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)
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.
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….
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.
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!