Everyone makes it sound so simple. “Draft your content and put it on Wikipedia.” “Everyone who is anyone has a presence on Facebook.” And I guess it is simple…if you don’t care what the end result looks like. But to use either tool – or any social media tool to build your web presence – the right way takes planning, time, an infinite amount of patience, and a little HTML knowledge (or some good sites to go to for help), as well as a bit of willingness to give up some flexibility in how you are presented online and how you can use these tools.

I just finished both, a little roughed up by the processes, but I will be okay after a weekend of relaxing, not looking at either site, not even to look up new information on Tudor history or chatting with my favorite friends, and a couple of glasses of wine.  This piece discusses some issues I came across working on both, and hopefully it will provide you with pointers and information to make the process a bit easier for you as you embark on these tasks.

Facebook

You know that Facebook was not built for business use, right? Right. It was built for people to connect on a personal level and communicate with each other. But companies and organizations all over the world are using Facebook for this exact purpose. Facebook’s 500 million users seem not to mind; Facebook has even created “Business Pages” for companies to use. “Business Pages” allow you to set up a local business page, a page for a brand, product or organization, as well as an artist, band or public figure page. You also have the option of setting up a “Community Page” or a “Facebook Group Page.”

Again, it seems easy enough. But you need to keep a couple of things in mind:

  • If you don’t want your “Business Page” to be connected to your personal Facebook account, you will need to set up a dummy account. Facebook doesn’t really like people doing this. Facebook also doesn’t want you to set up multiple “Business Pages” under various accounts, or having a number of accounts connected to one e-mail. But it really doesn’t give you much of a choice. Dummy accounts may create confusion among people who try to look you up to send you a friend request.
  • You have some tough choices to make in choosing which type of page you want to create and with each choice you are giving up something in terms of the kind of information you want to convey. Each page is set up differently and has different functionality. For example, the “Facebook Group Page” allows you to communicate directly to your “fans,” but the others don’t. However, the “Facebook Group Page” probably isn’t the best choice for more traditional companies. They will want to post business hours, website links, press releases, etc., and you can do that with the Facebook Group Page, but you may need to build some FBML pages and kind of Jerry-rig it to make it work for you. I don’t think it gives you the clean professional, corporate feel you may need. If that is not your organization’s goal, that’s fine, but if it isn’t, you may have to give up communicating with fans beyond the wall postings.
  • Once you choose the kind of page you want and set it up, it gives you set tabs to use for inputting information, but you also have the option of creating custom FBML pages. I found these immensely helpful, but it did take some playing around with them to get it to work for me. You will also need some understanding – or have someone around who has some understanding – of HTML. Facebook Markup Language (FBML) enables you to build full Facebook Platform applications. You can make changes to the profile, profile actions, Facebook canvas, News Feed and Mini-Feed options. FBML is an evolved subset of HTML with some elements removed, and others that are specific to Facebook. I found that using straight HTML worked for me. But I understand it and how it works, and I sleep with a web developer, so I had free help to do the things I couldn’t do on my own.
  • You can delete Tabs on Facebook, according to what you will need and use on a regular basis.
  • You can create protection settings to prevent people from posting links, pictures, etc., which is good. They can still comment but they can’t post jokes or something to the page and you don’t get their updates.
  • Oh, and if your company changes their name – and this does happen – you will have to delete the old page and create a new one. Facebook doesn’t allow major edits to business pages. Crazy, isn’t it? Oh, and they don’t have tool to help you migrate fans either. You will just have to keep posting and reminding people on the old page to go and become a fan of the new one.
  • Here are some sites I used to pull a “Business Page” together:

Facebook needs to do better. It seems pretty shady to me to rake in ka-zillions of dollars from companies using the tool, but not allowing them the flexibility to do what they need to do. I am not advocating allowing companies to spam people. I also know I should have limited expectations from something I am using for free. But why not have a tool to migrate fans seamlessly? Why not allow edits to pages without creating a new one?

Wikipedia

The online encyclopedia. Again, it seems like the perfect place to increase your online presence and simple enough – type up some marketing and communications-division-speak, allow your c-level employees to add their spin, give it a good scrubbing by your legal department and post it to the site, right?

And you later discover that the article was deleted.

Or you write an article and post it, only to have some anonymous person post information – along with a news article, a PDF with legal documents connected with the situation, and photos – of a PR nightmare the company endured five years ago that you thought the world have forgotten about. You try to delete it, and you are contacted by the Wikipedia folks because deleting that information is a big no-no, since there are solid sources on the topic and not a total lie. In fact, it is completely true.

Wikipedia is for posting bare-bones information and facts, with plenty of sources such as news articles, web links and links to other Wikipedia articles. It is not a forum for marketing-speak, and it is not a free advertising or public relations tool.

There is plenty of information on how to write a good Wikipedia article and avoid trouble. Before writing anything, or even presenting the idea to a client or manager, I would thoroughly do my research and present them with the facts on Wikipedia. Yes, this includes admitting the negative aspects of being on the site, as well as the positive. It is also a good idea to have a plan in place for how to handle negative information posted to the article, and edits made by some well-meaning person with nothing to do. You can go in and make changes to obvious grammar and spelling errors or things that are flat out lies. Vandalism is usually caught quickly and taken care of by the fine folks at Wikipedia. But anything else may land you in hot water. You can post information to counter or refute negative items written into the article, but here you tread a fine line as well.

I have more of an understanding and appreciate for the strict rules Wikipedia has in place, than the ridiculous hoops you have to jump through to get a Facebook page to work for your company. I love Wikipedia and I can spend hours reading articles on the site. I go there for information, with a healthy dose of skepticism because I know anyone can go in and make an edit, but if I wanted spin, I would go to an organization’s website or news outlets that favor them. I don’t expect to drink corporate kool-aid on Wikipedia.

Some helpful tips for posting an article to Wikipedia:

  • Have some understanding, or someone close by with some understanding or thorough knowledge, of HTML. Wikipedia uses its own version of HTML, but it works the same way.
  • Search for organizations like yours, sort through the good and the bad articles, and if you see something you like, click on the edit box to grab code to use for your own article.
  • The code you grab from another page may not be completely flexible for your needs. Again, it helps to have someone close by who knows HTML, or to have some understanding of it yourself.
  • Copy and paste isn’t always your friend. It can be your absolute worst enemy.
  • If you have quite a bit of information to post, and lots of links, have them on hand in a Notepad page. DON’T USE WORD. This helps a BIT with the cut and paste issue. But be careful.
  • Take your time. Don’t rush this. It is not as quick and easy as you think.

I’m glad I did both. I learned a lot and I am proud of the results. But it wasn’t easy. Luckily, both sites provide a lot of information on how to set up these pages and Wikipedia’s information is far superior to Facebook. T here is also a wealth of information online.

Good luck!

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