Quit Facebook? Not if you’re a business, say experts

More than 30,000 people committed to quit Facebook yesterday in a protest over the social networking site’s approach to privacy, but that’s just a drop in the ocean when you think of the site’s membership of about 450 million.

Social media experts at Visability, an IT World Canada hosted event in Toronto last week, were still telling businesses that Facebook is a good channel to tap for marketing. Canadians are among the most avid users of Facebook, with 14.5 million Canucks using the site.

Facebook users are also willing to connect with businesses on the social network – 10 million users “like” brand pages daily, says Michelle Corsano, president at Burst Technology Marketing. It’s a promising sign that the site is becoming about more than just socializing with friends.

“Your brand is what other people say it is,” she notes. “Social media channels are tools to further exaggerate and amplify this word of mouth opportunity.”

Users criticized the social networking site, since certain changes were revealed at its f8 conference last month. The changes resulted in third-party Web sites automatically having access to user information, so long as users were signed in. The changes also made some privacy settings convoluted. Facebook Inc. responded to the complaints last week when it updated its privacy settings to be more straight forward.

Global privacy authorities have also voiced their irritation with Facebook, with Canada’s Privacy Commissioner conducting its second investigation into the Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm. But don’t let that stop you from cultivating community there, advises David Alston, vice-president marketing at New Brunswick-based social media metrics firm Radian6.

“If there is some concern, have that conversation right on your page. Ask your community what they think about it,” he says. “Take it to the community, you can’t lose when you do that.”

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Businesses have to respect general etiquette on social neworking sites and know when it’s appropriate to contribute to a conversation or not, he adds.

More often than not, customers are pleased to be contacted by a company on Facebook when they’re having problems with a product or service.

Facebook proves to be the most-used of social networks by businesses. Around 77 per cent of business-to-business firms use Facebook, and 83 per cent of business to consumer firms were using it in some way, according to SocialMediaExaminer.com.

It’s also starting to become popular amongst older demographics, says Katie Morse, community manager at Radian6. Facebook may have started as a college campus Web site, but it has grown up since its fledgling days at Harvard.

Eighty per cent of companies are turning to Facebook and other social media sites for recruitment, she adds.

“Don’t get the impression that social media is limited to your marketing and your PR,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be just about brand awareness, it shouldn’t be limited to that.”

Many social media users seemed less than enthused about the prospect of quitting Facebook. Those who’ve been using the site for years have built up a contact list of hundreds of friends, and got into the habit of using it to organize their social lives.

“Quit Facebook” became a trending topic on Twitter yesterday, but many discussing the idea were skeptical of the notion they could part with their digital avatar.

“Today is ‘Quit Facebook’ day, tomorrow is ‘oh sh*t I deleted my Facebook’ day, and Wednesday is ‘create a new Facebook account’ day,” writes one Twitter user.

“How come today is Quit Facebook day?” writes another. “That sounds really crazy.”

On Facebook, the page “May 31: Quit Facebook Day” had more than 6,500 users linked to it – their profiles still accessible – on late Monday afternoon. 

Follow Brian Jackson on Twitter and check out the IT Business Facebook Page.

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