STOP Using Facebook!

By: Shama Kabani

That’s exactly what I want to say to a lot of people misusing and abusing Facebook right now-just stop! I do a lot of social media marketing for our clients and know many colleagues (Dave Evans, Chris Brogan, and Nancy Marmolejo for example) who do it well. The Marketing Zen Group was also one of the first companies to tout the benefits of social media for marketing…especially marketing using Facebook.

Now, I am just mad. I see more and more people on Facebook misusing and abusing the trust of others. Yes, this post is my first official rant on this blog. It’s also my way of trying to educate those who are really MISSING the mark here! This post may not be for those who are easily offended. You may note that it is also not my usual style of writing. However, I feel this MUST be said.

1) Facebook is a RELATIONSHIP Marketing Tool- This is key. I can’t stress it enough. You can use Facebook to create, build, and nurture relationships. DO NOT use it to send “buy my products and services” messages. That’s called spam. Use Facebook to build communities, nurture trust, and find mutually beneficial opportunities. Don’t use it to add random people, pretend that they are friends, and then try to sell them something.

Take a look at a friend request I just received:

Are you kidding me? You want me to not only add you as a friend but REMEMBER to contact you if I ever need to find a house in DC? (I live in Dallas!)

I would MUCH rather this person had said “We have 13 mutual friends. I’d love to see if I can ever be of assistance to you. I noticed you do X type of work.”

This would then lead to a conversation about their business. Perhaps we would share multiple conversations, get to know each other’s businesses, and become strong referral sources. I seriously doubt that is going to happen with this individual now.

2) Avoid those Who Promise you Thousands of Dollars Overnight from Facebook.  This isn’t always easy but please do your research. I see people coming out of the woodwork daily to jump on this “hot new Facebook trend”…and then make promises they can’t deliver. (A note to such folks: How can you call yourself social media consultants when you haven’t been on Facebook for more than 2 months AND how can you sleep at night when you are leading people astray and causing them to ruin their brands?) Recently, a group called Internet Marketing University came about. Now, I don’t know the founders so I can’t say whether they really know their stuff or not. I DO however know that I got hundreds of new Facebook “friend requests” from members of the group. All with a personal message along the lines of: ” Hey, as part of my learning process with the Internet Marketing University, I am trying to add as many new friends as I can to my network. Join in!” EXCUSE ME?! What I read: “Hi, the Internet Marketing University is showing me how to spam people but first I have to build my list of people I can spam. So go ahead and give me permission.” I don’t think so.

There is another group called “FaceBook Phenomenon: MAKE 5000 FRIENDS IN 30 DAYS!.” An intelligent looking lady has started this group. She has been gaining “friends” by sending this message:

“I cried the other night…My husband says Facebook networking doesn’t work. Please ADD ME AS A FRIEND”

I’ll let you be the judge of that.

3) Facebook is NOT about building your list. Adding friends on Facebook is NOT the equivalent of a building a permission based eZine list. If I add you as a friend, it DOES NOT give you the permission to spam me or send me “buy my product” messages. I am almost considering starting a black-list for people on Facebook who are abusing it. This doesn’t mean that you can’t invite people to subscribe to your blog or join your list through your profile page. I do both and it works because I respect people’s choices-as I believe ANY marketer worth their salt should do.

4) Don’t throw a sheep at me…or send me a kiss…or BUY me! There are some fun application on Facebook, but they aren’t appropriate for every person. The only reason you should send me a virtual kiss is IF you are my significant other or best friend. If you just added me as a friend through a professional connection or for networking reasons, don’t ruin it. Don’t throw sheep at me or poke me. That’s not how adults who are looking to use Facebook to network and help each other play. To that end, I will add that they ARE fun applications that are acceptable. I have received virtual flowers that “grow” on my profile many times from colleagues and friends. That’s a very nice way to make a connection. So, watch your boundaries and keep it professional!

5) I know you mean well, so please learn from the RIGHT experts. I realize that most people making these awful, personal brand killing mistakes on Facebook probably mean well. Most aren’t out scam. Many probably provide quality service and products. However, the mistakes are ruining reputations. Please learn from the right experts. Learn from blogs, books, and people you trust. Use your good sense. A good rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t do it while meeting a person face-to-face, don’t do it online.


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  • Carol Dickson-Carr

    Brava! Great post, and what an eye-catching title, Shama. It certainly made me want to go read your rant, and a well-warranted rant it is.

    The interesting thing is that in having social network conversations (with people locally) a lot of people don’t really know better and are quite embarrassed when they realize their faux pas.

    But of course there are others who DO know better and do it deliberately. Shame on them, I say.


  • Hanif Rehman

    Great post again Shama, however, do you think as professionals we would be better engaged in conversing on Xing.Com or LinkedIn?

    The reason for my query is that you have cited ‘That’s not how adults who are looking to use Facebook to network and help each other play’ Facebook is not just used by adults the application is heavily used by teenagers, for them the norms of engagement with other people would be via a ‘poke’ or send a sheep or so forth, this I think is acceptable as the networking WORKS for them and makes it personal.

    Applications such as ‘Zombies vs Werewolves’ have had the greatest impact on facebook, generated countless revenue for the developers and used by numerous users. Though I concur with you, I too dont want to be tainted with such applications. My profile compared to a young teenager is pretty bland.

    I think thats the great thing about Web 2.0 and each of us can control how each and every single application can or should interact with others.

    Kindest regards,

    Hanif Rehman

  • Jonathan Fields

    Woohoo! Go Shama, never thought I’d actually hear a rant coming from you. But, I have to agree.

    Regardless of the social media platform, every interaction starts with a conversation, not a whack in the head from a total stranger.

    Engage and give long before you expect to receive and everything else will find it’s place.

  • Amanda

    Oh Shama, you are my hero! Thank you for sticking your neck out and voicing your opinions. I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, it will only get worse as Facebook grows.

  • Neil

    I would buy you a drink on Facebook for that. Lol! Great way to set people straight. Facebook book is going through the same cycle every new communication does, especially online.
    1. Novelty & Trust
    2. Filtered communication
    3. All out Nazi white list, opt in only messaging

  • Debra Felske

    Loved your title. Scared me a little as I just started on FB a month ago. Great info on being professional and not offending your new “friends”. If I asked you to play Knighthood with me, I’m sorry, but I got instantly addicted to that one. :)

  • Shama

    Jonathan and Carol- Thanks so much for the kudos. I was a little nervous about posting this, but I hate when good marketing goes bad.

    Hi Hanif- Good question. I see LinkedIn as much more static. I am not sure about Xing. Facebook, I still believe, is a GREAT platform. You can really reach out to people- like you can’t on Linked In. FB is much more user friendly to me. I am not going to stop using it because it is a great tool. But like all tools-it has it’s own rules of use. That’s why I wrote this post. There are just as many professionals on FB as college students. There aren’t too many teenagers on it compared to MySpace. Overall, like you said, it’s a web 2.0 tool, and like all tools-we have to make sure we leverage it in the right way.

    Amanda- Welcome to my blog. = ) I appreciate the support. You are right-it probably will. I feel it’s my job to more or less help educate innocents! Just call me the bad marketing slayer. (horrible use of reference to Buffy!)

    Neil- hahah! very cute. You have it down pat it seems!

  • Mari Smith

    Terrific post, Shama!!! I echo your sentiments wholeheartedly!! It does completely puzzle me how some professionals can be so blind as to think the way to do business on social networks is to go bang on someone’s door and say, “HEY! I have an idea! Let’s get married and have kids!!” Ugh!! No thanks, dude. Have you ever heard of dating?

    Two thumbs up for championing professional conduct on FB!

  • Vicky

    Nice one. I too get very frustrated with the many bad applications that get sent my way. Like you I don’t mind some of them from family but really don’t want some stranger sending me inappropriate items.

  • Zoey Jordan

    I love this post. I have been touting the benefits of FaceBook on my blog and encouraging my friends, family, and professional colleagues to join and use it…but respectfully. I have mixed feelings about the crazy applications that get sent my way, but I remind myself that when you expand your network so broadly, you can’t assume that your boundaries or ideas of what’s appropriate or not, apply to the full spectrum.

    I try to use FaceBook to make meaningful connections. Like Ann, I was schooled on “relationship building” and think it’s a process, and hopefully an honest endeavor at that. I don’t believe in acting like one of those “in your face” infomercial personalities, whether online or in 3-D.

    I too have hit my limit with the “join my group so I can make $1million dollars using FaceBook.” I’ve un-joined several groups that cloaked themselves as something different than they really were. Using FaceBook to build your personal brand and being upfront with why you’re there is something I value in the folks I’m networking with on FB.

    Thanks for addressing this topic!

    Zoey Jordan

  • Ann Rusnak ~ The Time Diva

    I echo all the sentiments above. My hat’s off to you for your tell it like its tone of this article.

    Some people just don’t get it. There will always be that person at the networking event shoving business cards in everybody hands. Yelling buy from me… buy from me.

    The great thing about Facebook and Twitter is the ability to block and unfriend them. Wish that option was available in real life.

    My mentor taught me that business are built on the relationships. Yes it takes time to develop a relationships.

    Relationships are an investment.

    Ann Rusnak
    “The Time Diva”

  • Ghaith

    hi, i like ur post, to use facebook for marketing it has to be done in non intrusive way. i have many facebook group invites most of them i do not join bc they r on silly topics. people who has been in facebook for a while mostly ignore group invites unless they care about the topic, though you can market your group through creating a flayer. and thus reach the eyes of the users.

  • Trisha Cupra, Web Design Watchdog

    Hi Shama,

    Great post. I started using Facebook yesterday.

    I’d feel really uncomfortable trying to push my friends to buy something off me. If they actually needed what I offer, I would offer a friendly suggestion, but never spam them. Facebook for me is all about making friends and being, well, friendly. :)

    I reckon if you wouldn’t write that message on your mother’s wall, don’t write it on mine. :)

    Now, I’m off to invite you to be my friend on Facebook.

  • Sandra Sinclair

    Oh, thank you for posting about this. I get so much spammy stuff, especially in my groups where I have expressly asked people to contribute before selling. I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve had to remove from discussion boards, because I want to give people a clear space to share comments, questions and answers without having to wade through a bunch of spam.

    This is all because people just don’t understand how to use Facebook properly, like you said. They hear about what a great place it is to market your business, and then they sign up and market their business the old-fashioned way– interruption marketing within a new social marketing paradigm.

    Social marketing is actually an old paradigm if you really think about it- getting to know someone before selling to them, do unto others, etc.

    Eventually, FB users will get jaded with this type of spamming, which makes it harder for the good guys. But I believe that if you’ve established a good reputation early on, you can move past some of that. Also, eventually these spammers will sputter out and leave FB, since what they do won’t work, leaving the people with solid reputations in the end.

  • Annie B Lawrence

    Great post Shama. I am also new to facebook and have started a group. It is easy as a new person on the block to get sucked into the energy to build a quick list of friends but like you said it doesn’t mean that they are ture friends. It means you have a list of names. Much better to build relationships. Thanks for your guidance, and professional advise.

  • Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D.,

    Shama, this needed to be said. Thanks for putting it so powerfully.

    Like any other social marketing tool, Facebook can be a great way to meet and connect with like minds. Although I’m fairly new to it, I soon exercised my freedom to Ignore invitations, Delete some threads, and say No to some friendship requests.

    I don’t even want to be poked in person, must less virtually by a complete stranger.

    As for the Help me Get a Zillion Friends or Show You How to Make Millions Overnight requests, if we thought of them as face-to-face encounters we’d quickly see the desperation and run the other way.

    Thanks again.

  • Shama

    Thank you ALL for such insightful comments. This is the BIG reason I love writing this blog-my amazing readers. You guys manage to completely blow me away every time.

    On that note, PLEASE feel free to befriend me on Facebook. It seems my post has made some of my readers think I won’t accept requests. I will and I do. Just play nice! = )

  • Kevin Nations


    THANKS for breaking this down for the rest of us.

    Build a system for people to share your success in working for them and they’ll make sure you’re recognized…

    PUSH your service on all at the first glimpse and you’ll be recognized too – only as someone to AVOID – not to PURSUE!!!

    Interestingly enough – I also got the same invite with the same ‘offer’ as you did. It’s a LOCALLY based offer and not ANYWHERE NEAR Ohio either.

    Keep sharing your AWESOME insights!

    Kevin Nations ;)

  • cristina

    I am very glad that you wrote all this! I have a question and anyone who knows the answer plz reply :0)
    Do u know how can i stop my registration to the facebook? ?

  • Candis Hidalgo

    Hi Shama – I sat in on your panel at the Blog World Expo in Vegas this past weekend and really enjoyed your advice. After listening to your intelligent points and now reading this blog post (referred here by Twitter), I can see that you will be a new resource for me. Thanks!

  • Marian Hodges

    Hi Shama,

    Amen! I just stumbled upon your post and found it quite refreshing. Ahhh. I am new to Facebook. I only joined because two people that I know very well sent me an invite. Since then I haven’t put any effort into connecting to people as I hadn’t quite decided (okay, made it a priority) to focus on using it as a business building tool…yet.

    How you feel about facebook is how I feel about LinkedIn (but I won’t digress). I share much of the sentiment already expressed by other readers’ comments. On one occasion, I innocently asked the inviter (of a generic message) to jog my memory of how we connect. No response. Hmmm…

    Just joined your Facebook group and looking forward to learning more from you, in between a couple of other ‘new’ projects that I’m working on.