Facebook has come a long way over the past 9 years. From humble beginnings as a network for Harvard students, it has now grown to become a global giant and an omnipresence of the online world.

According to PEW, an online ‘fact tank’, 67% of all Internet users engage with Facebook. Another study from Seattle based Optify suggests that although Twitter generates the most direct sales leads across social media channels, Facebook actually drives the most traffic to sites with an average 1.94 pageviews per visit.  Additionally, recent research from Nielsen shows that Facebook has a high dwell time, with users in March spending an average 6 hours on Facebook from the desktop platform alone.

So, when it’s used correctly Facebook offers a plethora of opportunity; however like the little girl with the curl in her hair, when it’s good it’s very, very good and when it’s bad, it's very, very bad.  Used poorly, Facebook can potentially do a lot of damage to an organisation’s brand image.

Here’s five common Facebook faux pas to make sure you avoid:

1. Thoughtless Design

Unlike it’s predecessors (such as Bebo and MySpace) Facebook has always stuck to a simple regimented design. This design unifies the whole experience and creates a sense of familiarity across the Facebook network, browsers, devices and platforms.

Your Facebook cover image is the first impression visitors will get when they come to your Page and, therefore, offers a fantastic opportunity to make your mark. Initially, you need to plan what you want to display in this space - your slogan, a brand related image, a team photo, etc - and what you wish this to communicate to your audiences. Facebook’s current guidelines advise that you should avoid using the space for direct blatant adverts or promotional copy.

Facebook’s experts suggest that you think ‘outside the box’ and use an image that your audience can engage with or relate to.

As with any strategy for social media everything should be considered based upon well-established objectives that align with your organisation’s overall business strategy. Photographs and imagery uploaded to Facebook should get the same care and consideration as those utilised in print or traditional advertising and should be governed by your organisation’s social media guidelines. Things to consider:

  • Quality of imagery - ask yourself: would you use it in a printed ad?
  • Scale - is your cover image in line with the Facebook guidelines and therefore well matched to the area proportions?
  • Relevance - does it align with your organisation’s value and brand image, and will your audiences engage with it?
  • Visibility - does the image display what you want it to within the space provided?

Size Matters

Your Facebook profile picture should ideally be a nicely scaled, high quality version of your logo, and should be a 168px square in size. Your Facebook cover image should be 851px wide and 315 px high. Remember that part of the profile photo overlaps the cover image so consider your spacing.

2. Lack of Attention

Since the initial social media boom a lazy trend has started to emerge. Keen to be seen to be surfing the crest of the social wave many organisations jumped on the bandwagon, opened Facebook accounts, Twitter pages and started up blogs. They updated these for a while and then either ran out of time, energy, resources or content and ended up leaving these dormant digital outlets online.

This lack of planning and investment reflects badly on your organisation, as it suggests a lack of commitment, particularly if your audiences still interact on these platforms.

Another thing to be careful to avoid is patronising your users. Kittens in funny places and dogs that look like Samuel L Jackson are all fine and well for personal pages but these dilute the message that you’re trying to send out and may potentially alienate potential customers who mistake your sense of humour for unprofessionalism.

  • Keep to the point - post things that are engaging, valuable or noteworthy to what you do and what your audiences are interested in.
  • Be timely - maintain a proactive presence, schedule content, respond to your users and keep up-to-date.
  • Post links and reference reputable websites and blogs to show interest in key topics in your area that support your message.
  • Think about your brand’s voice and how your activity on Facebook aligns with this.

3. Deleting Criticism

Your working relationship with Facebook is like a marriage, for good times and bad, in sickness and in health. Whilst Facebook is a great tool for spreading marketing messages and promotions, making connections and giving people a feel for what your company is all about, it can also be the first place your customer comes to complain.

Whilst Facebook gives you the ability to moderate your page and remove unsavoury comments this can sometimes be what turns a molehill into a mountain. Our advise - don’t just delete criticism, deal with it.

Turn that frown upside down:

  • Say sorry, say it once and mean it. Even if the customer is unreasonable, they’re disgruntled for a reason and deserve that to be acknowledged at the very least.
  • Be as empathetic and subjective as possible.
  • Each post should be replied to personally. It’s very obvious to see when the same “canned response” is being used. Customers nearly always respond well to a personal touch and this can be a great opportunity to let your brand's personality shine through.
  • Don’t accept abuse - if the customer crosses a line and is vulgar, offensive, or rude then their post should be removed and if necessary, blocked.

4. Using a Personal Profile for Business Purposes

On Facebook there are two types of accounts that exist; Individuals on Facebook have a Profile, whilst organisations, companies, clubs, bands, etc should have a Page (managed by at least one administrator with their own Facebook Profile).

A Profile is a platform for a person where they can:

  • Post status updates about things that matter to them or they wish to communicate.
  • Connect with peers and the wider Facebook community by adding someone as a ‘friend’ and communicating with them via messages and posts.
  • Upload rich media from their lives and share this with their network.
  • Connect with brands, clubs, businesses, charities and other types of organisations by ‘liking’ their Page.
  • Set privacy levels to ensure their content only reaches the people they want it to.

A Page is an online space where organisations can:

  • Post key business marketing messages and updates.
  • Share information links and news.
  • Advertise products and services.
  • Make connections with their audiences online and have an open channel of conversation.
  • Upload multimedia relevant to the organisation.
  • Establish competitions, tabs, advertising, etc.

A key difference between a Facebook Page and a Profile, other than their obvious differences in usage, is that the owner of a Profile has to send or accept friend requests in order to connect, whereas anyone can like a Page to become connected. A Page is also set up for businesses and has analytics in place to help measure the effectiveness of the channel and behaviour of its users.

Using the wrong kind of Facebook presence will not only deny you of any analytics, it will also establish barriers for connecting with your online audiences and make your digital strategy look tired.

5. No Personality

Social media - the clue is in the name. People don’t access Facebook with the intention to get sold products or to be swarmed with brand messages.  What sets the good away from the bad and the ugly is a sense of personality and character, which lays out information in interesting and relatable ways, with a consistent tone that is relevant to your brand.

  • Try not to be monotone and mundane - use bright, vibrant and appropriate language to engage your audiences.
  • Use a ‘single voice’ - make sure you communicate with the same overall tone, character and language across all your marketing channels, to ensure consistency and to build a strong brand image.
  • Make the most of imagery and infographics to express data in easy to digest formats.
  • Don’t be afraid to use appropriate humour or ‘banter’ to engage your audiences - certain platforms present more of an opportunity for this type of communication, i.e. Facebook or Twitter are ideal for more conversational content, whilst you may wish to keep your website content slightly more formal.
  • Social media provides a platform to engage on a more personal level with your target audiences. Make the most of this by listening to them and responding with relevant content.

Moreover, depending on how you use it Facebook can be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or a poisoned chalice. Used badly, lazily or inappropriately it can irritate users and reflect badly upon your brand, however used according to best practice can result in engaged users and drive them where you want them to go.