Friday, January 27, 2012

Why Having Staff Be Facebook Emissaries Is a Bad Idea

Lately I've been seeing social media pros suggesting that, in light of recent changes to Facebook's algorithm, organizations start focusing less on Facebook Pages and more on having staff members use their own Facebook profiles to promote the organization's agenda. Call me cranky, but I think this is a terrible idea.

The rationale behind this suggestion is that, as Facebook changed its news feed algorithm last fall, admins began to notice that posts from pages were appearing in fans news feeds less frequently than posts from individuals to whom people were subscribed. What does that mean, exactly? It means that where a year ago, Facebook Pages for brands were where it was at in terms of Facebook success; now, not so much. I personally have noticed that the effectiveness of the pages that I admin has tanked, at least in terms of Facebook's own metrics. Facebook used to display impressions per post; however, since the algorithm change caused that impressions number to universally plummet, they conveniently replaced "impressions" with "reach," to try to convince brands that they didn't just cripple the functionality of pages with these algorithm and insight changes. They spun it as "impressions are down but engagement is up." But now more and more page admins are starting to notice the dip in page effectiveness and the clear favoring of subscriptions by Facebook's weird algorithm. And since, at this time, only personal profiles and not pages have this snazzy new subscription capability, the concept of brands/organizations having staff people use their own personal Facebook profiles to get their org's content back into people's news feeds was born.

Here's why I think this is a terrible idea:

  1. Once upon a time companies Facebook Pages were inextricably linked to an individual profile. Which meant if that person got fired or quit, the company was SOL. Facebook finally realized tying a brand's whole Facebook presence to an individual was not a good/workable idea, and added the ability to make more than one person the admin of a page. So now going back to tying your org's Facebook presence to individuals....still not a good idea for the same reason it wasn't a good idea back then: people leave companies. And if they leave, all their subscribers go with them. Do you really want to encourage your company's customers/members/constituents to follow an individual who, for all you know, six months from now will be working for a competitor?
  2. Especially in this day and age, jobs do not last forever. People have personal lives then they have jobs--the two are not the same, unless they own the business. Asking them to mix their personal Facebook presence with your company's Facebook presence is, in my opinion, taking advantage of them and presuming a lot--that they'll forever be in your company's employ, that they personally endorse all aspects of the business, and that they are, essentially, paid spokespeople for the business. Sure, there are people who feel passionate about their jobs, but there are equally many for whom a job is a job. They are getting paid to do that job, not advertise the company on a social networking platform--there is a difference, IMO.
  3. Facebook's privacy settings are a moving target. You could recommend to these staff spokespeople that they adjust their Facebook profile settings so that if they post personal stuff they make it visible to friends only, and they set privacy for company updates to public. That, in my opinion, is playing with fire. You're really willing to risk your employee not accidentally setting those drunken photos or political private updates to public, and having them seen by all your company subscribers? That's asking a lot of technology (Facebook's iPhone and iPad apps are horrible and setting any privacy settings when posting from them is a bitch) and human error, not to mention Facebook's own constant breeches in terms of "oops" moments where they "accidentally" display content that's supposed to be private to a different audience, or when they, without warning change their settings so that previous privacy settings are wiped out.
  4. Facebook's Terms of Service forbid multiple accounts for individuals. I know you were about to offer the suggestion that you just ask staff spokespeople to create a new personal account, one that just represents them as a spokesperson for your company, so all these pesky privacy settings are a non-issue. Right? Wrong. Facebook's Terms of Service specifically forbids individuals from having more than one account:
Please be aware that managing multiple accounts is a violation of Facebook’s Terms of Use. If we determine that an individual has more than one account, we reserve the right to terminate all of their accounts. (from Facebook Business Account FAQs)
My advice? Hold steady with your Facebook Page. Chances are that within a few months, the situation will change yet again and pages will either be granted subscription capability or some other magic bullet that will again propel your page's updates into fan's news feeds. Analyze the content you're posting on your page--what's working, what's not, and tweak your strategy accordingly. Or focus on building your company's presence on Google+--maybe your time and money is better spent doing that in light of their new search algorithm changes.

Honestly, the situation is not that dire--your company will not go out of business because of Facebook's algorithm changes.

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