a version of this blog post originally appeared on The Foraker Group blog.
This post is part of a series of posts I’m writing to help demystify social media tools and to give nonprofit organizations concrete steps they can take to use these tools to enhance their communications; better engage their constituents (and donors, and volunteers); and build their brand in new ways to new audiences.
What is a Facebook Page?
Because The Foraker Group is an organization, we’ve set up a presence on Facebook – the most popular social network on the Internet – using a Facebook Page. A Page on Facebook is different from a Profile which you as an individual might have as a Facebook member. Pages are for companies, organizations, products, celebrities and other entities or individuals wanting a more professional presence on Facebook.
Some organizations – including many in Alaska – have set up Profiles instead of Pages. They may have done this a year or so ago when Pages weren’t as prevalent, and they have probably built a large friends list over time. Unfortunately, if an organization has a Facebook Profile instead of a Facebook Page, they are at risk of losing the content and contacts they’ve accumulated because they are in violation of Faceboook’s Terms of Service i.e. the fine print in your Facebook user agreement. Facebook regularly disables Facebook Profiles that they deem a violation of their rules.
You can immediately tell the difference between a Facebook Page and a Facebook Profile because Pages have Fans while Profiles have Friends.
An important difference between a Facebook Page and a Facebook Profile is that a Page is publicly accessible to people who are not members of Facebook so it becomes a powerful Web presence for your organization that shows up in Google Searches. Facebook Profiles are only accessible by your Facebook Friends which means someone must be a member of Facebook and then send you a Friend request (which you must accept) in order to interact with your organization through your Profie.
Benefits of Using Facebook Pages
How can your organization benefit from a Facebook Page? Many nonprofits are limited in budgets and resources for outreach to constituents, donors, the media and the public. While a web site can serve as an effective destination for an organization, many people these days consider web sites as places for background and archived information rather than an active and dynamic communications tool.
Also the money and time costs of designing, building and maintaining a web site can be a burden, particularly if an organization’s site was not designed with an easy-to-use content management system. Many nonprofit organizations are saddled with outdated web sites where they are at the mercy of Web developers for even the most simple updates.
Other organizations use their web sites as repositories of information, for a list of services, to house a calendar of events, but when it comes to outreach, they are relying on an electronic newsletter – or even a print newsletter – to get the word out about their organization and important events. These days, a web site by nature is too static – and often too overloaded with information – to serve as a consistent outreach tool for shorter, more frequent messages.
While a blog is a useful tool to publish content more frequently, a blog can also be a burden on an organization’s resources if they aren’t equipped to publish content on a very regular basis.
A Facebook Page doesn’t demand the same kind of content publishing and is instead a more conversational resource where shorter bits of information – usually with a link to additional information – is the norm.
Using a Facebook Page Effectively
At the very minimum, here are a few things you should do with your Facebook Page:
1. Connect your blog to Page. If you have one, add your blog’s RSS feed URL to the Notes section of your Facebook Page so when you post to your blog, it automatically updates your Page.
2. Add Facebook Events. If you hold events, particularly regularly occuring events, you can use the Facebook Events feature to augment your Page. The Events tool integrates with your Page, and you can use it to spread the word about classes, meetings, etc. using a tool that makes it easy for others to invite their own Facebook friends to your event.
3. Link to Resources. While Status Updates can be intimidating for some people, updating your Facebook Page doesn’t have to be hard. Connecting your blog updates your Page status as does adding new events. You can also post links to relevant resources including those on your organization’s web site as well as others on the Web.
4. Respond to Comments. As you gather more Fans on your Page, people may start commenting on your Status Updates. A quick response is always appreciated and helps strengthen relationships. Your response doesn’t have to be long – just an answer to a question or acknowledgement of what they’ve said. While it is important to interact with your Page Fans, don’t feel obligated to respond to every single comment, but don’t ignore them all either.
5. Favorite Like-Minded Organizations’ Pages. If you are visiting another Alaska nonprofit or company Page that you think might be relevant to your own Facebook Fans, you can click on the link on the upper left side of their Page and choose Add This Page to My Page’s Favorites. Then add their Page to your Page. This will appear in a box on the left side of your Facebook Page Wall with their logo and a link to their Page. It is appropriate to ask them to Favorite your Page back, however, reciprocity is not an obligation here.
Facebook Pages are easy to set up and easier to maintain than a web site or blog. They also give you a direct communications channel to the people who you serve or who you want to reach with important messages about your organization. And when one person interacts with your Facebook Page, that action can be seen by dozens or even hundreds of their Facebook Friends giving your organization an instant and exponential reach beyond your own contacts.
Does your organization have a Facebook Page? If so, please include a link to it here so we can visit it!