A number of small businesses and non-profits are seeking a presence on Facebook -- but many of them are going about it the wrong way.
I mentioned this in passing in a previous column, but after seeing several more instances lately, I thought I'd mention it again and go into a little more detail.
To put your business or church or club on Facebook, you should never create a Facebook account the same way you created your own personal Facebook account. Facebook's Terms of Service say that user accounts are only for human beings using their real names.
In theory, Facebook can delete any account that's not in a person's real name. They might not do it this week, or next month -- but they could do it at any time, especially if some competitor or disgruntled ex-employee reports you for a Terms of Service violation. It's better to do things right from the start than to risk suddenly losing all of the followers and traffic you've spent months or years establishing.
The way Facebook wants you to promote your business or church or non-profit is to create a page for it -- and a page is different from a user account. Pages also have organization-friendly features that a personal account lacks, such as being able to display a map of your business location. Instead of people having to become friends, as they would with a user account, people have the option of liking your page.
Actually, Facebook may already have a very rudimentary page for your church or business based on its listing in the telephone book or other public directories. Try searching for your organization on Facebook, and if you find a listing, click on "Is this your business?" in the left column for more information on how to claim that page and begin updating it yourself. You will have to verify that you are an official representative of the business in order to do this.
To create a page, you should be logged in to your personal Facebook account. While logged in, scroll all the way to the bottom of your Facebook home page, and look for the phrase "Create a page" in small letters in a list of items. Click on it, and follow the instructions from there.
If you don't have or want a personal Facebook account, Facebook does allow you to create an individual "business account" with limited functionality, solely for the purpose of managing your business's page. To go this route, create your Facebook page directly from this link: www.facebook.com/pages.
Once you've created a page, you can assign additional administrators to it if you want more than one person to be able to control the site or post as the official voice of the organization. Each of those admins has to have an account on Facebook, of course, and in practical terms you need to be friends with them in order to be able to find their names and add them as administrators.
Each admin has a setting that lets them choose whether their posts on the page will, by default, appear in the organization's name or their own. To find this, click on "edit page" in the top right corner of the page, and then on "your settings" in the left column of the next page that comes up.
You also have the option of posting in your organization's name or your own name when you go elsewhere on Facebook. When you look at a Facebook page for which you are one of the administrators, you will see an option near the top of the right-hand column called "Use Facebook as" followed by the name of your page -- for example, "Use Facebook as Acme Widget Corporation." When you click on this option, any posts you make or actions you take on other people's Facebook walls will be listed as coming from Acme Widget Corporation rather than from John Smith. When you want to go back to using your own personal account, just return to the Acme Widget page and click on "Use Facebook as John."
The other nice thing about a page is that once you have 25 followers, you can request an easy-to-remember address for your page, like www.facebook.com/pages/Acme-Widget-Compa..., which you can use to promote your page to others.
Proper use of Facebook pages can help promote your church, club or business. Improperly using Facebook accounts instead of pages puts all of that at risk.
--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government. He is also the author of the self-published novel "Soapstone." His personal web site is lakeneuron.com.