It’s Facebook Friday — each week we’ll offer one tip for leveraging Facebook to increase customer awareness of and engagement with your brand or business.

Privacy is one of the biggest buzzwords in social media. As people become more attached to their online networks and services, they have also become more aware of the importance of protecting themselves. Unfortunately, this concern for privacy can sometimes manifest in irrational claims about when and how a social media entity can access personal data.

Many people are concerned about guarding their privacy or having information shared without their knowledge. The worries about businesses buying up individuals’ data is one of the more rampant accusations, and it is important for a brand on social media to assuage those concerns.

Deserved or not, Facebook is often named as a top offender in terms of questionable privacy policies. The company has responded with ever-evolving features for its members aimed at giving them more control over their profiles, but it has not been able to shake the doubts about some of its popular internal features, especially from users who can’t be bothered to learn more about it. Facebook Ads, single sign-on, and Facebook Comments are some of the lightning rods for customer concerns.

While these tools are all useful for brands, a large portion of the general public is skeptical about using them. Here’s a breakdown of some of the more controversial Facebook features. You can then decide whether the benefits of these features are worth the cost to your audience.

Facebook Ads

The misunderstandings about how Facebook supports itself with ad revenue have been a source of constant unhappiness among the network’s casual users.

To get their message in front of the most relevant audience, brands can pay to display ads for Facebook members who’ve listed specific interests on their profiles. This approach of targeting ads has sparked concerns from the network’s general audience that their personal information is being sold. Facebook has said that companies do not themselves get access to any information from users’ profiles, although it is a little uncanny to see ads based on your specific Page Likes or even your relationship status.

Despite the concerns about privacy invasion, Facebook Ads have proven wildly successful. The interaction rate for those ads increased 46 percent during the recent holiday shopping season. If your company makes smart choices in how to target your audience, you can improve your odds for a successful campaign despite the public suspicion aroused by the feature. And in this era, it’s on the user to be aware of what he or she is signing up for.

Single Sign-On

On the surface, being able to connect accounts for social media and online services across the web and mobile apps seems like a great idea. It means fewer passwords to remember and the possibility for a more personalized experience. But with the rash of high-profile security breaches, more and more people are skeptical of how safe that system really is. And beyond the potential for a devastating hack or identify theft, concerns about access to member information rears its head again with this feature.

The lack of understanding among Facebook’s general audience is severe enough that people may refuse to use a new service that requires single sign-on. At this point, the risk to users seems to outweigh interest in a new product, so your brand may be better served by launching its own sign-on system. It may require some extra investment of resources and responsibility, but it also frees your company from the explicit tie-in to a network with a dubious history in ethics and privacy.

There are some advantages to Facebook sign-on if you offer any number of unique social features. Unfortunately, there’s no way around using it if you want to take advantage of Facebook’s full suite. But consider whether this is really worth it, and if you do use it, provide a clear disclaimer to your customers.

Facebook Comments

This social plug-in allows comments you make on various platforms on the web to be cross-posted to your Facebook profile. With this tool, privacy concerns stem from the amount of effort required for users to monitor how much of their online activity gets posted to Facebook and shared with their friends.

Websites using Facebook comments can also allow their readers to comment with other login providers. Right now, the feature supports comments with Yahoo, AOL, or Hotmail accounts. This gives people an option for keeping their Facebook presence separate, while still being involved with other online activities.

If your brand already has a successful platform for commenting such as Disqus or Livefyre then switching over to Facebook Comments may be more trouble than you need. Yes, there is the possibility that you’ll get some extra exposure from these shared comments, but do you want it if it’s accidental?

For companies looking to launch their first commenting system, be sure to consider how much of your audience is active on Facebook before installing this plug-in. Brands with an even split of Facebook and Twitter users run the risk of alienating the Twitter fans by prominently favoring another network. If you have a base that’s highly active on your website and your Facebook Page, then this feature is probably a better fit.

Have you found any Facebook tools to be more harmful than helpful? Let us know in the comments!

[Image credits: Liz Jones, Stefan Kloo, Tory, Garry Knight]