You Can Balance Your Business and Personal Life... on Facebook
OK, no entrepreneur I have ever met can really say he or she manages to balance their business and personal time to their satisfaction in real life. There's just not enough time in the day, right? Well it is possible on Facebook. Furthermore, it is vital for both you and your business that you do at least keep some separation between the two on Facebook.
"Treat your prospects like friends, but never treat your friends like prospects."
I hear a lot of entrepreneurs say they don't think it's effective, or even appropriate, to use Facebook for business because it alienates friends. I agree with the point that you will alienate your friends if you try to sell them stuff all the time, especially if your friends are not part of the target market for your product line. But I would argue that's just going about it wrong.
The point of marketing on Facebook is that you can and should establish a separate presence for your business no matter how big or small you are. The fact is you don't really NEED your personal friends for your business presence on Faceook at all. If you wanted to keep it secret, you could set up a Page for your business and drive traffic to it other ways.
Don't tell your friends if you're shy about it. If you don't become a Liker of your own Page, there's really no way people will even be able to tell that you're associated with it. It sure doesn't hurt to have a little support from your friends starting out though, and most of them will support you at least by Liking your Page and referring their friends to it if you ask them to.
"But I am a one-person business. I sell makeup, or nutrition products, or professional services, or real estate..."
You should still create a Page for your business, even if it is just your name followed by a title or certification like MD or Photographer. You probably won't really keep it secret from your friends, but your Page is your space to be as markety as you want to be.
Marketing is a lot like a sexual advance in that it can be really exciting from the right source in the right context and really offensive from the wrong source in the wrong context. Think of your business Page as your sexy space. People will expect marketing there. They want pictures of your products with mouth-watering descriptions. They want to hear about your sales and your specials and your jewelry parties and business opportunities and whatever else you have to offer. They want and expect that from your business Page, so don't let them down.
Your friends may or not be in your target market, and that's fine. If they Like your Page to support you and then get tired of seeing posts from it in their newsfeed they will click "Remove" in the newfeed to stop receiving them. They will still Like you tho - meaning they show in your "XYZ people like this" box and your Page shows up under their Likes and Interests on their personal profile. They have just decided to opt out of your sexy space. It's nothing personal.
Don't Make the #1 Mistake Small Businesses Make on Facebook
Is this you: "I didn't want to use my regular Facebook account, so I just logged out and created a new one in the business name. I already had a separate email for my business so now I just login with that when I want to manage the business Facebook account."
This is the #1 mistake small businesses make, and nothing good can come from it. You might spend several months using that account to promote your business before logging in one day to find your account deleted by an overly aggressive fraud-detection algorithm.
If (when) this happens, you will lose all of the friends you have accumulated, all of the photos you have posted, all of the status updates, and everything else in an instant. Facebook will not send you a warning, and there is not even a way to contact them to ask what happened. Suddenly, you just cannot log in anymore, and the forgot-password link tells you no account exists with that email address. *Poof* it's all gone just like that. As if your business had never existed on Facebook at all.
This is Facebook's fault for failing to provide better guidance for businesses on how to use the site. With nearly 2 million business users, they should offer a comprehensive business resource center on the site as well as customer service at least by email. Yet unless you spend at least $10,000 per month on advertising with them, you will not even find so much as a "Contact Us" link anywhere on the website.
The preferred way to manage your accounts with Facebook (as clearly described half way down an FAQ page 6 clicks from nowhere on the site) is to create a personal account for yourself in your real name, and then create a Page for your business while logged in as you, "the person."
The only thing you need to remember about Pages is that they cannot post comments anywhere except your own Page. So, if you post a comment to someone's wall somewhere - that will always show up as being posted by you, the person. However, anything you post to your own Page will show up as being posted by the Page itself - not you, the person.
If you have business partners that also need administrator access to the Page, they should first "Like" the Page after you create it. Then you log in and go to the Page itself. Find the "XYZ people like this" box on the left side, and click "See All." In the dialog that opens, you can make any Likers into administrators.
Apart from the risk of having your entire account deleted, there are also a couple other important reasons to consider why you would rather have a Page for your business instead of a personal profile.
First is that people have friends while Pages have Likers. It's a lot easier - not to mention more inviting - for people to click Like and immediately subscibe to your Pages newsfeed than it is for them to request permission from you and wait for you to get around to granting them this privilege.
As a customer, I am also often hesitant to send friend requests to businesses I like if they use a personal account because I don't want to cross an inappropriate boundary in case they really do use the account for personal life. For instance, I like my doctor, but I would not expect to be his friend on Facebook any more than I would expect his personal home phone number. There's a personal/professional boundary there that extends to Facebook too. For professional service providers - the doctors, lawyers, architects, hair stylists, etc. of the world - this is always a dilemma, on Facebook and off. How friendly should I really be with my clients? The Page on Facebook is a really great way to draw an appropriate boundary between your personal and professional presence.
The other reason you prefer a Page for your business is that people (on Facebook) can only have a maximum of 5,000 friends while Pages can have unlimited Likers. 5,000 might sound like a lot to you when you're starting out, but you could easily exceed that in no time. If you're lucky enough to do something that goes viral on Facebook or if you get some good press coverage for something that mentions your Facebook Page, you could add tens of thousands of Likers in a day.
For perspective, consider that Lady Gaga has over 7,000,000 Likers on Facebook. She would literally need to manage more than 1,400 separate personal accounts on Facebook alone to stay in touch with all those fans. Yet with her Page, she can instantly send updates to all 7,000,000 fans at once. In fact, when Lady Gaga posts updates to her Page, she usually has more than 5,000 people click Like and/or leave comments within minutes of her post. That can be you too, but only if you use a Page. ;-)
But I Already Created a Personal/Friend Account for My Business. What Do I Do Now?
If you have already established your business on Facebook using a personal account (meaning the kind that has Friends instead of Likers) you have a little work cut out for you. There is no way to "convert" an account from one type to the other or to automatically transfer friends. You have to start over from scratch and hope your friends will become Likers of your new Page.
The first thing you need to do is log in to your real personal account. The one that uses your real legal name, not the business name. If you ONLY have an account in your business name, you should create a new one in your real name that appears on your driver license. That's the only way to guarantee Facebook won't delete the account later.
Once you are logged in as you, the person, you want to create a new Page for your business. Follow the steps in my blog on how to create a Page here.
When your business Page is set up and ready to market, you can log back into the old personal account you have in your business name. There is no way to automatically transfer anything from photos to friends, so you're starting over from scratch. Sorry. I promise it's better to do this now - no matter how many friends you have amassed for your biz account - than to log in one day and find them all gone with no warning.
While logged in as your old business account, send a message to all of your friends with a link to your new business Page. You don't have to go into detail about how/why you're moving them. Just say "I/We have created a new Page for [Business Name] on Facebook and will be phasing out this account in the coming weeks. Please click the link below and Like my/our new fan page in order to stay in touch with me/us." You may need to send this message once a week for several weeks to get everyone to transfer.
If you find people don't jump over to the Page as fast as you hope, you may also consider offering a Facebook-only promotion to encourage Likers. That is something to the effect of "Like our new fan Page on Facebook to be entered in a drawing for a free widget. Deadline: Friday mm/dd/yyyy hh:mm" These work well whether you're trying to incentivise your existing followers to migrate from your personal account to your business Page, or just trying to get new customers to follow your Page.