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As many of you know, I do a fair amount of consulting for clients using social media especially Facebook and Twitter. I’ve helped dozens of businesses set up and maintain Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.

More and more, I see businesses using personal profiles to promote their businesses. Bad idea! Facebook will eventually shut down your account, without warning, embarrassing you and erasing all your efforts to build your brand with your customers.

A personal profile page must carry the name of a real person and the legit way to promote your business is with a business page. However, many businesses don’t do this out of ignorance, or intention. Local marketing firms that advise clients on social media (and ought to know better) are misusing profile pages, as well as local media.

You see, it’s much harder to collect “fans” for a business page than it is to collect “friends” for a profile page. The only way a business can get fans is for existing fans to recommend the business to their own friends. However, a business using a personal profile page can reach out and solicit “friends.” This makes the tough work of social media marketing much easier, but it’s an abuse of the system and degrades the experience for everyone.

Facebook is about people and relationships between them. Commerce is secondary and to prove your business’ worth, you need to get your fans talking about you. From a practical standpoint, Facebook is concerned about businesses overrunning the network with “friend requests” to push products and services.

There’s nothing wrong with using Facebook to push products and services, of course. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.

I’d compare it to being at a cocktail party or backyard barbecue. If someone in a business uniform asks you for a moment of your time and starts saying why you should have lunch at their restaurant, you’d get annoyed of course. However, if you were talking to a friend of yours and they said, “Hey, I found this great place for lunch” or “I’m now doing marketing for this great lunch place,” that’s more in keeping with the purpose of the event. If you bug your friends with this too much, you won’t have them for long. This keeps the element of personal accountability very much in play.

Facebook is becoming a backyard barbecue at which businesses are piling out of the van, handing out leaflets and pushing their products. If you are a business, promote yourself the legit way: Set up a fan page. Put your name, or the name of a representative, out there to promote you correctly. Give people a reason to talk about your brand and your product and they will reward you by becoming a fan. And, you will avoid the nasty surprise of finding your Facebook account deactivated – and it will happen when Facebook monitors make it to this corner of the world.