I seem to be spending this month in the shadow of Facebook...

...it followed my every move and badgered me at every turn. I had invitations from training companies to book staff on Facebook courses; at Business South there were debates and seminars on social networking, with attendees being told at one point that if you weren't on Facebook then you might as well not be in business; we recently amended our company policy to encompass the new implications of social networking on conduct at work; and we had requests from businesses asking us to become a fan of their Facebook page and be entered into competitions. Tesco has now just launched its own Facebook page to offer exclusive deals and handle customer relations.

With the seemingly increased recent hype around Facebook, businesses are rushing out in their masses to get a slice of the action in a manner reminiscent of the first day of the Harrods sale. But be warned dear reader, a lack of thought, planning and strategy can leave your Facebook ‘fans’ with a less than desirable taste in their mouths.

Here are our top 5 considerations before you plough headlong into the world of social media:

  1. Who will take ownership of this corporate communication? Do they have the time to maintain the dialogue on a regular basis, in a professional manner and without spelling mistakes?
  2. What do your fans want to hear? And believe us, it isn’t a new sale or offer on a daily basis - nobody wants to know that they can save x percent on double-glazing every day of the week. Consider what you can tell them that is of interest or benefit.
  3. The Facebook friendship is very similar an offline friendship, treat your Facebook fans as you would your friends, with respect and consideration.
  4. How can you add value to your fans’ Facebook experience? What’s in it for them?
  5. How will you integrate Facebook with your other advertising communications to get added value from existing media and new online activity?

Social networking is the newest facet of relationship marketing and it brings a great deal of opportunity to businesses who want to tighten their relationship with customers and reach other like-minded consumers. Simply because we’ve all been using Facebook on a personal basis for years, doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is well-placed to start marketing a business through it. Just because my stepson is a good musician, doesn’t mean I’ll be using him for the soundtrack in our next radio campaigns, my brother’s a bit of an artist, but I wouldn’t let him design our press ads, and my Aunt’s on Facebook every few minutes but I certainly wouldn’t let her near the status updates of our customers.

Just a thought.

Lol.

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