What is Facebook?

When it comes to social networks, Facebook is the largest in the United States. Facebook's was one of the early websites allowing users to set up profiles, connect with “friends,” and exchange information in a more public way. The network boasts a large membership with over 2.19 billion active users worldwide as of the first quarter of 2018.

If you are looking to use social networks to market your business, choosing a well-populated site with active users can be helpful. Social media marketing is more effective when you can target your core audience, and Facebook provides the self-serve social advertising tools that slice and dice its membership based on the demographic and behavioral data gathered from individual members.

The first thing you, as a business owner, should know about Facebook is that there are several types of presences you can have on the site. When you sign up for Facebook as an individual, you are given a personal profile with your own timeline where you can post for your Facebook Friends to see. According to Facebook rules, or Terms of Service, you are prohibited to use your personal account for commercial gain.

Companies should not set up personal accounts. Facebook Pages are the appropriate presence for companies, organizations, products, and even individuals who are public figures such as authors and athletes. Take care to set up the correct type of presence or Facebook could suspend your account and you could lose all of your content and contacts.

Connections on Facebook Profiles are called “Friends,” but on Facebook Pages, your connections are referred to as “Likes” or “Fans.” Because of the many changes implemented by Facebook over the years, there is no guarantee that a person who “Likes” your Page will see the content you post. Unless you are able to engage your Fans to liking, commenting or sharing your posts, you will need to invest in Facebook advertising to increase your content’s visibility.

As a business owner, carefully consider how you plan to use your personal Facebook account versus your more public-facing Page. Here are some things to keep in mind when personally interacting on Facebook:

  • Nothing is private. Always operate under the assumption that everything you post online is publicly accessible, even if you've set up your privacy features stringently. Anyone, at any time, can pass along information you think you may have shared in confidence. You have no control over your content once you publish it.
  • Personal posts could clash with business. If you are using a Facebook Profile personally, you could experience a conflict between your personal and your professional life. Consider if your personal opinions could adversely affect your company’s brand image. If so, use your personal Facebook account to post more neutral content. Yes, this means no photos of you wearing a lampshade for a hat while dancing on a table.
  • Facebook features and rules are constantly changing. Facebook operates on its own agenda, and over the years, it has monetized its features and reach so much of what they offer companies is no longer entirely free. Because Facebook is still the biggest game in town, most people put up with the constantly changing rules.

Despite the challenges of marketing your company on Facebook, there are some good business reasons to do it:

  • Unprecedented reach. If you are looking to reach customers and prospects locally, regionally or nationally, chances are Facebook can’t be beat in terms of the sheer number of members you can potentially reach.
  • Personal interactions. Social networks like Facebook offer the chance for unprecedented direct and regular contact with customers and potential customers for enhanced customer service.
  • Laser targeting. With Facebook’s social ads, you can home in on your target market based on demographics and interests and buy ads within your specific budget.

With an appropriate and well-managed presence on Facebook, you can gain exposure for your business, attract specific customers to your Page, provide customer service, and promote your products and services. While not perfect, Facebook is a powerful social network and can be a major part of any social media marketing toolkit.