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Guest Blog: Business, Personal Views Don’t Mix

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I wasn’t an early adopter of Facebook but I certainly wasn’t one of the last. I actually first joined to increase contact with my aging parents who were early adopters. But I had also been reading (in virtually every trade magazine) about how important, from a marketing standpoint, having a Facebook presence was.

So I got started a number of years ago and after only a very short period of time I found that most of my Facebook friends were other jewelers. Now this shouldn’t be too surprising as, after years of being on the Orchid newsgroup, I had developed quite a few friendships and acquaintances with other jewelers. And I guess it is inevitable to some extent that people in a similar trade should have a lot of mutual friends which would lead to more contacts on Facebook with others in the trade. But I quickly realized from a marketing standpoint that this was ridiculous. I mean, I’m never going to sell any other jeweler my goods (especially since I don’t wholesale what I make), so how was this a good marketing medium? Sure I’d post a picture or a link to my latest blog article and a few other jewelers would comment on it but how was this going to actually help my bottom line?

Of course the obvious answer then was to make a concerted effort to get my customers to friend me. But this got a lot trickier. First of all I had some amount of personal information on there (and no it was not pictures of me falling down drunk somewhere — I’m too old for that!) and I don’t think that most of my customers need to know some of those things about me unless I personally choose to tell them face to face. However more importantly, it quickly became apparent to me that many of my Facebook friends were using Facebook as a political forum. And since I am actively outspoken on all things political, I was using it that way too and I really don’t believe in mixing politics and business. It hardly ever makes for good business. Consequently, I set up a Facebook fan page for my business but pointedly refused to “friend” customers unless I was 100 percent certain that nothing I said on Facebook was going to disturb them.

Unfortunately, I am seeing many people who are using Facebook as both a marketing medium and a personal political forum. While many of the retailers out there can probably afford to lose a few customers, I just am not sure I understand why they would want to take the risk. And the kinds of problems that can occur became unbelievably clear to me in a recent interaction with someone on Facebook.

He is not a “friend” of mine but a friend of a friend, and he runs a business that other jewelers use. He chose to make some political comments decidedly opposed to my own on a mutual friend’s posting. And I confess to going a little over the top ballistic over his comments (the anonymity of the web tends to lead to these types of things happening). The problem here is that he has friended a number of jewelers who may be, or might already be, his customers and he has a limited customer base because he is really only selling to jewelers.

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Now I have to confess his business has a sterling reputation, however his interaction with me left me with the feeling that I would never use his services in any way because I do believe in working with people who I respect in all ways. They don’t have to think the way I do but they have to at least leave me with the impression of neutrality if they don’t (in other words they shouldn’t be including their beliefs in their business interactions with me). Nor would I feel comfortable about recommending him to other jewelers because of this.

So this Facebook as a marketing thing can lead to a very slippery slope. I think jewelers have to make a very clear decision about how exactly they are going to use their social mediums and stick to one thing or the other with it. It takes so little now to create an uproar over one simple misstatement and the news of it spreads so quickly that it is simply not worth the risk. After all, while some of us might be able to afford to lose a few customers, how many of us really want to?


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