R U on FB?

July 1, 2009

Your organization has decided it needs to “be on Facebook” and has agreed to allocate the necessary resources to develop and maintain it. Now what?

There are three ways an organization can maintain a Facebook presence: Fan Page, Group, or Cause. In addition, the organization can use Facebook Connect as a way to  leverage Facebook within the existing website infrastructure.

None of these Facebook environments are exclusive of each other. Let’s review them in brief:

A Fan Page is the organization’s equivalent to an individual’s Facebook page. The setup process and look and feel are very similar. The biggest difference is while proprietors of individual Pages “friend” each other, they link to your organizational page by choosing to be a “fan.”

(Click on an image to see a larger, clearer version.)

Fan pages are indexable by search engines such as Google. This means that when anyone does a search for a relevant topic, Fan Pages are among the links that can appear, and non-Facebook users can view the page.

Another value is that Facebook provides an increasing array of widgets (small, specialized applications) that you can use to offer features, services, games, and other attention-grabbing functions to your “fans.” Enterprising companies such as Sprout offer tools to create rich, custom Fan pages that can help extend your organization’s web presence and functionality. Such help doesn’t come cheap – Sprout’s toolbox is yours for a mere $50,000.

A Group is a page dedicated to a particular theme, issue, or organization. Type in a corporate name in the Facebook search box and you will most likely pull up a long list of groups involving that organization. Anyone can start a group by clicking on the Facebook applications widget at the lower left corner of the browser window.

Note "Group" is underlined

Note "Group" is underlined

Groups can be public or private, invitation-only affairs. Unlike Pages, they are not searchable or indexable outside of Facebook. They also offer less widgets and other tools. The advantage groups provide is that you can send “join” requests to thousands of Facebook users who can, in turn, encourage their friends to join. This viral capability makes the Group function appealing to organizations who wish to grow their online presence quickly.

Unlike Fan Page and Group, Cause is not a Facebook function, although it is tightly integrated with Facebook. Like Groups, supporters can encourage their friends and friends’ friends to join, enabling viral growth. The key difference is that Cause pages enable you to solicit funds.

Widget tracks your cause actvities

Widget tracks your cause actvities

The Cause function is provided by Causes Exchange. To set up a cause, click on the appropriate link their website provides on the right column:

Sign ups differ based on org type

Initial Cause setup link

Facebook Connect is a set of tools Facebook makes available to programmers and website developers to build Facebook capabilities into their websites. For example, if your website has a login portal, you can enable people to use their Facebook ID to log in. This saves users from having to create a separate login account and, more important, provides you with access to their Facebook page. Here’s an example from the website TechCrunch:

TechCrunch enables users to login with their FB account

TechCrunch enables users to login with their FB account

Why do you want to see the Facebook pages of your consumers/supporters? That’s the subject of another blog page. Check back here soon!

Finally, please note this blog’s date. Facebook continues to evolve and add tools and services. For example, Group pages were not indexed at all. Then Facebook allowed the indexing of discussions within groups as an option. This blog provides a good discussion of Fan Pages vs Groups.