During an hour and a half travelling in Exeter recently, four out of five of the conversations I overheard included the word ‘Facebook’. With many businesses wanting to engage with their customers on social media sites for this very reason, a lot of our clients have been making their first forays onto Facebook, and one of the more common questions I am asked is whether a Page or a Group is better.
There is not a clear yes or no answer – it will depend on your intentions and company type. It is certainly a good idea to choose just one route though, as creating both a Page and Group can risk simply diluting your presence and confusing your customers.
Some of the most important factors in choosing are now shared by both Groups and Pages. Both are indexed by Google and public for non-members, so it will list in the search engines and non-Facebookers can still read the information on your Wall. A Page offers a little more information with statistics/insights and also more flexiblity with customised Facebook applications (allowing you to create functional tabs and make your Page more interactive).
But essentially it comes down to how you want to communicate with your customers and what you want to achieve. A Page is a professional method of turning your customers into ‘fans’ and updating them with your latest news, offers, encouraging conversations that they will all see and be able to take part in, and allowing them to build on your Page by opening the Photo and Discussion tabs up to participation. A Page is very often the route I recommend for a company.
Where a Group comes into its own is when used to create an area for a ‘common interest’. A Group requires that people ‘join’ instead of just ‘like’, which implies a willingness to actually take part in the Group (as opposed to just passively approving of a Page). This is where a Group also has the potential for viral marketing, with the members taking a hand in inviting friends and spreading the word, because they have a vested interest. Each member has the option for sending out bulk invites to their friends to join the Group, which is not possible with Pages. Updates to Group members are also sent by email, which offers less of a chance for conversation but of course grabs the attention more.
So which is right for you?
Most standard companies will be best suited to a Facebook Page. You can update fans, provide a base for discussion and alerts for events, open up the Page to collaboration as much as you like and engage fans as much or as little as your time allows.
Companies emerging into the market with a unique or exciting product (such as some new environmentally-friendly gizmo that will grab the attention of green enthusiasts everywhere and has no competition as yet) may suit a Group, and therefore take advantage of members’ investment and excitement to market virally and gain new members. This is only really going to suit 1% of companies out there, however.
A better way to actively cultivate your customers may be to create both a Page and a Group, but not both for your company.
If you create and develop your Page, find you have time to converse and engage with your fans and want to take it a step further, you can then think about creating a Group dedicated towards something connected with your area of business. Gather together enthusiasts of your subject, give them somewhere to visit and talk, and be the moderator and creator of that space, with your logo and voice present throughout. You will make sales, and you will emerge as a market leader and a forward-thinking company in the your business sector. A shop selling imported American Candy for example, could set up a Group for American food enthusiasts as a method of cultivating the very community they wish to publicise to.
So, in short, think about how you can best communicate with your customers, whether you need bait (a Group with an already established interest to bring them together) or just clear communication and engagement (a Page as a base for your customers) or both. Then be prepared to be flexible and adapt to the community you create. Social media is still an experiment even to those most comfortable with it, so take the first steps, seek advice from those that have done it before, ask for and then listen to customer feedback, and be flexible.
About The Author: Camilla Todd manages Search Engine Optimisation, social media campaigns and brand awareness for WNW Design SEO clients. You can follow her on Twitter @camilla_wnw, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone on 01395 542569. You can also follow WNW Design on Facebook here.