Archive for September, 2010

How to Alienate Potential Customers on Facebook: A Cautionary Tale

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

The following post is a cautionary tale about the importance of knowing how to use a social network. It includes lessons you need to learn to build your business via Facebook.

I like jewelry. I’m not a big fan of diamonds and gem stones but I love Venetian glass jewelry. Kind of like the dahlias I grow in my garden, Venetian beads come in an amazing array of colors and complexities. Each bead is its own little world you can get lost in. That’s why when an ad for Marco Polo Designs*, popped up in Facebook, I checked out their page and became a Fan. For those of you not well versed in Facebook, this means I clicked on the “Like” button on their Facebook Fan page. Now their updates show up on my Facebook home page.

MPD’s Facebook updates have largely consisted of promos for a series of contests where you can win a piece of jewelry. Cool! I’d love to win a piece of their beautiful jewelry so I was ready to enter the contest. Keep in mind, I rarely enter contests. I closely guard my privacy online and it’s more important to me to stay off of mailing lists than get free stuff but this sounded good. All I had to do to enter the contest was…

1. Have a profile as a person not a business…  Check
2. Be a Fan… Check
3. Friend Marco Polo Designs… Whaaaat?

Problem #1: Understand the Privacy Difference Between Friend & Fan

You’re probably wondering what the big deal is about “Friending” MPD in order to enter the contest. The issue comes down to privacy. Depending on how you format your privacy settings, you give Friends access to a lot more information about you than you do the owners of pages you Like. For example, Friends typically have access to your Friend list, your birth date and other sensitive information that could be used to steal your identity. But when you “Like” a page, the owner of that page only has access to information you make available to anyone on Facebook. Long story short, owners of Fan pages have a lot less access to your information than your Friends do.

I take my online privacy very seriously. So I only Friend people on Facebook I am friends with in real life. I doubt the owners of MPD understood what they were asking when they required contest entrants to Friend their business which is why I did the following.

Problem #2: How NOT to Handle Customer Inquiries

I really wanted to enter this contest so I posted a question on MPD’s Wall asking, “Why do you require people to Friend your business in order to enter the contest?” Here’s the reply I got.

“Hello, Eldge! As a business, Marco Polo Designs has a studio in Portland, Oregon, over 100 retail and gallery outlets, and a solid website.  We’ve recently begun to establish our presence in the social networking arena. The giveaway sweeps is our fun and friendly way of building a friend and fan base of folks who might have an interest in our beautiful designs. We have been so excited to put our creations into the hands of our sweepstakes winners! A camera can only do so much … the play of light through our beads is constantly changing – colors morph, sparkle  and play before the eyes but not through the lens! It is our pleasure to put “live” jewels into the hands of people who have an interest and desire to truly appreciate them! We hope that you’ll consider joining us. With warm regards ~ Penny and Claude”

I don’t really care that MPD misspelled my name. That happens all the time. But, they didn’t even answer my question! To make matters worse, when I went back to ask for clarification, MPD had deleted my question from their Wall! Maybe the didn’t realize the automated email I got from Facebook with their reply included a link to reply back. So, when I clicked on the reply link, it took me to a post that no longer existed. A post that I’d created and had obviously been deleted by someone else!

I can only guess MPD deleted my Wall post because they didn’t want other people to see my question. Part of why I draw this conclusion is because prior to writing this blog post, I searched out the rules for the contest and the rules have changed. MPD no longer requires people to Friend them. That’s a smart decision.  Having more Friends won’t help them sell jewelry. Having more Fans won’t help them sell jewelry. Promoting a quality product to interested buyers will help them sell more jewelry.

Personally, I’m a lifelong fan of learning from other people’s mistakes. I hope you are too and will keep the following lessons in mind in you adventures on Facebook. I can only infer what the owners of MPD were thinking but I think they did 3 things wrong.

Lessons to Learn from MPD’s Mistakes:

1. Friends + Fans DON’T = Sales. – I’m pretty sure the owners of MPD were just trying to run up their numbers. They figured “The more Friends and Fans we have, the better we’re doing!” Wrong.
Your lesson: Making money via social networking is not about how many Friends and Fans you have. Making money via social networking is about the quality of your Friends and Fans. 100 rabid Fans will lead to more sales than 5000 disengaged Friends.

2. Treat Fans as People. Because they are! – Instead of answering my question, Marco Polo Designs sent me PR copy. That’s annoying.
Your lesson: When you do social networking, you connect with real people not anonymous masses. Handle inquires as if you are talking to A PERSON because you are.

3. Feedback Is an Opportunity. – Instead of taking the opportunity to send Fans an update about how their contest rules have changed, Marco Polo Designs swept my question under the carpet, changed their rules and acted like it never happened.
Your lesson: There’s an old marketing axiom, “Turn liabilities into features.” I know it sounds cynical but it’s more helpful than you think. With a little re-framing What MPD could have done, was change their rules and tell people that the rules just got easier. Then they could have responded to my question thanking me for pointing out this problem and describing what they did based on my feedback.

*In this post, I will refer to Mar Polo Designs as MPD so this post does not show up in search results for their business name. I don’t want to negatively impact their business. They seem like nice people and I’m still a Fan.

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