Facebook Part 1: To Page or To Group?

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Karen Wilson is a wealth of information in all things Social Media and technology. I’ve asked her to do a series of guest posts on my blog to share some of her Facebook wisdom with you. If you’re coming to Social Capital (and I think you should! :) she’ll be conducting a roundtable discussion about Facebook.

There are at least 1,836,972 “experts” out in the world to tell people what they should and shouldn’t do on Facebook. Strategy is important, but it’s not one-size-fits-all, so I’m going to focus on a few tips and tricks in this series that anyone can do to help improve your Facebook experience - for you and for those who follow you.

In this post, I’ll start with the big setup question.

Should you set up a Profile, Page or Group for promoting content on Facebook?

Facebook profiles are for individuals. Anyone who is representing an entity shouldn’t use them. Profiles are limited to 5,000 friends, so if that’s the route you take, you’re automatically setting a limit on your Facebook reach. Sure, it may take a while to get to 5,000 fans if you’re not Starbucks, but dream big! What you have to say is valuable, so don’t sell yourself short by starting out with a profile. Facebook recently added functionality to convert profiles to pages and friends are supposed to transfer, but I’ve heard of cases where they don’t so proceed with caution, i.e., read instructions carefully.

I think that’s reason enough not to have a profile for an entity, but there’s more.

Profiles can see private information about “friends” that Pages and Groups cannot. Facebook already has so many privacy issues that many users will balk at “friending” an entity. So, by creating a profile for your entity, you’re once again limiting your reach for those who are concerned about privacy.

Now that we’ve established that profiles for entities aren’t a great plan, the biggest question now is whether your content is best presented by a page or group.

Pages tend to be good for broadcasting messages. You can use apps like Networked Blogs or RSS Graffiti to syndicate your blog content via RSS feed to a page automatically. Depending on the content you generate and questions you ask, lots of discussion can be facilitated through a page. However, your page followers will not receive notifications of new content on a page. The lifespan of your content can be minutes or hours depending on how many other pages/friends your followers have whose content goes into their feed.

Groups are well-suited to discussion. They can be “open” with all content accessible by anyone - member or not or a group can be “secret” and various levels of restriction in-between. Your RSS feed can also be automatically posted to any group in the same way they’re posted to pages. The difference is that group members will receive notifications of new posts. Within a group, members can set up and edit documents that all members can access. This is particularly useful if group members are adding to a collection of resources for all to use. Facebook just recently added group chat to Group pages, so any online members can all chat with each other in real time. There is rich functionality in groups that, used wisely, can be incredibly helpful for facilitating high levels of engagement in group members.

So which one is right for you? Ask yourself these questions:

1) Are you selling a product or service?
2) Will you be generating your own content to disseminate to followers?
3) Do you want to control - as much as possible - the information that followers see?

If you answered yes to these questions, then I recommend going with a Facebook Page.

4) Do you want followers to be able to post content for other followers to see?
5) Is the content community-based and of interest to a wide audience?
6) Are members actively engaged in supporting the followers as a whole?

If you answered yes to these questions, your content is more suitable for a Facebook Group.
Put simply, Pages are ideal for information dissemination and Groups for discussion and support. While it may be tempting for every entity to want to tap into the engagement power of Groups, it is best to think about how you envision the flow of information. Will it be community-based or primarily one-sided? Now that groups are becoming more prevalent on Facebook, entities from blogs to business need to carefully evaluate how they choose to promote their content before actually jumping in. Why? Pages and Groups can’t be converted, so switching mid-stream could mean “losing” followers.

What are your thoughts about the Page versus Group decision?


Karen is a Web Content & Social Media Marketing Manager by day. She writes about life on her blog, Karen’s Chronicles and is co-founder of the Losing it in Ottawa blog community. At the upcoming Social Capital Conference, you can join her roundtable to learn more about Facebook. Find out how to follow Karen here.

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