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Thursday, November 25, 2010

To Facebook, or not to Facebook ...

... Actually, that is not really the question. Whatever else one may think of it, Facebook is, hands down, one of the most efficient online tools for people who run small businesses or work as independent professionals. Its ability to to automatically find and suggest contacts on the basis of shared friends, shared interests, or a shared work history, is incredibly useful especially for those who are operating in a niche market, or a particular local environment.

There are two different types of profiles one can set up on Facebook. The personal profile is intended for private, personal interactions. Access to it is restricted to those people who are on your "friend" list. Users can send friend requests to another user, and these need to be individually, and mutually approved. As per Facebook rules, personal profiles are required to be registered under your real name - though this is a rule that gets bent quite a bit. I admit that I myself have registered two profiles, one under my real name, which I have set to private, and strictly limited to people I actually know in real life, or from other online forums. My other profile is registered under my stage name, and this has turned out really useful for making contact lots and lots of other harpists. My sheet music sales have gone up noticeably since I started posting on Facebook!

Ideally, this second Facebook profile should have been a "page" - but I admit that when I first joined Facebook, it took me a little while to get my head around how to best set it up, and by that time my second profile had already accumulated a sizable friend list! I do have a page as well, but have found that people are more likely to send me friend requests to my personal profile. Perhaps it feels less one sided? Or perhaps it is simply a snowball effect. There are several other musicians on that friends list who also use their stage name on their profile, so I don't feel too bad about it. Personally I think it should be a person's choice if they want to share their real name on the internet, particularly given the recurring issues about Facebook privacy policies.

The other option is to set up a Facebook "page". These are specifically intended for promoting your business or service, art, music, or personal or public interest. There are "Community pages", which can be created by anyone, and "Official pages", which may only be created by an official representative of the business, organization or person in question. Official pages come in three different flavours: "local business", "brand, product or organization", and "artist, band or public figure". It is necessary to register a personal profile first, which is used to administer the page.

Unlike personal profiles, pages can usually be seen by anyone browsing the internet - you need not be logged in to Facebook to access it (though this depends on the privacy settings you choose). They are also more one-sided than profiles: people can decide to "like" a page, which means that anything posted on the page will appear in their news stream. This does not require approval from the owner of the page. Also, unlike becoming "friends" with someone, the things that the users who have subscribed to your page post on their profiles, will not appear in your news stream! If you have ever managed a profile with more than a couple of hundred users - each of whom may be promoting their own pet cause or interest - you will instantly grasp the advantage of this. ;)

Two other useful features on Facebook deserve at least a short mention: "Events" can be created either on your official page or your personal profile. Creating an event allows you to send invitations to the people on your friends list, and to update them with posts on the events page. People can also respond to say they are attending, or not attending. A very economical way to inform and update your core audience about anything from opening and launches, to special offers or new websites.

"Groups" are in some ways similar to community pages, and can be used to interact with other people who share a common hobby or interest. If your business operates in a niche market, this may be a good way to get the attention of people who may be interested in your service or product! However, bear in mind that groups are not primarily intended for self promotion - it really is all about the interaction, on Facebook.

Asni: Multimedia Art & Design:: ::

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