More entrepreneurs are tapping into the world’s largest social media network: There are more than 70 million businesses now on Facebook, up from about 18 million in 2013, according to Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg during a recent investor call.
Facebook gives businesses a platform to showcase new products and services, promote specials and provide customer service. But with these benefits comes the potential for mistakes that can damage your brand.
Here are five common small-business mistakes to avoid on your Facebook business page.
1. Don’t post too often
Most industries should aim to post no more than once or twice a day to avoid overcrowding followers’ news feeds, says Cheryl Friedenberg, president of High Key Impact, LLC, a small-business marketing consulting firm.
There are exceptions, though. For example, it’s appropriate for restaurants to post frequently about food specials, happy hours or live music events, or for medical businesses to post about recent health studies, Friedenberg says.
“I don’t think people mind seeing more of those types of posts throughout the day,” she says.
The best times to post are between 1 and 4 p.m. late in the week and on weekends, according to a study by CoSchedule, a content marketing calendar provider. However, it may not be ideal to post on Friday afternoons in the summer because people may start their weekends early, Friedenberg says.
The right posting frequency may also depend on how many followers you have. Companies with more than 10,000 followers see the most clicks per post when posting an average of one or two times per day, according to a study by Hubspot, a developer and marketer of software products; companies with fewer followers see better engagement by posting less frequently.
2. Don’t post only about your business
Promoting your business should account for 20% or less of your posts if your products or services aren’t used daily by customers, Friedenberg says, to avoid turning people off and getting unfollowed.
Businesspeople who can follow this rule include real estate agents, caregivers, lawyers and dentists. A real estate agent can focus 80% of his or her posts on providing useful information about buying and selling real estate and 20% on marketing listings.
“They can post about first-time home-buying and what the market is like, more about getting pre-approved for a loan, home inspections, tips for getting a house ready to sell, packing and moving,” Friedenberg says.
Businesses that can get away with more frequent promotional posts include clothing shops that get new clothes in every day, or restaurants with daily specials. “This is something followers would want to see more often,” Friedenberg says.
3. Don’t forget photos and videos
Posts with photos and videos get more page views than posts without them, according to Friedenberg. Video has become more popular and effective than photos, she adds.
“People want to hear stories, hear about customer experiences and what a business is doing for their clients, and the best way to do that is with video,” Friedenberg says.
You can post videos of your employees talking about the kind of work they do, customer testimonials, or your business helping out a local charity or organization.
You don’t need expensive video equipment to make it work, either — just use your smartphone. But make sure the video is interesting and not too long, says Mary Clare Bland, founder of Bespoke Digital Solutions, a digital marketing agency.
“Aim to keep videos under three minutes, as most people won’t make it past a minute and a half,” Bland says.
4. Don’t alienate customers
Avoid posting anything that could offend or alienate customers, such as your views on politics or religion. This includes publicly visible posts on your personal Facebook page, which customers can easily find.
“Politics have become so antagonistic now that you’re not just posting a political view; you’re probably alienating a good section of your market,” Bland says.
Customers may look not only at what your small business provides, but also what the owners and key people in the business stand for, says Alexandrea Merrell, managing director of Orndee Omnimedia Inc., a public relations firm.
“People really have to look at their personal profile and say, ‘Would this benefit my business?’ And if it doesn’t, then don’t post it,” Merrell says.
5. Don’t argue with negative reviews
Having a presence on Facebook and other online sites such as Yelp opens you up to negative comments or reviews.
Most customers expect to hear back from you, too: 52% expect a response to their review within a week of writing it, according to ReviewTrackers, a customer feedback software company.
“People often take a negative review super personally and make the situation so much worse than it needs to be,” says Merrell, who also works with adults dealing with stalking and bullying, including cyberbullying.
Plan for negative reviews by having a prepared set of responses, which can help you avoid knee-jerk reactions, Merrell says.
An appropriate response to most negative reviews, she says, includes a thank you for the customer’s business, an apology for the bad experience, and an explanation saying the situation is being taken care of or has already been handled.
“It acknowledges that you’ve heard their issues and the legitimacy of their complaint,” Merrell says.
However, if someone is “trolling” you — trying to get a negative reaction out of you to take down your business on purpose — it’s best to give a simple response and then move on. Don’t let it escalate, she says.
Steve Nicastro is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @StevenNicastro.