  Be respectful of my time and space.

Just make one or two posts a day max (I think this rule is different for personal pages). If you wouldn’t clutter my email Inbox with email messages, don’t clog my news feed either.

8.  Don’t send friend requests.

It’s weird to be a business sending friend requests to individuals. I mean, aren’t there more important things for your business to be doing? Let the fans come to you.

I know – many businesses are still trying to figure out how to use Facebook for their business.   And it is also very likely that Facebook isn’t the right platform for some companies … yet.  There’s a lot of chatter and clutter out there, so remember that not all businesses that use Facebook are using it effectively.  Just because you see it being done, doesn’t mean it is right.

“Social media” – or online communications, as I prefer to say – is a new concept to so many professionals.  It may be a new kind of marketing platform, but the basic rules of communication, in any form, still apply.