Depending on what kind of "entity" you are, you have 3 choices for how to create a presence on Facebook. As I mentioned in A Guide to Social Media Tools and their Uses, many of the social tools handle "entities" differently. The kind of presence you would set up for a business vs. a person in LinkedIn is not the same as what you would set up on Facebook, which makes for a very confusing experience for someone just trying to understand how to get started.
So in keeping with my "start at the beginning" methodology — I'm going to break down what the 3 different choices are for Facebook, how they're different and how each can be used.
Before we go any further, it is vital for your own sanity to understand that only the Facebook Profile can exist on it's own. In order to create a Group or a Page you have to attach it to someone's profile. For a Page that attachment is hidden, for a Group that attachment is public.
Places where Facebook Profiles, Pages and Groups are the same
I think the reason why it's so confusing to figure out which one to use is because most of the things people want to do on Facebook can be done with all three.
They all enable you to:
At first glance this may seem like all you'd want to do with Facebook which is why it's hard at first glance to tell the 3 presence types apart. But the features that differentiate a Profile from a Page from Group, while usually not top of mind for most users, can become important as your usage of Facebook becomes more sophisticated.
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Differences in Facebook Profiles vs. Pages vs. Groups
Audience Terminology — this one's quite simple. For each type of presence the people who are connected to you are called something different to help underscore the purpose of that presence. People connected to your Profile are your "friends". People connected to your Page are "fans" and people connected to your Group are "members".
Custom URLs — Facebook has just recently announced that you can now create "pretty" URLs for your Facebook presence.
For example, my old Facebook page was:
My shiny, new, custom URL Facebook page is now:
But these custom URLs are only available for Pages and Profiles. It is currently not in the plans to give Groups this feature.
Facebook Apps (Applications) — if you want to use any of the applications that are available on Facebook but not already part of the Groups functionality, you're out of luck. For now at least, Facebook Apps are limited to Profiles and Pages. Also note that some Apps only work in Profiles.
Individual Membership Control — of course in your Profile you have the ability to decline any friendship invitation you're sent. In Groups you also can use settings to allow you to accept or decline anyone who tries to join the group, i.e. creating a group focused on alumni of a specific company or school. Facebook Pages do not give you that ability. You can only control fans in large groups by age and country, not on an individual level.
Discussion Boards — if you want lively discussions that aren't swept away by the speed of your friend's updates, you'll want a Group or a Page so that you can use the "Discussion" feature.
Delegation & Shared Credit — although each of us has at least two people who technically share in the credit of our existence, Facebook isn't in the business of forcing those connections on your profile. You cannot delegate your Facebook Profile within Facebook, nor can you make someone else a "point person". Pages on the other hand have to have an "Administrator" — someone who has a Profile and is fully responsible for maintaining the page. Groups have to have an "Administrator" as well, but they go a step further. Groups also allow you to create "Officers" who have no ability to maintain the Group but are listed for recognition and perhaps as a point person for the group.
Visitor Data — only Pages give you access to information about who is visiting you.
Messaging Ability Limitations — currently, Groups that have more than 5,000 members do not have messaging ability as a way of preventing spam abuse.
Connection Limitations — you can't have more than 5,000 friends on your Profile but you can have an unlimited number of fans on your Page or members in your Group.
Profiles — are for an individual. You are limited in the number of friends you can collect.
Pages — are for promoting a public brand. You must attach it (not publicly) to a profile that will administer the page.
Groups — are for organizing people based on criteria you define. You can interact with group members in a very limited number of ways since you can't install additional Facebook Apps, but Groups do give you the ability to accept members based on your own criteria (or whims).
To tie it all together, I'm putting together a Facebook comparison chart. Contact me if you'd like my Facebook comparison chart for free when it's finished.
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MAISHA WALKER is an award-winning 13 year Internet industry veteran and the President of message medium, a New York firm that works exclusively with entrepreneurs and growing businesses to maximize their digital footprint and drive revenue and sales through Internet marketing. For guidance right now, download her popular (and free) Web Site Checklist and Internet
Marketing Checklist. She is also the author of Web Site Fundamentals for Entrepreneurs.