One of the most common questions I get when an organisation is starting on Facebook is: “Do we need a Profile, a Group, or a Page?” My quick but not straightforward answer is always: “It depends on what you need to do.”
I often find it a bit of a pity when an organisation ends up choosing a Profile or a Group, when what they really needed was a Page. Or, if they end up saying they have no need for Facebook, even though they manage a small community where a number of their members are on Facebook. Therefore, they can possibly make the most out of Groups, even if a Page seems irrelevant or too costly to them.
Facebook Profiles are designed to be an individual’s presence on Facebook. Here, people connect with others by adding them as Friends. At the time of writing this, you can only add up to 5,000 friends on your profile. And, whilst 5,000 friends may seem plenty, some people do end up collecting that many contacts. And yes, you don’t need to “bare all” to everyone you ‘friend’ on Facebook. You can put those connections in to certain lists or categories and then give them different levels of access to your Facebook Profile, if you wish.
Also, one of the most useful things that has been introduced lately is the ability for people to subscribe to your profile’s public updates. This means people can still follow you on Facebook, without needing to be added as a Friend.
Organisations and companies, however, don’t really need a personal profile. Yes, you need a profile in order to start a Group or a Page. But, if you would rather not have those pages or groups operated from a personal profile, an organisation or company may opt to have a business profile instead. This is especially useful for organisations if they simply wish to manage Facebook Pages and ads. Do note, however, that Facebook’s Terms of Service (ToS) says that you can only manage a business profile if you don’t have a personal profile. It’s also important to note that as per Facebook ToS, you shouldn’t have more than one personal and/or business acount, as you run the risk of having all your accounts terminated by Facebook.
Facebook Groups are designed for smaller group communications. This is an ideal solution if you have a very specific purpose in mind for communicating with a selected number of people. Especially in a more informal manner. At this time, there’s a limit of up to 5,000 members in a group.
Some useful features of running a Facebook Group include:
I have seen a number of good uses of Facebook Groups, including:
If you want to use Facebook as a way to promote a brand or a cause, and you wish to reach as many people as you can, then managing a Facebook Page might be better.
Facebook Pages are designed to be the official way to have a presence on Facebook for organisations or businesses. They are ideal for reaching out to a number of individuals and organisations as there are no limits with the number of “Likes” or “Fans”.
Another advantage of Facebook Pages is the ability to get a “vanity URL,” similar to your profile (eg, facebook.com/YOURORGANISATION), so it’s easier for branding. Pages also have the advantage of getting access to some useful statistics about your Facebook usage (called “Insights”).
Facebook Pages may be used for a company or organisation itself, a specific campaign or cause, a specific product, etc. If you wish to build an engaged community around that aspect of your work, then a Facebook Page is the best way to go.
Each one would have different pros and cons, so it would all depend on what your strategy is for Facebook use.
For example, I have recently fallen in love with a brand of shoes by a local Kiwi designer during my trip to New Zealand. When I searched for them online so that I can engage with the company, I could only find them on one social media avenue: a private Facebook Group. When I asked to join in, I got approved after a day or so. And, I learned that they have about 70 members. Some of them are staff members (including the shoe designer!) and some are loyal customers. People were sharing their shoe collections from this brand. The designer was sharing news about the latest shoe designs coming up, including the process of sketching ideas to purchasing materials. The content was really interesting and would have been a wonderful way to increase their exposure and brand with a wider audience. But, in a private Facebook Group, they end up with a limited audience.
That’s why if I was working on their communications strategy on social media, I would have probably suggested a different solution. A private Facebook Group with VIP members and staff, perhaps. And, an official Facebook Page to promote their brand. Perhaps, even explore other social media platforms that would really suit their brand.
On the other hand, I have spoken to the manager of a nonprofit organisation that services a small country town in Australia about their social media presence. To them, a Facebook Page doesn’t make sense because: 1) They don’t need to have a massive audience as they have a limited number of people that they can offer services to; 2) While an official Page might be useful to promote their work to the general public, they have limited resources to put in to managing their social media presence; and 3) The youths in their local community that they service do not necessarily want to be promoted to a wider public audience.
But, they are using social media effectively by utilising the Facebook Group because many of their youths are already on Facebook. And, they managed to articulate the specific purpose of that platform in their community, that’s why they can track the success of that platform accordingly. For example, to them, it’s not about gaining fans or likes… To them, whenever they see one of their members find the help or support that they need through their Facebook Group, they know that the platform is working for their organisation’s cause.
That’s why the choice between these different platforms isn’t always straightforward. It depends a lot on purpose, goals, and resources.
If you need Vervely to help you or your organisation when it comes to choosing the right platform, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Do go ahead and read Facebook’s Tips to learn more about the difference between Facebook Pages and Facebook Groups. Or, you can also read The Definitive Guide to Facebook Groups vs Pages from AllFacebook.
Shai Coggins is the Manager and Chief Digital Media Specialist at Vervely, an Australia-based agency serving local and international clients. One of the company's main clients is Microsoft. Shai has been featured in a number of media due to her online work, including being named as one of Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list (2009).