A beauty salon owner I met last week was telling me about how she uses Facebook to offer special rates on services. Curious, I checked it out and was surprised to see her business was set up as a group instead of as a page. Turns out, she is unaware of the difference and a friend had set up the group for her.

Then, a couple a days ago, I discovered that a friend of mine has just set up his company on Facebook, but I was surprised to see it was as a personal profile instead of a page. It seems a lot of people are confused or unaware of the differences between Facebook profiles, pages and groups so here’s a breakdown:

Facebook Personal Profile

With a Facebook profile, individuals can add friends, send messages and keep people up to date with their lives by posting updates, text, photographs, video, links and other content. People can join networks organised by workplace, school, or college. Anyone over the age of 13 can have a Facebook personal profile.

Facebook’s terms and conditions say that it’s prohibited to engage in commercial activity from a personal profile so setting up any company profile this way is fraught with risk. It could be removed by Facebook!

In addition, a personal profile is restricted to a maximum of 5,000 friends and direct messaging is limited to groups of 20 people, so it is quite limiting for enterprises. But, there is no good reason to risk being shut down by Facebook, because with pages and groups, there are lots of good options.

Facebook Pages

Facebook pages allow businesses, brands and organisations to create an authentic and public presence on Facebook. Unlike a personal profile, pages are visible to everyone on the internet by default. Any number of the half a billion Facebook users can connect with pages by becoming a fan; this means they will see updates in their own newsfeeds and can interact with with other fans on the page.

A Facebook page can have an unlimited number of fans. Messages can be sent directly to fans or notifications can be made via the status update. Fans will see these updates in the their newsfeeds and can effortlessly share them with their own friends by posting updates to their own Facebook walls. This viral activity drives more fans to the page.

But the real benefit of pages is that they are indexed in search engines which drives traffic to the page, and for most companies on Facebook, finding new customers is the whole object of the exercise. There are analytics tools available for all pages to give the owner insight into who the fans are, what’s driving traffic.

In addition, a page can have multiple administrators, making it easier to keep up to date and relevant for all parts of the business. The tabs feature adds value here. Each tab has its own URL, allowing fans to choice and increased relevancy. Facebook provides a targeted pay-per-click advert service to help attract more fans.

Pages have multimedia functionality which makes it easy for fans to participate on a page, sharing their own content. In addition the ‘Notes’ function means content from other websites can automatically populate a Facebook page via an RSS feed. This works well for blogs, product updates, calendar items or content from any RSS-enabled website.

A relatively new, but excellent page feature is the web form which can capture fan information for use in other marketing activities.

Facebook Groups

While pages were designed to be the official profiles for companies, brands and organisations, Facebook groups are good for communication among small groups to share interests and express opinions. Groups allow people to come together around a common cause, issue or activity, express objectives, discuss issues, post photos and share related content.

When a group is created, the administrator can decide whether to make it publicly available for anyone to join, require approval for members to join or keep it private and by invitation only. New posts by a group are included in the members’ newsfeeds and members can interact and share content with one another.

So if a group of friends have a favourite celebrity or cause to rally around, but are not the official representative, they can show their support by creating their own group.

Which Should You Choose?

Remember in the Facebook world a personal profile has friends, a page has fans and a group has members. A profile is for the individual, a page is for a company, brand or organisation and a group is for non-commercial interaction among a collection of individuals with a shared interest.

Facebook: Profile, Page Or Group? | BCW

Facebook: Profile, Page Or Group?