[img:1]There are very few certainties in life other than DEATH and TAXES. While neither is happily anticipated, we may be able to add another certainty – the death of the professional-personal profile on Facebook.
In the beginning, Facebook was a way for people to connect, re-connect, and stay-in-touch. It is by far the most widely used form of Social Media on the planet. When its popularity began to grow, companies of all sizes took notice and wondered, plotted, and schemed as to how they could capitalize on this ever growing platform.
Let me just say, if you feel like you cannot keep up with all the changes that Facebook constantly integrates into their platform – you are not alone! From small changes to how you post your status and pictures (that aren’t always attractive) appearing on the top of your page, to the entire layout; it sometimes feels like there is a daily twist in user experience. That means that all of the types of pages and profiles and the capabilities you have (or don’t have) are changing too.
Over the last few years we have seen new types of pages develop. The Business page has evolved as well and holds some of the same attributes of a personal page, but definitely is different, and is expected by Facebook and users to be administered differently.
Often I am asked what the differences between the two are and which is better to have. To be clear, it is against the Terms of Service (http://www.facebook.com/terms.php) that you agree to when you sign-up for a Facebook account to have a Facebook personal profile for your business.
First, let’s define what we are talking about. A FACEBOOK PROFILE is a personal profile for a person. This should be a first name and a last name and not be directly affiliated with a business. It should not advertise or market a business, product, or service. A FACEBOOK PAGE is created for businesses and organizations. To clarify further, here is the description directly from Facebook:
(http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=904 ) – “Profiles re-present individuals and must be held under an individual name, while Pages allow an organization, business, celebrity, or band to maintain a professional presence on Facebook. You may only create Facebook Pages to represent real organizations of which you are an authorized representative.”
Facebook has begun to take this position very seriously for many reasons. Among them is that many companies and individuals abused their presence and profile by sending friend requests to those they did not know, nor do they have an affiliation. Along with sending messages that advertised and promoted businesses, products, and services – it became a new way of SPAMMING.
As a result, Facebook now will remove any account that uses a personal profile for business purposes as it is spelled out in their agreement with users.
If you have spent time investing in the development of “friends” on your personal profile that you set up for your business, you are in imminent danger of having that profile removed. This means that all your hard work and effort will be gone with no recourse.
Here are some stark differences:
1. Friends vs. Fans – On a personal profile you send “friend requests” which can either be accepted or denied. On a business page, you rely on others to “LIKE” you. It is simple to send friend requests. To gain fans, they need to search you out or see a promotion for your page. Some ways you can promote your page include:
a. Create links and badges in your online communications or on your website so people can easily “like” your business.
b. Invite people via email to “like” your page (again, be careful to not SPAM people).
c. They may “like” your page organically by seeing updates appear in their friends news feed.
d. You can advertise through Facebook to gain new fans who “like” you.
2. Messages & Posts – Depending on your friends’ personal settings for privacy, on a personal profile you are able to post on your friend’s wall and send them private messages. You will not be able to post on fans’ walls and you definitely cannot send them messages or tag them in posts. From Facebook: “Pages cannot see the profiles of people who connect with them, only their profile photo and name. Pages also do not have access to a News Feed with information about the activity of the people who connect with them.”
In other words, generally your access is much more limited to your fans than your friends.
3. Friend Activity – I really hate this one. From your personal profile you can see what all your friends are up to and where they are at (much like the News Feed) for PLACES. Your businesses page, however, is not only unable to see friend/fan activity, but can’t even see if/when someone has checked-in to your own location. As a business owner/marketing manager, this is insanely frustrating because I want to know when someone has checked in at my location.
4. Page Administration/Ownership – You can have only one personal profile but you can have several business pages. Your business pages can also have several admins so that different people can administer the page and make updates. Here is the bad thing – currently you can administrate your personal profile from mobile devices, but not a business page unless you use a mobile browser (such as Safari) and use the FULL SITE as opposed to the mobile site or app.
Here are just a few of the big benefits to a Business Page:
1. Tracking & Statistics – On your home page, you can check your analytics at any time. This gives you a breakdown of who your users are and the interactions on your page. This is a great way to gauge your success with your target audience.
2. SEO – Facebook pages are indexed by the search engines, personal profiles are not. This is an important aspect of any online marketing plan that should be fully utilized.
3. Accessibility – Because it is easy to “like” a page, it can be easier to grow your fan list by promoting it and not having to go through the “approval process” of accepting friend requests.
4. Deals – This is similar to other location-based social networks like FourSquare and Gowalla, which allows users to “check-in” at locations, thus advertising your business location through status updates. You can create deals that allow visitors to receive rewards or discounts for checking-in with your business.
5. Customization – There are many apps out there that you can add to your business page to help personalize it and create a better user experience. This can be nice in that it allows people to share the information directly on Facebook and visitors do not have to leave the application and go to another site. However, it can be time consuming. Personally, I feel your time and investment of resources is best applied to growing your website and leading traffic to it.
6. Unlimited Fans vs. 5000 Friends – Your personal profile is limited to 5000 friends, which for most people is not ever likely to be reached. However, as a business, you would like to ultimately surpass that number. There is an unlimited amount of “likes” allowed for your business page which means you don’t have to restrict your number of fans.
I am going to admit something – I have both personal profiles and business pages set-up for myself and several businesses I work with. I realize that it is against the terms I agreed to, however, I am willing to roll the dice for one simple reason – the personal profile offers more opportunity for social interaction and relationship building and, in my case, has proven vastly more successful. For me, the entire point of Social Media is to BE SOCIAL. It is an aspect that some businesses have yet to embrace no matter how they utilize this platform. Communication needs to be both ways in order for it to be successful – it is how you build relationships and trust.
BUT – I have some hard rules of my own that I stick to. Here are some of them:
1. I NEVER (I mean never, ever) send “friend requests.” NEVER. I consider this bad-form and another way of SPAMMING. I frequently receive requests from people who want to connect with my business. In the case of one client, they constantly receive requests because of their growing brand and connection with the community. This is something that EVERY business wants and strives for.
2. I always market and advertise the Business Pages – not the personal profile. It is still critical to develop the business page so that WHEN (not “IF”) Facebook takes down the Profile Page, I am not starting over from scratch.
3. Always be PROFESSIONAL. Regardless of whether it is a personal profile of professional page, it still represents your business. I do not post anything personal, political, or religious on our profile (or the business page). While you may be maintaining a personal profile for your business, this does not mean you should not keep your professional presence separate from your personal opinions.
4. Do not harass or SPAM your “friends.” You know what SPAM is – stuff they don’t want and didn’t ask for. Keep the content light and informative. Give them conversation-worthy status updates. Provide soft calls-to-action. If you are constantly selling, advertising, and promoting – your audience will tune-out.
5. Do not ever, ever post anything personal about anyone without consent. (I once saw a business owner post a status update on their profile that a customer had not paid a bill. This is grounds for a lawsuit.) Be very careful about what you post. This may be the only place your customers interact with you and can help develop your credibility and professionalism. Or, destroy it.
Bottom line, the safest thing you can do is create a Facebook Business Page. But, do not make the mistake of substituting your Facebook business page for your website. The first thing you should have is a website and then you should integrate a good social media marketing strategy that will drive traffic to it.
My biggest worry right now is that by the time you read this article, it will already be out-of-date considering the fact that Facebook seems to change daily, like almost all technology. This means, it is important to stay informed about the biggest social media platform in the world. At least it is for today.