Most small-business owners know they need to be on Facebook, but it's not always as simple as it sounds. A Facebook page requires not only hard work to achieve social media goals, but also care to avoid making a blunder that could hurt a company's reputation, among other scary consequences.
Here are five mistakes to avoid when engaging with customers on the world's largest social network:
1. Ignoring your Facebook page.
Once you establish your presence on Facebook, you must remain active to achieve your social media objectives. If you fail to post regularly, you can appear to be disinterested and lose your fan base. Instead, allot a certain amount of time each day -- preferably multiple times a day -- to post quality content and engage with current and potential customers.
Also be on the lookout for spam and erroneous comments. There are a couple ways to deal with them. On comments below a post of yours, mouse over the right side of the comment and an x will appear. When you click it, the comment will be hidden. For actual posts on your page, you can click "see all" on the right side of the page under recent comments. When you mouse over the right side of the comment and click the x, you will be given several options: highlight it, allow it to be seen, hide it or delete it and ban that person from commenting on your page again.
2. Breaking the rules.
You can't do just anything you want on Facebook. As with other social media sites, it has "terms of service" that users must follow. If you violate these rules, Facebook can delete or suspend your account. Some of the most common violations involve the user name you choose, such as trademarked or obscene names. You also can't curse or threaten other users. And spamming other pages with abusive messages or sales pitches is not tolerated.
If your page gets shut down, it's a poor reflection on your brand, especially if potential customers can't locate the page you listed in your ads or on your website.
3. Being a spammer.
Think of your Facebook page as your storefront. What kind of image do you want to project? Do you want to be that person who constantly talks about how great his product is and what a great discount he is offering this week? No, you shouldn't.
Convey your personality and expert knowledge, and provide your fans with valuable insights. It isn't wrong to occasionally let people know about a new product or a sale, but don't be a spammer. If you want to promote something new, be subtle and creative. For instance, try taking a how-to approach or offer useful tips to get across your message. People don't want to be sold to every second they're on Facebook, but they do appreciate free information and advice.
4. Choosing the wrong person to manage your page.
You can assign people to manage, post and reply on your behalf on your company's Facebook page. But be careful about whom you choose as your page manager. Page managers need to be familiar with your company's social media policies and strategy, as well as your brand image, because they will be broadcasting information regularly to your fans. If a page manager posts anything offensive or at odds with your brand image, it could damage your company's reputation. What's more, disgruntled employees who have admin access could potentially remove you as the owner and take control of the page.
5. Neglecting to respond to feedback.
Your Facebook fans can be your biggest brand champions -- or your worst enemies if you ignore them. If someone posts a comment on your page saying that your company took great care of him or her, be sure to express your thanks. Showing that you're listening and appreciate feedback can encourage other fans to engage with you.
And don't simply delete negative comments about your company. Take each one as an opportunity to turn that critic into a fan and potential customer. Respond quickly and address the issues. Let the critic know you're fixing the problem and perhaps offer a discount on a future order. Also, you might tell the person to expect a call because you want to make sure the problem is corrected.
Scott Levy is the founder and CEO of Fuel Online, an online marketing agency that focuses on social media and SEO. He has been specializing in online marketing for more than 15 years and is a respected speaker, writer and consultant. Scott is based in Nashville. Follow him on Twitter at @FuelOnline or on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/FuelInternetMarketing