Overview: With more than 120 million active users and 250,000 new registrations per day, facebook is definitely a community worth investing some time in. Facebook currently is more of a social network for younger folks but has some great applications for business and membership organizations as well.
Defined: Started in 2004, Facebook was at one time exclusive to college students, but has since opened its doors to anyone with an email address. That being said, the general community of facebook remains younger than its similar rival Myspace, but that is expanding rapidly.
Facebook provides each of its members a profile of their own to decorate and share as much or as little about their personal interests and life as they wish. Photos, videos, text, and countless applications can be posted to personal profiles and the visibility of these items to other users is entirely defined by the owner. Profiles are searchable by any number of keywords, location or name searches, and once you find another member who you’d like to “friend” you can simply send them an invitation to do so. Once you are “friends” any changes to their profile will appear in a summary page on yours so that you can keep up with what others are doing, saying, posting, etc. Although many people enjoying increasing their number of “friends” at random, the premise of facebook is for people to connect with others that they know. After creating your profile I can assure you that many people you haven’t heard from in years will find your profile and contact you (for better or worse). You can of course block others from seeing your profile or communicating with you.
You will be astonished at the amount of information passing through this system with such minimal effort, facebook truly is the great communicator. Once you’ve set up your profile there are a host of random applications you can add to it, some are meaningless and just for fun, others have actual functionality. For instance, you can add a carpool application to your profile that alerts you to others seeking a ride through your specified area.
You may choose to join groups on facebook, there are groups for just about anything. The group is just a place where people can become “members” of something they have similar interest around. For example, there are groups for cities, membership organizations, causes, etc. You can create your own group in seconds and upload any photos, videos or otherwise that may be of interest to people that join your group.
Business Applications: Similar to groups, facebook pages are more for businesses and organizations. Members of pages are referred to as “fans” and once they become a fan of your page then their induvidual profile will display the logo of your page. This is an extremely useful business application for companies that would like to facilitate connections among their customer base. Simply create a page for your business, add some photos and discussion topics, and let your fans build you an organic marketing platform.
I’d like to mention that you can post events on facebook and invite anyone you are friends with to attend. If you create an event inside your group or page then you have the ability to invite everyone inside your group or page with a single click of the mouse. This is extremely helpful for getting the word out about events. For instance, I recently coordinated a career fair targeting college students in downtown Harrisburg. Months prior to the event I created a facebook group entitled “Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.” Within months there were over 800 people that joined the group which gave me free access to sending them emails and inviting them to events that I created. After creating an event for the career fair within the Harrisburg group, I sent one invitation in seconds that in turn communicated to hundreds of people simultaneously that I would otherwise have no way of contacting. I’ve used this technique to increase awareness of multiple programs, organizations, and actually sell quite a few tickets for events.
If you’d like to see an example of a company using facebook successfully for business check out the page created by Harpoon Brewery. You’ll notice that once they started growing a fan base and posted a few pictures, their loyal fans grew the effort themselves, adding pictures, videos, comments, shout outs, and whatever else. They now have over 1,700 people on facebook with a Harpoon Brewery logo on their profile page, without spending a dime! Not only is this great marketing but they can now easily communicate with a huge portion of their customer base for free and with just the click of a mouse.