One of the problems of a really ‘new to the world’ communications development like social networking is the lack of research into, well, how to behave.
Unlike most communications media before it, the discipline is still very much on its training wheels and there simply hasn’t been enough data and analysis to provide set guidelines on how a small business should conduct itself online.
(Notwithstanding the insights presented by the gazillion social networking gurus gracing our networks.)
Some business operators have opted to treat it just like their personal Facebook page and discuss pretty much anything that springs to mind.
But as we have discussed in this blog before, the notion of businesses interacting in much the same way as consumers is an uncomfortable fit.
To use the words of a well-known sports identity, nobody really gives a rat’s toss bag about what the business operator thinks about the weather, the footy or what to have for dinner.
There’s no Friends in business
While a few of your personal friends may have Liked your page to give your likes a helping hand, that’s no reason to swamp your valuable Likers with mindless minutiae about how your day is going or not.
I follow one small business whose owner I met at a workshop I delivered some months back.
So evangelical was this person that I thought I’d better Like their business page to find out what all the fuss was about.
While I admire that person’s (let’s call him Hank) passion, the reality is that his business social networking efforts contain far more personal information than I had signed up for.
Virtual diary of the business operator
Hank’s business page basically provides a running commentary of not only the operation of his business and website but his daily personal life. Things like:
- when someone is visiting his online store
- when they’ve received an online order, and even when they haven’t received an online order
- how much revenue he’s made for the month
- a running total of how much he’s made for the year
- how bad/good/cute/naughty/sleepless his children are
- what his spouse is watching on television
- promoting the services of his unrelated part-time job
- and some very personal posts I’m not prepared to describe here.
Now while some of this may make for some interesting content, the problem is that it is posted without any real point or relevance to the business.
Whilst Hank’s personal friends may well be fascinated by this line of commentary, I’m pretty sure that most of his business Likers are not. This one certainly isn’t.
Thankfully Hank does post some useful information:
- good quality pictures and descriptions of new product arrivals
- suggestions and ideas for gifts
- requests for feedback on new product and business ideas
- pictures of customers using their product
- tips for saving on delivery charges.
Of course the problem with posting too much irrelevant and personal information is that Likers soon get bored with it and are in danger of unLiking the page – the Facebook equivalent of having a customer leave without buying anything.
The line and when to cross it
Likers are interested in what your business has to offer rather than what’s going on in your personal life, otherwise they’d Like your personal page instead. Not to say that it can’t contain the odd observation or oddity, but there’s a fine line which shouldn’t be stepped over.
To me, a good business page is all about the customer rather than the owner – maintaining that all-important WIFM – What’s In It For Me – or in your case: What’s in it for your connections and contacts.
Instead of writing about what your spouse is watching on television, write about how your product is better than the one you saw advertised on television and why.
And instead of letting us know when someone is in your shop (the ultimate in business narcissism), give us more reasons why we should come to your shop.
Far too much information
But credit where it’s due. Hank’s business page has several thousand Likers which is many times the relative few that my own has – though in fairness, mine is the B2B of LinkedIn rather than the B2C of Facebook.
Unfortunately though, these numbers aren’t enough to sustain what is at best a hobby business.
I know this because Hank posted how much the business made – or didn’t make last year. And that is literally a case of too much information and not enough revenue.
I certainly wouldn’t be publishing to the world how poor my year has been for what should be fairly obvious reasons.
Whilst my own business turnover is very modest compared to some of the giants of the industry, it’s just that – my business and none of anyone else’s.
When do we switch off?
I also wonder how much this personal/business crossover impacts Hank’s personal life.
Given very little subject matter is spared from the page and that the web never sleeps, Hank must have a sensation of being constantly ‘switched on’ so as to constantly feed his hungry page.
But even the most passionate small business operator needs a break from the business, so I wonder if Hank really ever gets one when he is so personally involved in his page.
But perhaps I’m being too business-like. Perhaps his page Likers enjoy the insights into his personal life. Perhaps it’s a welcome change from the faceless spin some larger businesses trot out on their Pages.
And perhaps businesses do take on a persona of their own that Likers enjoy conversing with.
What do you think?
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.