Facebook has become an integral part of life, and more and more business owners realize each day that it offers huge potential for connecting with potential prospects. But not everyone is doing it in the best possible way.

Every day I see well-meaning business owners making mistakes in how they are going about promoting themselves on Facebook. Not knowing the “rules of engagement” hurts their reputation and pushes away clients. While many faux pas can be forgiven and forgotten, not knowing how and who to tag is one of the costliest mistakes a business can make on Facebook. Nothing will get you ‘unfriended’ or even blocked faster than tagging people the wrong way.

And, by the way, I am talking about businesses that unknowingly make these tagging mistakes. When it comes to someone clearly misusing the system, savvy Facebook users have even less tolerance. Your posts can get reported as spam and you might end up with your account suspended.

I have to be honest— it’s rare that I see business owners cross the boundaries of the appropriate Facebook behavior on purpose. It’s usually caused by a desire to promote their business and a lack of understanding of basic social media etiquette.

While there is no such thing as hard and fast rules for social media, and guidelines keep changing as the platforms and their features evolve, there are still some essential accepted guidelines for tagging on Facebook that every business owner should know.

Let’s start by defining what tagging is. When you ‘tag’ someone, you are creating a link to their profile. It is different from simply mentioning someone by name because with a tag (1) you can click on the name and go to their profile, (2) your post may be added to the person’s timeline (depending on their settings), and (3) your post becomes visible to the friends of a tagged person.

You can tag in posts, status updates, pictures, videos, links, and comments. You can tag your ‘friends’ on Facebook, as well as people in your groups. And besides tagging people you can also tag certain pages, events, and apps.

Tagging is very easy and it is simply done by typing someone’s name in the status or comment box and selecting the right name from the drop-down menu that shows up:

How to Tag Someone on FacebookHow to Tag Someone on Facebook

Tagging has many great uses for business. You can tag your team in the photos to showcase them. You can tag JV partners in a post when you are promoting them. You can tag a colleague to bring them into an ongoing conversation as an expert. You can tag event participants in the photos from the event. You can tag people or pages in acknowledgment when you are sharing their content. Or you can tag to give credit to someone for their ideas, help, or support.

Facebook tagging has many great uses for business, when used properly (Click to Tweet!)

There are endless positive and appropriate reasons to tag, but you will notice that they all have one thing in common—there is a very apparent reason behind the tag.

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The downside of the tagging feature is that you cannot prevent being tagged on Facebook. You can choose to review tags before they appear on your timeline, you can hide the posts you were tagged in from your timeline, or you can remove the tags (but not your name) from posts. But there is nothing you can do to block people from tagging you in the first place beside unfriending or blocking them.

Let’s take a moment to review some of the inappropriate tagging behaviors that will make you appear ‘spammy’:

1. Do not tag motivational quotes or similar posts with multiple random people.

Yes, it’s a fact—by tagging 50 people in your photo, you are hugely increasing the reach of your post because it becomes “visible” to all of the friends of people that you tagged. No, you should never use this method to increase your Facebook reach. For example, doing it once a year to wish a “Happy New Year” to all of your clients is OK. But if you are doing it on a regular basis with a sole purpose of getting more views on your posts, stop it immediately! It’s a classic spammer technique that you don’t want to be known for.

FB Etiquette: Do not tag motivational quotes with multiple random people. (Click to Tweet!)

 2. Do not tag people or pages to imply endorsement.

Tagging should not be used to solely promote yourself, your business, or your services. Do not tag people who have a higher reach or more influence simply to get more attention to your promo. This kind of tagging essentially puts an advertising link on a person’s timeline for your product. Being tagged in a pitch without permission and without any sales or affiliate relationship creates a false endorsement and violates basic principles of doing business. Don’t do it!

Just this week I had a business owner tag me (and about 10 other unsuspecting people) in a blatantly promotional sales pitch about his special program. I contacted him to ask why I was tagged and to let him know that I had no interest in using, promoting, or endorsing his program. His response … “It’s OK. I am very passionate about my program, so I want to share it with all of your friends anyway.” Hmmm … No. That is definitely not an acceptable marketing technique. That’s not the way to do business on Facebook (or anywhere else for that matter).

FB Etiquette: Do not tag people or pages to imply endorsement. (Click to Tweet!)

3. Do not tag people to get their attention to your offer.

Whether it’s a new program, book, class, or something else you are trying to promote, do not tag people to attract their attention to it. I see it all the time—business owners uploading a picture of a flyer advertising their upcoming event, webinar, or program and tagging every other business owner they know to invite them. This kind of tag is usually done without any ill intent, but in essence, it’s a variation of rule #2 discussed above. People don’t like being associated with an event or an offer without a prior conversation, and tagging them does just that.

Instead, you can send a private message, you can send an email with the link to your post, you can create a Facebook event and invite people to it, or you can even mention someone’s name in the comment under your post. It’s all much better than tagging people directly in the post.

The rule of thumb is—if your post is self-promotional, there is usually no reason to tag other people in it unless they are part of your event or your team.

FB Etiquette: Do not tag people to get their attention to your offer. (Click to Tweet!)

Quite simply, think before you tag. If you don’t, you can quickly lose not only the trust of your Facebook friends but also loads of followers and fans.

FB Etiquette: Think before you tag. (Click to Tweet!)

Do you use tags to promote your business? Please share your examples for what you think works and what doesn’t when it comes to tagging on Facebook.

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Alina Vincent
Business and Technology Strategist and CEO at Business Success Edge
Alina Vincent is a business strategist and the creator of a popular "Profitable Online Challenges" program. Alina is passionate about helping entrepreneurs package and monetize their knowledge and expertise to create a leveraged and scalable business. Experts hire her for strategic advise and simple step-by-step approach to creating successful online programs, engaged Facebook communities, and profitable online challenges. Finding her zone of genius by combining a strong analytical background, which includes advanced science degrees, with creative vision, Alina works at the intersection of logic and imagination, giving her clients everything from practical research-driven systems and strategies, to creative original and intuitive solutions.