Fan Page or Friends? How to Use Facebook for Business
by Dave Taylor
Confused about how to use Facebook to market your business? Wondering whether you should have a fan page, a group, or just a personal page? Here's advice to help you decide which is right for your business.
It's one of the modern marketing dilemmas facing all companies, whether they're a tiny one-person business or a 100 employee growing concern with offices around the United States: How do you use Facebook as part of your marketing mix?
The stock answer seems to be that you are your brand and so you should be on Facebook and "friend" everyone who likes your business or wants to stay in touch. That's a flawed strategy, though, because in truth you don't really want to be digital friends with your customers or clients, for two reasons. First, it mischaracterizes your relationship, and second because it means that your personal or family posts, photos, status updates and even group "likes" are then shared with everyone. Not good, particularly now as we get closer to election time.
This can be best illustrated with the story of an artist friend of mine. We'll call him Stan. He does illustrations and other art for companies like Lucasfilms and is both popular and quite gifted. When he first joined Facebook a few years ago, he would happily "friend" any fans who found him there and after a while had hundreds of "fan friends". Then his Dad had a health issue that he wanted to share with his friends online so he could get some emotional support, but he quickly realized that all of those fans would see it too. Checkmate. Not good.
His solution is one that I have seen repeated again and again since then: To correct the problem he created an explicit "Stan the Artist" fan page on Facebook, posted multiple times over a few days the invitation for his friends to join it as fans of his art, and also highlighted that he'd be doing a purge of his "friends" to remove people who he didn't actually know.
He pared his Facebook friends list down to just over 100 people, all of whom he knew, and everyone else got the digital boot, to a few complaints, but that was expected. His fan page blossomed from just a few people to over 200 in a matter of a fortnight or so, and he now has a large fan community with whom he can share his latest projects, sketches of work in progress, and individual art that he's offering for sale. And all the while, his personal Facebook page remains a haven for him to share what's going on with him personally and share things that aren't appropriate for the greater public.
There's also a little matter of something called the Facebook Terms of Service. Specifically, it says: "Facebook users provide their real names and information, and we need your help to keep it that way." In other words, creating a Facebook user page for first name "Coca" and last name "Cola" would be a violation of the ToS unless that happened to be your name, which would be a bit peculiar, to say the least!
So what about a Facebook Group? Used to be that a group owner could email everyone in a group on Facebook, but when that capability was removed -- due to too much spam being sent out -- it turned out that the difference between Groups and Fan Pages became fairly minimal. In a nutshell, if you have a business that has fans or customers then you should probably have a Facebook Fan Page to represent it online. If your business is more of a collective, group or shared interest sort of thing (like "coffee lovers") or if you are creating something tied to a specific interest ("Formula-1 racing") then a Facebook Group makes more sense.
Those are the three basic options: Being friends with people who aren't actually your friends (which is a bad idea and, btw, you probably don't care about their lives much and won't want their updates in your newsfeed); creating a group, which works if it's themed around a meeting or interest; or creating a fan page, which is the best option for most small businesses to stay in touch with customers, clients, fans and supporters.
Dave Taylor has been exploring the nooks and crannies of Facebook for many years, and you can find his fan page there at http://www.facebook.com/askdavetaylor You can find his extensive tech help site at http://www.AskDaveTaylor.com/