Chances are, if you use social media for your business, you've asked yourself (or someone else) this question: Should you have a social media profile, business page, or a group? Or you may not even realize how different these three are. Either way, I hope today's blog post will help you make sense of this crazy social media conundrum that so many others like you face.
Before I go much further, I do want to take a minute to explain a simple definition of each so that you know what I'm referring to in each section.
A social media PROFILE is a PERSONAL profile that is designed to connect with people as friends, co-workers, associates, etc. A social media PAGE is a BUSINESS page designed to connect businesses with customers and potential customers. A social media GROUP is designed to be a community of people centered around a common interest.
These are very basic explanations but hopefully this helps clarify the basics. The rest of this post is going to get into specific on each of these categories.
I would also like to say that which option(s) you choose is going to depend on your business, your goals, and your needs. I always hate writing a post to give you advice and then saying, well.... it depends. But it's true. There is no clear cut, one-size-fits-all answer to anything in social media. And this issue is certainly not going to be black and white. So read through the discussion here and take this information to make the best decision for you and your business. And, if you want more guidance, you know I'm available for personalized discussions to work out what is best for you.
Ok, so let's get started!
First of all, I'm only going to focus on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus in this post. For all the benefits, and deficits, Twitter and Instagram don't offer more than one profile option. While it's nice that everyone simply sets up a Twitter or Instagram account the same way and then decides how they want to use it, it also doesn't allow these platforms to offer more specialized interactions. But Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus all offer all three options so that's where we will focus this discussion.
Most people who join Facebook do so as a profile. They set up their personal information, connect with friends and family, and post personal updates. The average Facebook user may not even realize there are business pages and groups available.
And many people that get started on Facebook for their business just start using their existing profile to promote their business, or they open a new profile, not knowing any different. Before I go down the dark road of why using a profile is likely a poor choice, let's talk first about why people like to use profiles and find them beneficial.
Profiles are easy. You're used to using them so there's no learning curve. Your friends and family are already there so you have a built-in audience. If you're aware of the dreaded Facebook algorithm, you know that personal profile reach is considerably higher than business pages so you know you can reach more people with a personal profile. It starts to sound like an easy decision to just use your personal profile, so you do.
BUT, and this is one place where I'm going to be pretty clear that I don't think you should use a certain option, Facebook profiles are NOT a smart decision for businesses.
I'll insert this caveat here, IF and only IF, you are a personal brand, then I do encourage you to use your personal profile to enhance your Facebook strategy. You can use your profile to connect with more people and share the personal side of your brand. But you should still be using a business page, or group, in addition to your profile.
Here's the thing, your friends, college classmates, family, former co-workers, and casual acquaintances don't want to see post after post after post about your business. They want to hear about your milestones and successes but that's about it. So flooding their feed with all your professional updates and product promotions is going to put you on everyone's restricted lists (or unfriended altogether) pretty quickly. And then what good is this profile going to do for you?
Your business is a business and you should be connecting with people interested in that business. Not spamming your great-aunt Millie with another product post.
Also, Facebook does not like when people use their profiles for business use. In fact, they're likely to shut you down. And no, this isn't just a myth. I've heard of plenty of people having their profiles closed for violation of this practice.
It's also about privacy. Your customers want to connect with you as a business. That means they want to see what you have to offer. But they don't want you to see their updates and personal information. Requiring them to "Friend" you means you see all their stuff too. Would you want Target or your local shoe store knowing what your kids look like, where they go to school, where you go on vacation, and what you do on girls' night? That's just kinda creepy and weird, don't you think?
So let's talk about Facebook business pages now.
The advantages associated with having a Facebook business page include:
- Professionalism of having a recognizable company page that customers can interact with.
- Analytics and data to track what posts perform well and in what ways, what groups your audience falls into, when your audience is most active, your post reach, and so much more.
- Your page can be indexed by Google and found in relevant searches.
- You can schedule posts to your page so that you can strategically plan your upcoming posts and content. This alleviates you from having to be online at certain times (although you should be available for responses to comments) and allows you to focus on posting at your page's most ideal posting times (these times can often be outside of your normal daily hours).
If you're a local business, you can also set contact information, business hours, and other relevant information for local customers which you can't get from a personal profile.
Of course, there are complaints about Facebook pages. These usually revolve around post reach as this continues to decline, with average pages seeing a reach of less than 10% of their audience. Yes, this is a struggle. And, yes, I complain about it too. But, there are ways you can work to increase this reach. Post more content that your audience actually wants to see, be more engaging on your page, show your personality or the people behind the business.
You can also take advantage of Facebook ads, which when used correctly, can be the most effective and cost-efficient marketing ads available.
In my opinion, almost every business should have a Facebook page. To me, it's like an insurance policy. Your customers, or potential customers expect you to have one and have it be active. If you don't, it does not bode well for you. In today's market, having an active Facebook page is much like being listed in the Yellow Pages in years past. It's just a part of doing business.
To make life easy for you, you can even connect your Facebook page to your personal profile so that you have easy access to the page every time you log onto Facebook. There is also a separate app for your mobile device which makes it easy to manage and maintain your business page from your phone or tablet.
Even if you have a Facebook page and/or a profile, you could also throw a Facebook group into the mix.
Facebook groups can be open or closed. Open means anyone can join and participate in the group. Closed means they have to be invited or request an invite to join the group. The group admin(s) can manage who has access to closed groups.
You can post status updates to groups much like you would to a profile or a page. You can upload photos, videos, and text updates. You can also schedule events and manage these events through your group.
Group members can also post to the group to ask questions or advice. The advantage to these group engagements is that when one group member posts an update, everyone in the group can see it. This is definitely different from pages where any posts (not post responses) from fans are often hard for others to see.
Most group members also have notifications set up so that posts made by the group actually show up as a notification in the members' personal profiles. Reach from groups is also significantly better than pages, with many, if not most, group posts showing up in the news feed.
Facebook also recently introduced another new mobile app dedicated specifically to groups which, again, makes it easy to manage and maintain your group from anywhere.
While this all sounds great, it's important to know that many Facebook users don't join many groups. It's harder to get customers/fans to join a group than it is to have them follow your page. And, because groups tend to me more active with more notifications, a lot of members choose to leave the group because they just don't want to see all those conversations.
Much like Facebook, LinkedIn offers all three of profiles, pages, and groups. They all offer a variety of features which can benefit your business differently.
A LinkedIn personal profile is mandatory for everyone, in my opinion. People are looking for you and want to know what you're doing. Having a complete, accurate, and active profile allows you to expand your network, stay connected, and promote your business.
Yes, absolutely, you can promote your business all you want on your personal profile on LinkedIn. This is a professional platform and posting about your business is not going to offend anyone like it would on your Facebook profile.
I don't recommend you post 3 times a day on LinkedIn, but daily or weekly is sufficient to stay active and in your networks' feeds.
Profiles on LinkedIn are paramount if your business is you or your personal brand. If you're an entrepreneur, coach, speaker, industry expert, or other individual type business, you MUST have a LinkedIn profile.
Even if your business is a brick-and-mortar, large company, or a small business with multiple primary people, your individual profile should still be active and representative on LinkedIn. This is because people are still looking for you and you want them to be able to find you.
And while you can't specifically get analytics from your profile, many people have the ability to see the reach and engagement of their last small number of posts by scrolling down the right side bar. There you'll find some simple data on your post performance.
Depending on your business, you may also want to create a LinkedIn business page. For some businesses, especially larger businesses, pages are a very successful way to engage with their customers and potential customers.
Much like a Facebook page, your LinkedIn page is able to be found in searches, both within LinkedIn and on Google. This allows people to find your business if they only know it by name. For example, if you're a local or online retailer, customers may not know the owner or founder, but know the name of the business. In these situations, having a business page allows people to connect with your business on LinkedIn and stay informed.
LinkedIn pages also provide a substantial amount of data in their page analytics that allow you to see how your posts and page is performing. You can also glean a lot of detail about those following your page.
However, it's worth mentioning that the companies that tend to do better with pages on LinkedIn are those in a B2B environment.
Also, most people are on LinkedIn to connect with people and unless they are really interested in a business, they don't often think to look for or follow a company on LinkedIn.
Now, LinkedIn groups are quite possibly one of the most powerful group platforms on social media. These groups vary in size from super small to ginormous in terms of members participating. You can find a group for pretty much any topic in any industry.
Groups can be relatively calm or super active in terms of posts, engagement, and interactions. Each group will have its own personality and group rules so take the time to determine what parameters you want to set for your group. You can prohibit people from link dropping or require all links to be posted with a commentary. You can host weekly conversation topics or questions or let your members decide what they want to ask and discuss. The options are pretty much up to you. Just make sure that you let people know what to expect from your group. And then, stick to those rules. If you let things run rampant, you will quickly lose control of the group.
Much like Facebook, you can have an open LinkedIn group which means anyone can join, or you can require that they request permission to join and review each member's admission to the group.
A lot of LinkedIn users join groups and stay active in groups. If you want to reach a broader audience on LinkedIn, running a successful group is a great way to do this.
Again, like Facebook and LinkedIn, Google Plus offers all three options on its platform. All three can be extremely powerful and it will be up to you to determine if and how you want to use each one.
Google Plus Profiles
Your Google Plus profile should be your personal profile. Yes, you as a person. Not your business. If you want a page for your business, set up a business profile/page. But, that's not really how it works. I kinda describe a Google Plus profile somewhere between a Facebook profile and a LinkedIn profile.
It's not as personal as Facebook (chances are your family and long-lost friends aren't connecting with you here like they do on Facebook) and it's not as definitely professional as LinkedIn. Therefore, you can find a mix between using Google Plus as a profile, but also to promote your business. You can promote your business, but do it from your perspective, as a person. Don't use a personal profile for a large company or something like a brick-and-mortar store.
Your profile should include the information about you and/or your business. You can link to your business website and business social media accounts in your About section. You can set your cover image to whatever you want, which can even mimic your business information.
For me personally, I use my personal profile as my brand. I promote my blog posts, projects, and share links related to my audience. And pretty much everyone that has plussed my profile on G+ has done so to get information related to Jenn's Trends. And I treat it as such.
I also know a lot of people who do the same thing and have opted to only use a profile to communicate on Google Plus.
As powerful as Google Plus is, it can be kind of nichy which means people are often looking to connect with the people they know in their industry. This makes it easier to connect with them via a profile.
But, you won't get analytics or data on your post performance (unless you use a third party tool which can give you some data).
Google Plus Pages
Setting up a business page on Google Plus does provide all the benefits of data and analytics to know how you're performing.
And if you have a business beyond your personal brand, having a page and name that people recognize can help you better connect with your target audience.
You can also interact with other pages and profiles as your page which allows you to reach new audiences and encourage people to connect with your page.
Personally, and many may disagree with me, I feel like unless your business is only recognizable by its business name (versus your personal brand associated with it), I don't think a page is really necessary. I think you can do fine with using your profile. And it saves you from having to manage both your profile and a page on the same platform.
Google Plus Groups
Groups on Google Plus are actually called Communities. They are typically heavily moderated with strict rules of engagement (much more so than LinkedIn groups). So be clear what you want your community rules to be and make sure you adhere to and enforce them.
But these communities are extremely powerful. If you want to meet new people, grow your reach, and expand your audience, a community may be ideal for you.
Again, these groups can be open to public enrollment or require approval to join.
The conversations within communities are often highly valuable, targeted, and rewarding to all members, including you as the admin.
If you enjoy the group environment and find value in them, it might be worth starting a group around your business or a specific industry topic.
Holy wow! That's a lot of information (and a lot of typing for me!).
Ok, I know this was a lot to read, but it's a lot to answer. And it's a lot to think about. Setting up your social media strategy isn't easy. It takes careful consideration to determine where you want to be and in what capacity.
I hope that the information above helps you make sense of not only the differences in each option, but what might work best for you and your business.
Remember that the decision should be based on your audience. Where are they? What are they using? How are they engaging?
But it also depends on you. If you don't have the time to manage this many options, don't do them all. In fact, unless you have a full team and an insanely active social presence, you should absolutely NOT be doing every one of the above mentioned profiles, pages, and groups.
You should choose the number of options that are within your scope to manage and then determine which ones to use based on your audience.
It's also worth noting that all of these options require a significant commitment from you to be successful. Whether it's a profile, page, or group, no ones wants to engage with someone lazy. You need to make time commitments to posting, managing, engaging, responding, moderating, curating, reviewing, and analyzing.
Please take the time to commit to the right platforms, the right profile, page, or group, and to your audience. This is what makes it all worth it!