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Don’t Get Your Business Kicked Out of the Facebook Party

As a guy panda who gets paid American dollars, in part, for my knowledge of Facebook, I am constantly being asked by anybody with a job, “How does Facebook work for businesses?” I believe the perception out there is that there is some earth-shattering revelation that everybody can stuff into their company’s suggestion box, dazzle the CEO, and then immediately be promoted to Chief Facebook Officer with an accompanying 7-figure salary.

I understand why people think it is such a huge deal. There was a blockbuster movie about Facebook, they just had a huge IPO, Mark Zuckerberg is a household name, and, according to their own data, they now have more than 800 million users – you probably know a few. However, like most really popular inventions, it’s actually a very simple concept.

To put Facebook into terms that we can all relate to, I describe it as a giant cocktail party. The guest list is 150 (the average number of friends people have on Facebook), it’s only the people you Like (terrible Facebook pun), and it’s a blast. You run into people you haven’t seen since college, high school and grade school. You talk to people you never thought you’d have the chance to meet. You introduce everybody to your wife, husband or partner. You gush about your kids and show everybody pictures of them and the great vacation you just took to Disney World. Everybody is having a grand old time and then the conversations inevitably turn to business. “So, what do you do for a living?”

Now, this is where businesses have a choice to make. Do they want to be the person at the cocktail party who is just there to have a good time and contribute to the enjoyment of a great night, or are they going to be the financial planner who corners me and tells me that I need to get heavily involved in mortgage-backed securities and won’t take “NO!” for an answer?

Whether you’re Coke, Budweiser, or a mom & pop shop, this is where 95% of businesses get it wrong on Facebook – I’m really looking at you small businesses. For the love of all that is good, please don’t try and sell me something every single time I see you at the party! If not for my sake, then for your own.

Nobody wants to talk to “that guy” at the party and guess what, if you try and sell me too often, I’m not going to invite you back. And in the words of every snotty 9 -year-old out there, “I’m not going to be your friend anymore.”

The purpose for businesses to be at the party is to raise awareness. For example, if you are a beer company and I repeatedly see you at the party, the odds are pretty good that I’m going to try your beer the next time I’m in the grocery store looking for some suds. If, every time I see you at the party, you keep forcing me to drink your product by knocking your bottle on top of mine to engage a ridiculous beer volcano, I’m not only going to never drink your beer out of spite, but I’m going to tell all of my friends not to drink your toilet water.

If you are a business and want to know how Facebook works or benefits you, it’s really simple. Just sit back, have a good time at the party, engage in entertaining conversations and people will come to you.

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