Facebook Profiles, Groups and Pages for Business

Facebook: Profiles, Groups & Pages

Getting started as a business on Facebook can be confusing!

For an individual to get started on Facebook is really pretty straightforward, but businesses are often left scratching their heads at what solutions are available to them.

Facebook has three basic functional units: Profiles (for individuals), Groups (for community and interest groups) and Pages (for businesses and intellectual property)

Facebook Profiles

For a “personal”, non-business entity Profiles are the simple easy answer. They are the default method of operation on Facebook and it is just short of impossible to do anything without a profile. Many things that you can create or do (such as these Pages and Groups) are tied to and linked to your profile as well. (You can create a Page without a Profile but be prepared to jump through many hoops.) While it may be tempting to do business from here that is a huge no-no in Facebook’s eyes (and a violation of the Terms of Service (TOS)).

Creating a profile for a business, creating more than one profile for an individual, posting any direct advertising on a profile page, running a contest from a profile, as well as anything that can be even SLIGHTLY considered spammish such as adding too many friends in one day or replying in the same way too too many invites at once… are all grounds for your profile to be banned (which then takes associated Groups/Page access with it).

This does not mean however that Profiles are not an ideal way to network, make friends and connect with other like minded individuals and further business relationships. Because a Page or Group can not have a “friend”, a profile is your only ticket to getting access to another individuals profile wall and thus current status updates. For an example of these you can find my & Nile’s profiles here, however keep reading to understand why we both make more use of our pages than our profiles for early networking.

Facebook Groups

Groups used to be the primary point for interaction among like minded communities on Facebook. They also used to be the most likely opportunity to build some buzz around your area of expertise. While groups based just on a brand did not often fair too well without preexisting name recognition, groups built around areas of interest such as “social media” could often allow a small business to develop a loyal community that they could serve with value and carefully use as a market.

All of that said, you note the “used to” expressions here I’m sure. That’s because Groups have been on (non-official) non-development status for a long time now. They have received no love and do not have access to many of the resources, utilities, features (including no access to Facebook Applications) that they should have. Messages posted on a Group wall do NOT post in the members News Feeds and because of this members will usually join Groups and never return.

So why do I mention them? Because they are the only way on Facebook to form an interest community that you then have access to directly EMAIL (okay, Facebook Inbox email) the individuals “blast style” all at once time. While there is no scheduling of email messages, the ability to send emails directly to the Facebook Inbox of members can be a critical part of some marketing campaigns. However, it must be noted that all marketing done in Groups has traditionally been soft sell, attraction-marketing style because the TOS is incredibly vague as to whether doing business from a Group is permissible. Big businesses shied away from Groups for this reason, and Facebook sought to appease the needs of these businesses by creating….

Facebook Pages

The late-coming to the Facebook Game, Facebook “Fan Pages” were designed with businesses in mind. Their policies are permissive on advertising, marketing, member engagement (except contests which is a sticky problem) and more. Fan Pages are the sexy, younger, high-maintenance sibling with all the neat toys!

This is where a business can get in and develop both their brand and an interactive fan base. The best pages are those that foster brand involvement are are open for members to post on and interact with the business, however businesses can chose to keep all of the postings on the wall as strictly their own too.

Facebook Applications help take a rather sterile looking Facebook platform and bring it to life with color, HTML (technically FBML), javascript, video and social media integration (such as RSS Feeds).  Since Nile (her page) and I (my page) both appear to currently have our FBML Welcome/Landing tabs under development again (to comply with some upcoming changes), I’d like to point you to have a look at Mari Smith’s fan page. Now if you are not already a fan of Mari, when you clicked that link you were redirected to Mari’s Welcome/Landing tab and you can see the high rate of customization as well as the call to action to “Like” the page. In case you were already a fan but wanted to look again at what I’m talking about, here is the direct link. Applications like “Static FBML”, “NetworkedBlogs” and “RSSGraffiti” let you bring pages to life.

There are some downsides though and that is that Pages can not have “friends” and so can not access a individual’s profile directly (although their status updates do appear in the fan’s News Feed), can not post replies off of their own wall (on another Page for example) as the business (only as their own personal profile), and can only send “Updates” to the members which do not go to the members actual Inbox. Also because of the inability to (ever) change a page’s name, it is highly suggested to have a personally branded page even if you chose to make a second business branded one. Think with the end in mind and realize that if your business name ever changes you can not rename the page.

Regardless of the limitations, Pages are essential to building businesses today on Facebook. They are the cornerstone of presenting your business in a professional light, have good SEO, are inviting to the public and their ability to be customized is helpful.

Hopefully this helps you understand the opportunities and tools available to a business on Facebook. While initially it can all feel confusing, once you get used to it there is some method to the madness! Likely over time, as Pages continue to be actively developed on, the few downsides that they presently present will be eliminated. Questions? Thoughts? I look forward to seeing them here and also getting to know you on my page. Drop by and tell me a about you and feel free to share a link to your own Page!


Can You Become Famous On Twitter?

Yes and No. You can have thousands of followers and still be just another John or Jane Doe. It is up to you to brand yourself, engage, and influence.

People are still doing the numbers game, but where is that getting them when they find out a lot of them are empty numbers? – Nothing, that is what!

There are of course celebrities who have made it in the top on Twitter. However, there are people who have made it to the top who worked hard to get there and keep quality followers that they can interact with. It is not easy and I am not famous, but when someone from my area sees a gal from Southern Illinois have 12K in followers, that is a feat. Do I interact? – yes. Have I influenced? – yes, just see who has engaged in converation and who has reached me through Twitter that have used me as their web designer.

However, it is nothing to hugely brag about. I am grateful for the people who have interacted with me, visited my site, commented, and used my free and paid services.

What you should be asking instead of “Can I Become Famous On Twitter?” is Can I Become Successful On Twitter?” That is where you can get proof of how successful you have engaged and influenced online.

Are you seeking fame on Twitter? Are you seeking it through quantity or quality?

Comments Are Important!

I respect Michael Gray, but I cannot agree with his post Why Everyone Should Turn Off Blog Comments. Now, I do keep my post dates and it is a choice. I do not put it in my permalinks. Google will still index your site and tell when your post has been last updated.

Yes, you should create content that is relevant for months and maybe even years to come. Putting the date in your post’s layout is a personal preference. Also putting it in your permalink is, but for SEO, you probably should not unless your site is literally a personal journal. It will do nothing to effect your site’s SEO. Your content will… remember – Content Is King!

If you are not certain about great SEO practices, I recommend reading up on WordPress SEO by Joost de Valk.

Comments are still important. What good will it do if you turn your comments off and your post does not present the best case, especially if you are a competitive blog in your niche. How will you learn and develop more as a site owner, a blogger, and in some cases, a professional?

Your readers might not always have something to say and that is fine. However, when they do, you might like to listen. Of course, they can send you an email through your contact form any time, connect with you on your social network streams, but what about your site? Your site is your headquarters. If you are not encouraging feedback there, what does that do for you – not much.

I am not a person that relies heavily on building my site rank like crazy. I do blog regularly – most might say quite frequently. I love comments. I am not the best at returning as I want to be (and I am working on that), but I have always loved to respond and I love to learn. I also get a chance to connect with others outside the 140 characters.

What Makes An Expert in Blogging And In Your Niche?

Dan Keller covers a great article What Makes Someone An Expert At Blogging. It is funny because this is something that a lot of people will hear covered at social media related conventions. Now, it is not always focused toward being an expert in blogging, but also being an expert in your niche.

In 2009, there was a whole big uproar on Twitter with people running around saying they were a ‘guru’ or ‘expert’ in one thing or another. It was actually happening in such frequency that it was becoming quite annoying and apparent that some kind of definition had to be set.

However, there in lies the problem – how can you define something that is subjective to a person’s views? Where you might think someone is an expert, another might not.

While is might be a good idea to broadcast yourself as an expert, it might seem a bit arrogant to others who might not agree. You can have thousands of followers and subscribers, but are you really influencing them?

That is what an expert does – they influence people. Micah Baldwin once wrote in an article at Mashable called HOW TO: Measure Online Influence:

Influence is defined as “implicit or explicit effect of one thing (or person) on another,” which online can be further simplified to “can someone’s words (and/or video) make you think or do something?” While this certainly can be negative (think of Jim Jones or David Koresh), let’s focus on the positive.

It becomes easier to understand influence when it’s broken down into its core components: Brand, Expertise and Trust. While there is much debate around online branding, it is clear that personal branding is important to online influence.

Are people taking your advice to heart and exercising it on their websites and out in the world? So, as I have been hearing… even if you have influenced 1 person, you are an expert. You can smile and know you made a difference. However, it is nothing to brag about. If you have a blog, obviously you are trying to share what you write with other people. As you influence more people, you are building yourself as an expert in your niche. Chris Brogan is a prime example of an expert. People are taking his advice and using it. They are also crediting him for his efforts. I even have been influenced by him.

So what can you do? Connect and engage in conversation with people. It really is that simple. That is how your small mom and pop local store do it. They build a relationship with their customers. When they do, their customers avoid those big flashy stores, even if they are a few cents cheaper.

To you, what makes a person an expert?

How To Use Social Networking To Build Your Brand

A person’s ambition to succeed can be seen in what they do. Their reputation, and how they interact with others eventually builds a brand. People are doing this everyday online and offline. When you go to work, when you connect with a stranger in the line at the post office, and even when you are out with your family, you are working it, especially if your goal is to reach and influence people.

It takes work. It might even take money. For instance, Kitty Bradshaw had once invested $4,000 into her logo. Now she can throw parties that are sponsored by placed like GAP. As a side note, she also invested a lot of time connecting with other people through her website and social networking handles.

Although it might not cost that much for you, you might be even up doing to enough work time-wise that would equal that price.

Twitter, Facebook, and many other places are a great stage to launch your marketing campaigns, or even just connect with others. It is amazing the amount of people you can talk to within 140 characters.

In order to harness your piece of the pie, you need to sign up and get involved. That is the first and most simple step you will take toward building your brand through social networking.

Make sure you put a picture of yourself that is decent – not the ones you put on MySpace a couple years ago to try to attract a date. Your companies logo is fine, but what if you can bypass that and become the face that people come to recognize for your business rather than just any old image?

Try to connect with people in your niche as well as your target audience. For some people, this might be a wide range of people, but it is important because you could find yourself “unfollowed” quickly because you did not do your work. There are people who thought the follow game meant getting a lot of people. How will that help if the people you failed to check up are spammers and inactive accounts? How will it help if they have nothing to do with your target audience?

Do not be the spam machine! You also do not want to come out with guns blazing full of spam. You will probably focus on putting a lot of material that focuses on your niche. That is alright. However, if you are one to contact people and mass spam – you are more than likely to be reported for spam, blocked, and eventually suspended from use.

It is okay to mention your business to people, but not shove it in their face constantly.

A lot of business owners outside of the Internet do have a good relationship talking to their clients. This is no different online. Kind of hard to do business with your car and life insurance agent if you cannot at least get along with them or even trust them, right? As a customer yourself, you get a thrill when service is over the top and you feel like your business is appreciated. This is what kind of attitude you should have.

How do you use social networking to build your brand? How has it worked for you? Are there any suggestions for people still new to building their presence online?

Are You Really Open Minded To Business Ideas Online?

There are so many types of businesses online. Some are solely Internet based and others involve a little bit of engaging online as well as offline. The problem is that some people do not see the potential or fear to fail.

Before I go further, if you start a business online, do not quit your day job yet! You will need to invest and you also need to make sure you are certain that your online job will give you a steady income that you can actually live off of.

Here are a few different businesses that people can start online, but never thought of it as a business:

Blogging – There are programs out there that you can get paid to blog. There are normal everyday people who have blogged that have made well over $18 K (US dollar) a year! You can also post advertisements. Some popular, yet not hugely mainstream sites will make as little as $400 to $2500 a month on just banner ads. Of course there are other money making options for bloggers too, but some people can literally make a business out of blogging and for them, it might be the easiest job they have ever had.

MLM – Multi-level marketing is big. Amway, Avon, and many other sites have thousands of independent business owners who sell products and also help enable others to become part of the business too. Some of these entrepreneurs will have their own website through their company to help them independently brand themselves online. This takes work as not only does the person have to promote their product, they are also looking for people to recruit – like affiliate marketing.

Your Own Skill – Do you have a skill that people have said that you should probably try selling it – like crafting, web design, or some type of service? You might be surprised. I met a woman on Twitter named Vicki Dehne (@paperbeadgirl) with a wonderful idea about designing and patenting a tool to help people who make crafts to be able to make paper beads more efficiently. For me, I was wowed because I love to make jewelry and this was something I liked to do, but it was a pain to make. Skills and services such as Vicki’s are something that people in the crafting niche would find very valuable.

With so many ways to get your product out there for your business through social networking and your own website, it is possible. I do want to note that no matter how much some of the businesses out there that promise that you will get rich quick, you will not. It takes work and some time. It also can take investing money too, but be smart as well as cautious about what you invest in so you will not come up empty if your business flops. Some people succeed faster than others depending on their time and ambition to succeed.

So, have you been tip toeing into trying your own hand at having some type of business online? Have you tried it, but it might not be working the way you wanted it to? (Why?) Or does the thought of having a business online still seem really intimidating? (Why?)

So You Want to Make a Website: Part 2

So, you want to make a website? Whether business or for personal, there are several general guidelines you should follow. These are made to be flexible for most types of websites, however may not work for everyone. After webmastering several sites for almost 8 years now, these have been guidelines I have followed when creating projects. Some have flopped, and some have succeeded, but these have always been a great guideline to follow.

Because this is so long, I will be breaking it into parts. This is Part 2 of this series. If you missed the other, please read So You Want to Make a Website: Part 1

2. What can you invest into your website?

Will you be able to invest time into your website? Will you be able to invest money into your website? These are important and merely optional depending on the website owner/ webmaster choice in how to bring the site into existence.

Making a website takes time, sometimes even money, especially when having it hosted with a paid web host. If you are unable to design a site, then obviously you will have to invest money into having it designed and coded. Some web designers are cheap and others are expensive, but nevertheless, it is an investment to bringing the site together. The same can be said about web hosting. I actually sell off my server web hosting for as little as $25 a year at Host Solutions, which are perfect for bloggers and my server is geared to support WordPress.

For bloggers in particular, free hosting will only do for so long. As a website owner, you need the control to monitor your site’s success and breaking out on your own is ideal.

In regards to investing time, it can be a very finicky issue. The content will obviously be the main part added once the site has a general layout to portray it. However, it is also the part that takes the most time. You as the website owner will have to take time to put this together, if not, hire a webmaster who can. This can be an issue as some cannot utilize the internet efficiently and have no idea how to add their content, while others may not have the time.

A webmaster can make the changes necessary. Some web designers may even offer Site Maintenance/ Webmaster services. Like web design, it may be expensive or cheap, but make a good choice on someone that is reliable. A hired webmaster who seems like they are hard to contact and get any site updates done in a decent time is not exactly ideal.

Also, for both time and money, how will you get your site out? Do you plan to invest money in advertising, or do you have a lot of friends who can spread the news like wildfire? Getting the word out on a website is not easy. It takes a lot of time, even a lot of money, and even though you could reel in quite a bit of visitors, you have to maintain this, seeking larger areas to reach more of your audience.

Are you still free hosting, but find that your site is quickly becoming popular? What is holding you back from investing in your website? What kind of plans do you have for your website in the near future?

If you already have invested some, is your site succeeding or are there areas that you need to focus on that are not up to your satisfaction?

So You Want to Make a Website: Part 1

So, you want to make a website? Whether business or for personal, there are several general guidelines you should follow. These are made to be flexible for most types of websites, however may not work for everyone. After webmastering several sites for almost 8 years now, these have been guidelines I have followed when creating projects. Some have flopped, and some have succeeded, but these have always been a great guideline to follow.

Because this is so long, I will be breaking it into parts. This is Part 1 of this series.

What is the focus of your website?

Do you want to have a business? Do you want a free entertainment site? Do you want a personal site? This is where you as the website owner/ webmaster have to decide what you want on your website content wise. You could register a domain, buy web space at a webhost, but it is the content you need to have down or at least a nice brainstorm plan for your site-to-be. The content will help you decide the rest of the mood of the website, especially when it comes for your visitors to navigate your site. Without focus, you could have a very disorganized website.

When brainstorming, first list the major areas of the website you wish to have more emphasis. Then, underneath each main category, go into detail of what you want. For example, you might want to consider:

- Will you need a membership script?
- Will you need a content management system?
- How do you want your site designed in order to help brand your business online?
- Will you need to invest money?
- Who do you want to target?
- What do you want to sell?
- What is the purpose of your site?

All of these issues are important when embarking on a new website venture.

Factors like considering what kind of audience your site will reach are extremely important during the brainstorming process. This involves age, gender, personal quirks, ethnicity and more. Obviously a website for dentures may not appeal to a younger audience, while a website of hard core rap may not suit those who are died hard country music fans.

You might want to do a survey to find out what might be best for your website? You might also want to check out sites in your niche that might give you insight what people are expecting and how you can capitalize and make your site both unique and be THE PLACE to go to.

Lastly, what kind of accessibility do you want your site to have. Do you want it totally PC, W3 standard and cross browser compatible, or are you willing to take a few risks to make your site happen?. Although it is best recommended to have a site that is cross browser compatible, not every design and coding technique will allow this to happen. This will always fall back with who you intend on as an audience for your website. It is important in this part of the process to keep in mind cross browser compatibility and try to apply as much as you can to your site.

What factors have helped you determine your site’s focus? What tools or sites do you like to use in order to find out the best way to both target your ideal audience?