Which Social Media Platform is Right for Your Organization - a Beginner's Guide to Facebook

Continuing on the theme of my last two blog posts – a beginner’s guide to LinkedIn and a beginner’s guide to Twitter — this time I’m back to explore Facebook.

Let’s dive right in.

The basics: Taken from their very own website: “Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.”

Demographics: The most up-to-date demographic information appears to come from iStrategyLabs courtesy of a demographic report they compiled in January 2014. The report was compiled from data Facebook provides to those looking to advertise on the site. The nice thing about the report, as you’ll see below, is that it compares demographic data from January 2011 to January 2014. The key takeaway – three million teens left Facebook in three years, indicating a shift towards an older user base.

Access: Much like Twitter, Facebook can be accessed either via a mobile app or directly through your web browser. According to Facebook’s own data, released in conjunction with its Q2 earnings in July, of the 1.32 billion people who use Facebook each month, roughly a third only log on from their phones.

How it’s being used:  Facebook, more than any other social media platform, is largely being used to allow people to easily communicate and stay in touch with others. What started as an exclusive option only for students at Harvard has grown into the largest social media network on the planet.

Over time the platform expanded to allow brands and companies to set up pages, and many have done so. However, Facebook, much to the chagrin of many, is constantly toiling with and altering their algorithms. The changes they make, and very rarely advertise, affect what users see in their newsfeed.

When it comes to companies and brands, one of the things that sets Facebook apart from other social media platforms is the fact that users are able to interact directly with any brand or company that has a page on the platform. This is a double-edged sword, though. While it can be great if managed properly, it can also be disastrous in the event that someone has a complaint they want to share and end up feeling it is not being handled properly.

Facebook also allows for advertising – which can be hyper-targeted to very specific demographics and groups of value– and allows companies to “boost” their posts. The latter provides the opportunity to have a status update seen by more users (for a fee, of course).

Analytics: Much like LinkedIn, Facebook has done a nice job of building analytics into their back end and providing that data to companies. In fact, when you first click on “Insights,” Facebook offers you a tour of the Insights page and walks you through the information you’ll find there, as well as what’s working and what’s not working.

Some of the information you’ll find includes Page Likes, Post Reach, Engagement, and a break down of how your five most recent posts have performed. This is where you’ll also find recommendations on pages to watch, which compares the performance of your company page and posts with similar pages on Facebook.

Pros: Facebook is without a doubt the largest social network on the planet, and while they may have lost some traction with users ages 13-24, the number of users 25+ has grown tremendously since 2011. The platform allows users the opportunity to interact directly with the brands and companies they like. In turn, this affords those brands and organizations with unique opportunities to reward their followers with special offers or breaking news. Facebook also allows for lots of interaction with users, and the advertising platform lets companies hyper-target news or special offers directly to valuable demographics.

Cons: Much like Twitter, unless you’re paying constant attention to the newsfeed it’s easy to miss something that others put out, or for your audience to miss your news. Additionally, Facebook likes to tinker with their algorithm and control what information actually reaches its users – meaning that just because someone “likes” or “follows” your page they may not actually see any updates unless they actively visit the page. Additionally, that double-edged sword of engagement with users can be the kiss of death if not well managed.

Final thoughts: My thoughts on whether companies should join Facebook is split. It really comes down to what kind of company you are and if the audience you want to reach is really on Facebook. Some would argue that almost every company should be on Facebook if for nothing else than for recruitment purposes. I’m not sold on that argument and I have absolutely advised some of my clients to stay away from Facebook. Facebook is a platform where people have the ability to visit your page and write whatever they want. As a company you have the right to set ground rules and delete any comments you want but that also comes with it’s own baggage and can cause an uproar if people feel (rightly or wrongly) that they are being censored.  If you choose to go down the path of having a Facebook page, it is wise to make sure someone (with authority) is tending to it daily and can handle the inbound messages and comments and not just put out your own company news.

Let’s talk.