No security blankets for SMEs with social media


Small businesses are trying to keep up to speed with new age marketing and promotion through Social Media, yet many are making crucial mistakes and don’t realise until it’s too late. 

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Traditionally if a business wanted to promote themselves they would advertise through mediums such as print/newspapers, radio or television. When placing an advert small businesses would usually have at least some sort of security that if they were doing something illegal or wrong  someone would pick it up and let them know before it was published.

However with Social Media anyone can jump on and initially post what you want without someone saying ‘hey you’re doing it wrong’ or ‘you will get banned from the site for doing that’. What I have noticed is that there are many small business owners who have heard that Facebook is great for promotion and brand awareness, so they jump on board before finding out how it should be done properly and without any guidance.

One major mistake that I keep on seeing time and time again is small businesses creating a Facebook page by setting up their profile as a personal profile instead of a fan/business page.  This error and its possible consequences are not great as Facebook are continually banning businesses from doing this. It doesn’t matter if a business tries to play innocent as if they actually read the terms and conditions for setting up a profile they would know they were not complying. Mobilize Mail have recently done some research on New Zealand businesses on Facebook. They found that almost 90% of the businesses they surveyed were using a personal profile to promote their business! (Scoop article on Mobilize)

Some may think that it is quite harsh of Facebook to ban businesses who make that crucial mistake, but really for privacy reasons they are not.  For example, when most people add a person as a friend on Facebook they do not add them to a limited profile (a privacy setting option). This means that if you accept a friend on your personal Facebook profile that is actually a business they will be able to see all your photos, access all your details that you have for only your friends to view.

Now you might think who would accept a friend request from a business? Well one example is a business where people sign up to their service and they then receive free drink vouchers for bars in their area. Who would say no to free drinks? As you can imagine they have quickly become  popular.  Not too long ago the business decided to create a Facebook page, but instead of being a fan page they created it under a personal profile.  As you would expect many people have added the business as a friend. 

With the consumer in mind, I expect many people have not thought about how much personal information they are inadvertently sharing with the business. With the business in mind, they now have a huge following on Facebook and all it will now take is Facebook noticing that they are a business and banning them from Facebook entirely and permanently.  Probably the one lucky thing for this business is that at least they maintain their database through their website and  will probably not lose too many fans from their profile being closed. However it will not have crossed many other small businesses and entrepreneurs minds to own their own database by taking fans off Facebook and gaining their details. As all it takes is making one mistake or Facebook making a judgement call for all those contacts and fans to disappear, and that goes for all social media.

Let’s face it, many of the small businesses who fall into this trap or make other crucial mistakes just don’t know what they are doing and don’t have the funds to use an agency to set it up for them and tell them what they should do. The question is as marketers do we say tough to all the businesses we see doing it wrong and let them eventually suffer the consequences or do we tell them out of our own good will? Considering that potentially 90% of New Zealand businesses are using Facebook the wrong way should we be more active and help those small businesses by getting out there and spreading the word?


One thought on “No security blankets for SMEs with social media

  1. Great post. I’ve seen so many New Zealand businesses do this (I’m the Editor of so see a lot of websites!). The other issue is a bit more technical – they are missing out on a number of widgets and social plugins that would otherwise display their Facebook content through other websites and blogs (caution: shameless self-plug but good example! We display Facebook Page feeds for websites with business details on These are designed for Facebook Pages and completely fail if used for profiles.

    But yeah the biggest one for me is what you mentioned about opening up all your personal info and photos to a ‘business’ if you add them as a friend rather than like their Facebook Page.

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