The Facebook Fiasco: How Not to Fail at Social Media CX

You’ve just returned from a round of holiday visits, and you can’t stop thinking about what your niece said over dinner. She claimed that you need a social media presence, and that if you don’t have a Facebook page, you don’t exist to her generation. You tried to explain that nobody in your industry uses Facebook. You’re a business-to-business firm. You don’t need to connect with the youth. She whips out her phone, shows you the pages of three of your fiercest competitors, and proves you wrong.

So, now you need a Facebook page.  But how hard can it be? You just throw some sales and advertising copy online at regular intervals and you’re good to go, right? Not so fast. Facebook isn’t like advertising circulars or advertorials. If you go into social media thinking about it like traditional advertising, you’re going to fail dramatically. If you want to make Facebook work for you, you’re going to have to avoid being a Facebook narcissist.

Profile of a Facebook Narcissist

Many Facebook novices slip into narcissism. After all, isn’t Facebook just a place where people post goofy selfies and pictures of their lunches? My friend Donny, an aspiring author, leaped into Facebook without understanding the rhythm of social media. He immediately friended everyone he knew, and quite a few people he didn’t. Then, he started posting.

At this writing, he has 500 posts on his page, and every single one of them is about his new, self-published novel, talks he’s given about his novel, and endorsements from dubious sources. (While his great aunt Martha is a very sweet lady, I can’t really trust her as a judge of literature. After all, this is the woman who bought half of her family Taken by the T-Rex for Christmas last year).   

Occasionally, Donny tries to mix it up with pictures of his lunch or selfies with famous people. Reading his wall is like reading a promotional brochure. Donny’s not such a shameless self-promoter in real life. He’s a sweet, funny guy with a tight-knit circle of good friends. His problem is that he sees FaceBook as primarily a tool for self-promotion, even in his comments on other people’s posts.

“Great to hear that your surgery went well! Don’t forget to pick up a copy of my book to amuse you as you recover.”

“So sorry about your uncle. He was always a great encouragement to me. I wouldn’t have written my new book without his kind words…you should read it!”  

As a result of his self-centered Facebook persona, everyone ignores Donny. Most of his friends have “unfollowed” him so they don’t have to see his posts in their feed, and the few followers that remain are pity followers who don’t want to hurt his feelings.

How to Win Friends and Influence Facebook

Meanwhile, I’m Facebook friends, (but sadly not real-life friends), with Simcha Fisher, a fairly well-known blogger, author, and speaker. While Fisher does use Facebook to promote her articles, books, and speaking engagements, that’s only probably about 20% of what she does on Facebook. Most of her posts are links to things she found interesting or amusing, random funny thoughts, and vignettes and snapshots of her life.

Fisher runs her wall as if it’s an enlightenment-era Paris salon. She uses it to bring people together and create a community interested in talking, arguing, and joking about the interesting topics she digs up online. She gets social media in general, and Facebook in particular, because she realizes that they’re not tools for pushing products, they’re tools for creating enthusiastic and engaged communities.

Why Simcha Succeeds and Donny’s a Dud

Simcha Fisher and my friend Donny are both working in the same field. From a marketing perspective, they have the same goal. They’re writers, and they need to sell books, build buzz, and get speaking gigs.  

Donny fails because, even though he’s a great person in real life, on Facebook he comes across as a narcissist. His posting habits show someone who only cares about himself and who sees people as sales prospects, not friends. Simcha succeeds because she works to build community and engage people. While she wants to succeed in her field, that’s not the only, or even the primary, goal of her Facebook use.

Psychologists have found that this dynamic, where narcissists fail and less self-interested people succeed, is common on social media. While narcissists are good at getting initial interest, their followers quickly grow bored and start ignoring them. Facebook is about community building and not simple self-promotion, so if you can’t create a vibrant community, you won’t see success in social media.

Becoming a Socially Savvy Company

Donny’s Facebook failures are individual failures, but even large corporations with dedicated social media teams can fall into the “Donny Trap” when they constantly fish for attention and engage in shameless self-promotion. Instead of social media, these corporations are creating their own form of anti-social media and saddling their fans with a negative social media customer experience (CX).

For instance, a few years ago, Oxyclean put out a Facebook post on April 15th. Along with a picture of their logo and tax forms, the text read, “Like stubborn stains, filing your taxes can be, well, taxing! Like if you’ve already filed!” The company, no doubt, saw this as a lighthearted approach to tax day, but their social media fans saw it as an obnoxious and intrusive way of trying to get a “Like.”

They were thinking about 1040s, deductions, and checks to the U.S. Treasury, but Oxyclean was trying to get them to think about laundry instead. When a company has a long line of these annoying posts that miss the mark, their Facebook page doesn’t create fans, it alienates them.

Meanwhile, Bonobos, an online-only men’s clothing store, has created a “Simcha-like” social media community. The company encourages fans to comment, to discuss social issues and interesting articles, and to suggest new products. With more than 300,000 fans, this small company is a social media powerhouse that keeps its customers engaged and interested in their products and their corporation. With an active Facebook presence, Bonobos gives its customers input into how their products fit into other people’s lives, how the company runs on a day-to-day basis, and how the company can change and improve. In a sense, Facebook-savvy companies like Bonobos are storydoers who let their customers play a part in their adventures.

From Facebook Narcissist to Facebook Star

Even if you’ve started down the path to corporate narcissism on Facebook, it’s not too late to become a social media star. The key is to make future posts with a community focus, not a self-focus. So for instance, Oxyclean can refocus its spring posts. Instead of off-key posts about things totally unrelated to their product, they can draw their fans into a conversation about spring cleaning. They could solicit favorite spring cleaning tips, or ask fans to share their stories of spring cleaning triumphs and disasters.  

Photo contests are also a good way to engage and involve you fans. For instance, Oxyclean is a favorite with mothers trying to remove mud stains from clothing. So they could run a “Your Muddiest Buddies” contest, inviting users to submit pictures of their muddiest kids before and after using Oxyclean. These sorts of posts give customers a chance to interact with the company and with each other in a fun, social way.

The Problem with Excellent Social Media CX

There is one problem with creating an excellent Facebook presence. Running a “Donny” page is easy. You throw up a couple of posts a day, disable comments, and ignore. You can be a corporate Donny for two hours a week, maximum, and that’s if you get distracted by stupid cat videos when you’re supposed to be managing the page.  

However, in the world of Facebook, a bad page is worse than no page at all. Since people expect to connect with your company and each other through a corporate Facebook page, a poorly managed page creates a negative customer experience. If you’re unwilling to meet your customers’ expectations, you should stay off social media.

Meanwhile, managing an active, engaging Facebook page takes work. You need someone to read through discussions and enforce community rules about personal attacks or sensitive topics. Some companies manage their social media presences by hiring an on or off-site employee to manage Twitter, Facebook, and their blogs. Having a dedicated social media manager can help you create an excellent online presence, but it can get expensive.  

Other companies fill the gap by spreading out social media duties among several existing employees. If you have younger employees, you may have some who are willing to take on social media duties in exchange for a new job title and some extra accomplishments on their resume. For instance, if your receptionist is also a Facebook user, she may agree to help manage the corporate page during her regular hours.

Whether you have a dedicated social media manager or delegate work to existing employees, you need to keep your page fresh, not formulaic. For many customers, your Facebook page will be the main way that they interact with your company outside of making purchases. In their minds, your page is a sort of “satellite office.” Their experiences there affect their view of your entire firm.

Finally, you need to have realistic expectations for your page. Facebook pages grow in popularity primarily by word of mouth. It takes time to build an active, positive, engaged community on social media. You can’t just come back from a weekend at home and say, while staring over your tea (Earl Grey. Hot.), “My niece says we need a Facebook Page. Make it so.”

Into the Great Unknown

Your niece is right – you do need a Facebook presence to enhance customer experience and engagement. But you don’t need just any Facebook presence; you need a good Facebook presence. It doesn’t matter what size your business is or what industry you’re in. Many of your competitors already have Facebook pages, and your customers expect you to have one too.

In fact, as Baby Boomers leave the workforce, 95% of the up-and-coming generation of decision makers expect firms to have active social media presences. By avoiding Facebook, you don’t look serious, you look uncommitted and stuck in the past. It doesn’t matter if most of your sales are business-to-business (B2B); it doesn’t matter if you’re a smaller company. You need a Facebook page, and you need to be a community builder, not a narcissist. Get cracking today so you can be ready to face your niece at your next family gathering.


Interested in keeping in touch? Sign up for our newsletter.