For small businesses, the conventional wisdom today is that social media have become the best way to reach out to potential and current customers, and that companies need to be out there participating actively on Facebook and other social sites. After all, that's where consumers are, right?
I've never been a big fan of the social networking site, and that feeling increases with each passing day. For small businesses, however, the benefits of using it are uncertain at best. The truth is, there are several reasons why the popular social network is not the right place for small businesses, and especially young ones. Here are just three of them.
1. It's Stressful for Consumers
A recent study of some 200 students at Scotland's Edinburgh Napier University has found that Facebook users are feeling stressed out by the site, particularly when they have a large number of friends on it.
Specifically, some 12 per cent of the 175 respondents to the study's online survey reported that Facebook makes them feel anxious, and they reported having an average of 117 friends on the site. The remaining 88 per cent -- with an average of only 75 friends each -- said that Facebook did not make them feel anxious.
Those who did feel stressed by Facebook reported feeling guilty and uncomfortable when rejecting friend requests, and even actively disliking receiving new friend requests. They also noted a feeling of pressure to be entertaining, but said they were afraid to stop using the site for fear of missing important social information or offending contacts.
"Like gambling, Facebook keeps users in a neurotic limbo, not knowing whether they should hang on in there just in case they miss out on something good," said Dr. Kathy Charles, a lecturer in the university's School of Health & Social Sciences who led the study.
The study in question may have been small, but it's got to make you wonder: Is this really the right place to promote my business? It could be akin to delivering a sales pitch in a casino.
2. You're Hard to Find
Facebook may allow consumers to "like" your business or even to become your "friend," but that's not likely to happen unless they know about you already. If they aren't already familiar with your business, they're not likely to discover it on Facebook.
That's why the site is not a great place for young businesses trying to drum up business, as pointed out recently in a Startup Foundry blog post. In fact, Facebook is "a sinkhole for startups," the post asserts. "Facebook pages will do nothing for you in the first 0-6 months of your startup post-launch."
Instead, Twitter is a much better place for young companies because of the way it helps companies and potential customers find each other, as the post notes. You can search out potential customers using relevant keywords, and you can begin a conversation. That's much more effective.
3. Privacy and Security
Anyone who has ever used Facebook is all too familiar with the many privacy and security issues that have plagued the site over the past year or so, and the same is true in spades of its Facebook Messages service. It's one thing for consumers to take these risks, but quite another for businesses.
Of course, risk-taking can make sense when the potential rewards are worthwhile. In the case of Facebook, however, they just aren't. For business purposes, your time and energy are better spent elsewhere.
Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk .