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Don't ask a new friend to like your Facebook page

On Writing

Don't ask a new friend to like your Facebook page

Stephen H. Provost

If they like me, they’re sure to like my Facebook page!

Right?

Uh, not so much.

I’m active on Facebook, and I’m also interested in marketing, so I have handful – well, maybe three handfuls – of business pages to promote my work.

Other authors and creative types do, too, and I get a lot of friend requests from would-be networkers in my field.

Most seldom, if ever, interact with me online. But more and more of them are sure to do one thing the moment I accept their friend request: They invite me to like their business page.

I used to accept most of these as a sort of favor to build up their egos, but that’s really all it does. I seldom visited these pages after I “liked” them, and I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything based on something I’ve seen there.

That’s the hard reality of Facebook pages: The overwhelming (and I do mean overwhelming) majority of people who like pages do so for the pretty pictures and funny memes. I’ve used pretty pictures and funny memes to accumulate thousands of likes on some pages, even tens of thousands on a few. But do these translate into sales?

Again, not so much.

Still, more and more authors and artists on Facebook seem to have adopted a new commandment. It goes like this: The very first thing thou shalt do when someone accepts thy friend request is invite them to like thy page.  

Unfortunately, this is all kids of stupid.

For one thing, page likes seldom translate into sales. Yes, they will get you exposure, and yes, it can’t hurt. But if you expect to get more than a couple of sales for every thousand likes, you’re deluding yourself.

And more important than that: It’s just plain rude. People who accept friend requests from folks they’ve never heard of, let alone met, are taking a chance. There are a lot of bots, spammers and idiots out there on Facebook, so if you accept a friend request, you’re putting yourself out there. It’s gotten to the point that I don’t accept any requests unless we’ve got mutual friends and the person seems like a real person with at least some common interests.

If it’s someone from Nigeria or Saudi Arabia, a guy with a girl’s name, a “well-endowed” woman with bare-bones profile info ... sorry, but you’re not getting in.

The people who send out instant page requests are none of those things. They’re legitimate Facebook users with credible profiles who obviously don’t realize how intrusive – and presumptuous – they’re being by sending you a page request before so much as bothering to say “hello” on your profile. Imagine answering a knock at the door only to be pushed aside by a “visitor” you’ve never met. He brushes past you, makes his way to your kitchen and says, “Got any beer?”

Same principle.

Another analogy: It’s kind of like the guy in the parking lot who goes around putting leaflets on every car. That hungry landfill down the street might say “thank you,” but will any of the drivers? It’s doubtful. And they sure as hell won’t consider the leaflet-distributor a “friend”!

The instant-page-request strategy would still be rude if it generated business, but I’ve seen no evidence it does that. If I don’t know you, why should I care about your business? It’s far more likely I’ll do business with you if someone else I already know recommends you. You know, word of mouth.

On the other hand, if I’ve known someone for a while, chances are I already know what they’re selling without having to visit their page.

Finally, it’s far easier to build up page likes by spreading those pretty pictures and funny memes than it is by inviting every new friend you make on Facebook. You still aren’t likely to build your business exponentially, but you will increase your reach a lot more quickly and effectively than you can through invitations.

And guess what? It’s not rude. Because when those people like your page, they’re doing so voluntarily, not because you’ve nagged or guilted them into it.

So, please, the next time you’re tempted to send out an immediate page invitation to a new friend on Facebook, stop and think for a moment. Remember: It’s poor way to build a following; page likes don’t translate into big sales; and the person may well think you’re a presumptuous ass – which means she’s unlikely to have a positive impression of what you’re trying to sell.

Think about it. And try, at least for the moment, just being what you said you wanted to be to that person in the first place.

A friend.

Photo by Dave Wild, used under Creative Commons 2.0 license.