Facebook is one of the most popular social media networks in the world, with 1.65 billion users as of March 2016.
Facebook can be accessed through the internet, either through a web browser or dedicated apps. People often use Facebook on mobile devices, using the platform’s integration with devices’ GPS features, so users can ‘check in’ to locations and see what is happening in their locality.
Facebook is seen primarily by its users as a forum in which to talk about personal, non-professional matters with friends, colleagues and family, although businesses and organisations have their own presences and ‘pages’ on the social network as well.
Facebook’s core feature is a page or a profile onto which users can post information about themselves. This is either as semi-permanent entries (such as interests or relationship status) or as instantaneous posts known as ‘status updates’, which appear on the ‘wall’ of the user’s Facebook profile as well as often (but not always) in a newsfeed, which is visible to both the user and other Facebook users to whom that Facebook user is connected on the network.
Connections on Facebook are known as ‘Friends’ or ‘Facebook Friends’, and it is a reciprocal relationship to which both parties have to consent. In other words, you will not necessarily see another Facebook user’s posts unless they consent to your ‘Friend Request’, and they will not see your Facebook posts either unless they choose to accept your Facebook connection as well. However, it is possible to have a public Facebook profile, but the majority of users choose not to do this.
Status updates can take the form of text, images, photos and videos. Other Facebook users can then choose to react to those posts using a series of expressive emojis (the most popular being a ‘thumbs up’ symbol), share your posts with their own Facebook Friends or comment on your status update in fields that appear under the original post.
Facebook has also recently launched the ability to stream live video from your Facebook account to your Facebook Friends, and it can easily be integrated with Instagram, a photo-based social media channel cum mobile phone application, which is also owned by Facebook.
Facebook also provides you with the means to message other Facebook users privately, through which you can send text messages, photos, internet links and videos.
Away from your own Facebook network, you can interact with strangers either in the comments section of your Facebook Friends’ posts or in Facebook Groups, which are discussion boards hosted by Facebook and run by other Facebook users, usually focused around an interest or an activity.
For the individual professional or for a business or organisation, Facebook offers the option of Facebook Business Pages, through which businesses can promote themselves to people on the network. To be successful on Facebook from a commercial point of view, users must appreciate the differences between an individual’s Facebook profile and that of a company’s, as they behave very differently and have different features, despite similar appearances.
One of the main differences between using Facebook as a private individual and as a business is that you cannot connect directly with individual Facebook users; the individual Facebook user has to ‘like’ an organisation’s Facebook Business Page before they see any of its posts, and this is an act that can only be undertaken by the Facebook user themselves. However, Facebook offers many methods of improving the visibility of a Facebook Business Page and the posts on it through a variety of paid-for advertising options, which allow for specific targeting in using Facebook users’ anonymised data.
A successful Facebook advertising campaign is both harder and more expensive than it would first appear to the uninformed Facebook user and, unless structured correctly, it can cost businesses a lot of money with little return. In addition, Facebook is not always the best platform for businesses to be on, despite the network’s popularity. Businesses that are primarily ‘business to business’ (B2B) are hard to market on Facebook while organisations that deal with sensitive issues may find Facebook too problematic to get the benefit from using it (other social networks are more beneficial for both).
However, businesses or organisations that are highly personable and customer-focused can flourish on Facebook, with the social element of online referral proving to be both highly advantageous and profitable to the company in question.
Nick Lewis Communications can provide training in Facebook as well as offer professional management of Facebook Business pages feeds. To find out, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07970 839137.