Updated 4/7/09: I have a new, updated post about getting started with Facebook for your company or organization that you may want to read instead of this one.
Facebook is probably the social network that has the broadest audience and the most community functionality of any of the big services right now. You can find large numbers of college students, people working in the technology industry, and many people in the 20 – 40 year old range; however, I am starting to see anecdotal evidence of some people in the older age ranges starting to join Facebook.
There are several ways to engage with people on Facebook.
- Individuals. Make sure that some people in your company are on Facebook as individuals. This is the best way to learn how people use Facebook if you haven’t already used it. I would start by getting a personal account, entering your personal profile information, and friending a few people that you know. It’s a great way to learn more about how people use Facebook, and it will help you better understand how to use it for your company.
- Company page. After you are comfortable using Facebook as an individual, you should create a company page. Do not create a personal profile on Facebook for your company. Those look artificial and weird in addition to being outside of what people expect to see on Facebook. A company page lets you provide information about your company along with an event calendar, video, photos, discussion board, and much more. People can then choose to become “fans” of your company, and you can use this page as a lightweight community effort.
- Groups. You can create a group on Facebook around any imaginable topic. I’ve seen groups used fairly successfully for lightweight community activities, especially when they also involve an in person element. The Online Community Roundtable events in San Francisco are organized using a Facebook group.
- Applications. It might also make sense for your company to create an application that people can use on Facebook, but this would only be relevant to a small number of technology companies. The application could interface with your existing technologies the way that applications for Upcoming, Twitter, and others make it easy to update Facebook with information from those services. Another option is to make something purely for fun that people can use on Facebook.
There are certainly other ways to use Facebook, but this covers the basic ways that most companies will want to use it. In general, remember to participate as a person first and a company second, and remember that the guiding principles that I have talked about so many times before on this blog still apply to using Facebook.
Please feel free to add comments with other ways that you like to see companies engage with people on Facebook.