Facebook for Business: Opportunities and Limitations

This is a guest post by Jesse Stay, author of FBML Essentials and blogger at staynalive.com.

Facebook has provided a number of tools that make it a powerful tool not just for individuals, but for businesses and brands as well.  It’s no secret that Facebook has many very powerful tools that will help spread your brand and propel your business into the forefront of existing and potential customers’ minds. However, in their quest to ensure their users come first, I worry that Facebook still hasn’t hit that sweet spot when it comes to giving your brand and your business a place in their network. With the launch of the redesigned profile page this has become even more evident: users have taken first priority in the new design, but nothing has been done to enhance Facebook Pages (the profile page for businesses) on Facebook.  Let’s review some highlights of ways that Facebook can help your business, and then review ways they could make the business experience better.

Ways Facebook Can Help Your Business

Facebook Pages — Facebook “Pages” (that’s with a capital “P”) were created to give businesses their own profile on Facebook.  In fact, originally, the code that made up a Facebook “Page” appeared to be almost exactly the same as that which generated user profile pages.

Pages give your business or brand an identity on Facebook.  With a Page, those interested and following your brand can become “fans”, and when they do so, all their friends will see this. You can store photos, videos, information about your company, and custom applications on your Page.  All activity on Pages gets posted back to your Mini Feed for all your friends to see.  Click here for a detailed overview on what fields you can store on a Facebook Page.

Groups — Groups on Facebook are similar to Pages, but are meant to be built around a group of people rather than an individual business or brand.  Groups have no “become a fan” feature, and do not share as much information with users’ friends as users interact.

Applications — Facebook has a very powerful API that you can have developers write software for to help promote your business on Facebook.  Applications give you full power to say or promote anything you want about your business, and use the social tie-ins provided by Facebook to do this.  For instance, Visa created the “Visa Business Network” application, which takes information about users and allows them to better network with other small business owners.  They even integrated with Facebook advertising by offering those that install the app a credit towards advertising on Facebook.

Advertising — Facebook has a powerful advertising engine that enables businesses to specify a specific demographic target, see how many people that demographic will hit, and advertise to that demographic.  Facebook has also provided even more customized options for other areas of the site which businesses with a larger budget can advertise through. Then there’s  the highly controversial Facebook Beacon – if you do e-commerce transactions through your site you can enable users to share updates on purchases users make on your site amongst their friends.  It has been awhile since I’ve seen anyone use Beacon, however, so it’s hard to tell whether Facebook still supports it.  You can still access this and the other advertising features through the Advertisers link at the bottom of Facebook.

Polls — Facebook Polls are great for marketers looking to get a quick answer about a particular feature they’d like to implement, or just to find out information and opinions from a specific demographic.  You can access Facebook polls via this link.

Facebook Connect — just announced last week at F8, Facebook Connect enables your website to easily integrate with Facebook.  Now you can integrate Facebook into your login process, retrieve users’ friend information, and even post data back to users’ Mini Feed so all their friends can see their activity.  Think of Facebook Connect as the new Beacon, with much more flexibility to do even more throughout your site! Click here to learn more about Facebook Connect.

What Facebook Still Needs To Do

More Application Integration Points for Pages — Applications currently have few integration points into the Facebook Page architecture.  Right now you can count the number of fans a Page has and find information about those fans, but there is no good way to tell statistics about a Page, users visiting the Page, information occurring in the discussion boards or Wall, or even what Photos are being posted to the Page.

Facebook needs to give applications access to every Page component.  Pages give your business power, and if developers can have access to more information, more powerful applications can be built to help promote and strengthen your brand.

More Pages Integration With the Rest of Facebook — Even though the profile page is in the process of a major redesign, Pages appear to have remained in the same bland look and feel as the previous design.  It is now much harder to find a Facebook Page in the new design – they’re at the bottom of the Info tab.

In addition, there is no way to pull in an existing photo album or video into your Facebook Page.  Photos and videos have to be re-uploaded to each Page you want them on – therefore, the discussion for those albums and videos will become segmented.  This reduces the potential exposure for your business.

Skinning and Customization on Pages — I cringe in saying this, but in reality, businesses should have full control over promoting their brand in the way they want to on Facebook.  User profiles should not be skinnable, play music on load, etc.  However, a Facebook Page is different: it is essentially one large social “advertisement,” and Facebook should give more power over Pages to businesses.

Better Access to Business Tools — in the last month, Facebook removed the “Businesses” link from the footer of the Page.  Now, to access Polls, Insights, or Beacon, you have to search really hard to find it – to do so, click on “Advertisers” in the footer of Facebook, then look at the bottom of that page and you’ll see a link to “More Business Solutions”.  Click on that and you’ll be at the same page as the previous “Businesses” link as before.  Facebook needs to find a way to make at least Polls more prominent so more users can find it.  Not only is this a great tool for your business, but also a monetization point for Facebook.

If you haven’t already done so, consider giving Facebook a try for your business using some of the tools mentioned above.  Facebook still has a long way to go, however. If they continue to grow tools for businesses well, they’ll earn more revenue both for themselves and businesses building inside Facebook. For more advice and techniques, feel free to check out I’m on Facebook–Now What???

Please share your thoughts and advice — how have you used Facebook for your business and brand, and what can Facebook do better?

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Leave a Reply

30 Responses to “Facebook for Business: Opportunities and Limitations”

  1. sam says:

    We are providing a service called “Facebook Spin” which includes many marketing ways inside facebook.

    Bottom line: its good to be on facebook but not just on facebook.

    The CTR is low but the viral marketing is great!
    facebook page is great if you know what you are doing with it.

    I believe in facebook for the long run

    Sam

  2. Pooja says:

    I’d like to create a Facebook presence for an association. Which would you recommend – a group or a page? I like the applications for pages, but I’m not sure about wanting people to be “Fans” of the organization as opposed to members of a group. Also, currently groups seem to be more well-known and some organizations that have both groups and pages, have more members in the former than fans in the latter. Please advise.

  3. Jesse Stay says:

    Pooja, I guess it depends on what you want for the Association. In the end the Page will give you more flexibility, and you can set privacy settings to make the Page a non-public Page which would be invite-only and that could get rid of the “become a fan” option for most users.

    I generally recommend a Group for collaboration between a group of users, and a Page for promotion of an organization, group, or brand. If you need to promote your association then a Page is what you want.

  4. FacebookAdvice.com » Blog Archive » What Happened to the “Businesses” Link on Facebook? says:

    [...] shared recently on a guest post I did for InsideFacebook (which I highly recommend you read, btw) how to do it. From the post: in the last month, Facebook [...]

  5. sam says:

    Pooja,

    you must use facebook page because fb is shifting from groups to pages!

    the FB page will soon have more stuff in it for branding usage to use this one.
    if you have more questions let us know at http://www.tradimax.com

  6. Jesse Stay says:

    Sam,

    Can you share where you got that FB is shifting from groups to pages? While I can see that happening, I think rather an upgrade to both would be ideal. Groups I think should have a different objective than a Page. I don’t recall ever hearing Facebook say they were phasing out groups though – of course, I could be wrong.

  7. What a Year! | Stay N' Alive says:

    [...] of top Entrepreneurs, get on Techcrunch (3 times), Scobleizer, Webware, LouisGray, AllFacebook, InsideFacebook, Guy Kawasaki, and other blogs, as well as become recognized by Techmeme. In just one year I had a [...]

  8. Xia says:

    Hi,
    We are changing gears from recruting to job board classifies. Can FB be used to jump start a job board?
    Thank you!

  9. Happy Blog Day 2008 | Stay N' Alive says:

    [...] InsideFacebook.com (Subscribe via RSS) — I have also guest-blogged at InsideFacebook, but Justin Smith has long had one of my favorite Facebook blogs (I also recommend you check out [...]

  10. rss blog » Blog Archive » Happy Blog Day 2008 says:

    [...] InsideFacebook.com (Subscribe via RSS) — I have also guest-blogged at InsideFacebook, but Justin Smith has long had one of my favorite Facebook blogs (I also recommend you check out [...]

  11. Beacon Makes a Comeback, With More Choices and Options | Stay N' Alive says:

    [...] mentioned previously that Facebook has never removed the information about beacon for advertisers. Even today you can go [...]

  12. mike ashworth says:

    Fan Pages are starting to be understood more by users of Facebook however they have one feature missing which would really help them to grow.

    Sure you can share them with others by clicking on the “share” icon however they have no function to “invite people to join” as groups do. With a group I can look through my list of connections and choose ones to notify about it.

    Why cant they do this with fan pages too, it would help them circulate more freely amongst people.

    I feel that without more features like the one above, fan pages will be viewed as only for “Big Business”.

    Mike Ashworth
    Marketing Coach and Consultant
    Brighton and Hove, Sussex, UK

  13. Ken says:

    It appears that Facebook business accounts can create pages, but not groups. Is that correct? Our non-profit wants to create a group but have its owner/administrator not be a single named person.

  14. Jesse Stay says:

    Ken, I only saw that ability for Pages. A Page should give you most of the functionality you need though.

  15. Luke says:

    Echoing a point already made, I find it really inappropriate that people who want to connect and follow my business are labeled ‘fans’.

    I agree – Facebook has a long way to go to be business friendly.

    http://www.reachstudents.co.uk/blog/2008/10/14/facebook-doesnt-do-business-well/

  16. 10 ways to convince your boss to go ’social media’ says:

    [...] it for yourself.  Read articles like How to use Twitter for marketing, Social Media for Business, Facebook for Business,… there’s plenty of content about the use of social media for your [...]

  17. Robert Loomis says:

    I am interested in using Facebook Pages for a client. My question is can you moderate the comments posted to your wall?

  18. Jen says:

    How do you address the risk of consumers posting damaging information?

  19. eleen.com » Promote your Etsy shop on Facebook says:

    [...] around a group of people rather than an individual business or brand”, says the author of Facebook for Business: Opportunties and Limitations. Also, you can add applications to Pages but not to Groups. For another helpful comparison of Pages [...]

  20. » Facebook - Myspace για επιχειρήσεις Ηλεκτρονική Μάθηση says:

    [...] 30+ Apps for Doing Business On Facebook – Facebook for Business: Opportunties and Limitations – Now, Any Business Can Tap 53 Million Facebook Users (For [...]

  21. asdfghjkl says:

    The title is spelt incorrectly.
    “Opportunities” not “Opportunties”

  22. How to use Facebook for business | Being-Smarter.com says:

    [...] is dedicated to providing information to developers and marketers of the Facebook platform with a post from last year which is still current talking about the opportunities for business on the [...]

  23. emma says:

    Hi I am confused about setting up a page on facebook. I have my own accound and my page… i tried to get a vantity URL, but that seems to be for my personal account and it hasn’t been used for my page.

    Inoticed ASOS has two accounts one used for the page and the business stuff, then another for ASOS helpers, that they use to send people who past on their wall messages. Is that how it should be done?

    Any tips welcome!

  24. JumpStart: IdeaExchange Blog » Blog Archive » Not Sure How or Why to Use Social Media? says:

    [...] (which are the most important for you to consider.) And, guest blogger Jesse Stay wrote a great 101 about Facebook which provides a great intro lesson for those of you new to the [...]

  25. Heather B says:

    As a consumer, I just realized I can no longer make my Fan Pages private from any stranger looking me up on the internet because it is considered, “publicly available information”. Until they make a change to this I will delete all of these Fan Pages. My personal privacy and safety is much more important to me than being a “fan” of some page.

  26. Facebook Resources » Think.ingCreative says:

    [...] Facebook for Business: Opportunities and limitations :: Source – Inside Facebook [...]

  27. Donna Talarico says:

    Great post. I just blogged about some gripes I have with Facebook fan pages, too. I talk about how admins can’t also be regular people, etc. Overall, I am happy with managing the page, but there are some things I wish Facebook would do. What do you guys think? http://www.solidcactus.com/4-facebook-business-page-limitations-that-drive-me-bonkers/

  28. Facebook Questions as a Strategy – Answering Questions for Your Brand | Stay N' Alive says:

    [...] much a re-release of Facebook Polls (see my previous article on InsideFacebook.com in 2008 where I discussed this as a business tool), with even greater viral potential.  In fact, it makes even more sense today than ever, with the [...]

  29. more research « Emily says:

    [...] Facebook for Business: Opportunities and Limitations [...]

  30. Facebook, The good or the Bad? | John Nielsen says:

    [...] to promote their company on Facebook. Visa took advantage of this when they created their “visa business network” application, which allows them to take information on their users and network with small [...]

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