For as far back as I can remember, I've always advised companies with blogs and Facebook and Twitter accounts that there is no "I" in business. When speaking on behalf of a business, brand, product or service over a Facebook status update, tweet or blog post, I advise them to always use "we" (or some derivation thereof) to communicate more effectively on behalf of the business or brand.
Let's say, for example, you manage the Facebook account for a business that distributes running shorts and the company is about to exhibit during a local road race. You'd want to post something such as: "We'll be exhibiting at the health expo later this week. Stop by and see us in Booth No. 1315 in the convention center." What you wouldn't want to post is, "I am exhibiting at this weekend's health expo at the convention center. Stop by and see me in Booth No. 1315."
The reason I bring this is up is because businesses on Facebook are increasingly using "I" statements in their status updates, messages, notes and other places. And they're doing it directly in the line of sight of their customers and prospects -- often without ever identifying who "I" is.
Take for example the photo from Abe's Marketplace – a company whose page I like on Facebook. It contains the items cited in the following caption, which showed up in my Facebook Newsfeed just yesterday morning:
"Here is my breakfast: Greek yogurt, honey, lemon, mint and fresh strawberries! Send your nompics and recipes!"
Aside from having no idea what a "nompic" is, I also have no idea who "my" refers to, and since I have to think about it, the fact that it exists as part of the caption takes the focus away from the picture, message and call-to-action.
When I asked Abe's Market about posting in the first person narrative, Lisa Frame, who is Abe's community manager, answered thusly:
"Great question! I personally think it depends on how the brand wants to present and leverage itself within the online space. Some brands choose to communicate in a non self-identifying way and that works great for them. Our DNA is different. Abe's Market encourages sellers to share their personal stories & we live by the same gospel. We are a small team that is passionate about building a community that shares the same love of all-natural goods, entrepreneurship and all things green. With that, I share my journey in this lifestyle and our community has responded to that personal touch. … No wizard twitter-machine behind a curtain over here. Just myself, our amazing co-founders/VP, dev team and two interns! ..."
Fair enough. But if what Frame says is true, I believe she should have signed the photo caption with her name and company title, and Abe's should update its Facebook account to reflect Frame's role as the voice of the company (to do so, it simply needs to edit its company information on the Info page, and change its "page owner" settings so Frame's name and profile picture appear on the public view of the page).
Abe's Facebook Page attracts a form of engagement that businesses dream about. On the item in question, 101 people indicated they liked the photo and 27 left a comment. And that's out of 17,203 people who like Abe's page. Abe's approach works. But if it costs the company nothing to have all posts by Frame containing "I" or "me" statements signed by her, then why not do so?
What do you think? When managing a business Facebook Page, is it beneficial to use "I" and "me" statements without identifying who you are?
Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. For more information, visit MikalBelicove.com.