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Does every business need a Facebook fan page?

Businesses are falling over themselves to create Facebook pages that promote their products. James Yorke considers why some succeed while others fail

I've looked at my fair share of websites over the years and I’ve seen many of these adopting a link to their Facebook page – construction firms, bands, accountants, web design companies, game developers, tech startups, film companies and others.

Upon clicking this link and being taken to their Facebook page, I can then choose to “like” this Page, and news of me “liking” this Page will appear in my friends’ feeds (if I haven’t navigated through the complex system of Facebook’s privacy settings, but that’s another article).

Updates from this Facebook Page will now appear within my feed, which means that I will have regular contact with the business, organisation, event, club or person behind this Facebook Page.

Usually, when I go to one of these Facebook pages and then look at the number of other people that have “liked” this page, it is often below 20, which makes me consider what having such a low number of “fans” communicates to people that visit it. It also makes me consider some of the reasons behind the creation of a Facebook page and why people in so many different types of business choose to create one.

To like or not to like?

Have you seen anyone in your Facebook friend list, maybe someone who runs a business or is heavily involved, asking you to “like” their businesses’ new Facebook page? I have. I then wonder what the benefit of “liking” this page is to me.

Do I want to see updates from this page? The answer is often “no”. Why? The answer to this is usually that most businesses aren’t particularly interesting and I use most businesses’ services because I need to, not because I want to.

In other words, to successfully promote a business on Facebook, the updates of the page have to be interesting and encourage interaction.

Who are you creating for?

The average person does not have an emotional attachment to a web design company. Despite this, businesses that produce websites for clients frequently create Facebook Pages for themselves.

I think a prime reason that people do not flock towards businesses’ Facebook pages is that they only think about these types of companies when they need a service that they provide. They provide a service that people need at specific times in their lives rather than something people generally desire or are genuinely interested in.

There is an excellent article at socialtimes.com entitled What Can Psychology Tell Us About Why People Go To Facebook, which states that people go on Facebook because they have a need to belong and express themselves. There is also reference to an excellent study on why people in general use Facebook by Adam N. Joinson from the University of Bath.

Zappos shows the way

There are, of course, good examples and opportunities for businesses via Facebook Pages. Most of these opportunities are for B2C companies that can update their Facebook Page with things that potential customers are interested in and want to respond to. The companies that use their Facebook Pages well are those which engage with the target audience such as Zappos.

In a blog post by themlsapp.com they describe how a Zappos customer had a problem with their shoe and mentioned it on the Facebook Page. Zappos then responded to the customer and replaced the shoe. As a result of this,  the customer posted a wonderful “thank you” message, which the customer’s Facebook friends and everyone looking at the Zappos Facebook Page saw.

However, in many cases, the people behind the marketing of a business or an organisation think about their own desires rather than that of their target audience. People involved in a business often want to do things only because they are a form of expression.

For example, a business owner or person responsible for managing the creation of a new website will often try to interrupt the process and want to have too much input and opinion instead of letting the company they have employed to create to do so. I believe a strong motivation for this being that they need to express their opinion on something visually creative and different from their day-to-day role. Fortunately, I have personally only seen this on a few occasions but have also read on a few blogs about this situation occurring.

Showing off

A new website is also something visible that a business owner is able to show off and talk about in social environments such as at the pub or dinner parties. It is something they can talk about to make themselves stand out. If you’ve seen the scene in American Psycho in which various businessmen within the same company are showing off their business cards and compare how people these days tend to show off their businesses’ various presences on the internet, I think that there are some striking similarities.

People who create a Facebook Page for their business without consideration for their target audience are simply showing off another tribe that they belong to and have an influence in.

Conclusion

In my opinion, there are a huge number of reasons why a business would want to create a Facebook Page and this article has only begun to scratch the surface. I believe that if the target audience of your business are on Facebook, if they’re interested in sharing their social time receiving updates that encourage interaction, and if you’re willing to engage in a dialogue with these people, then you should create a page.

If, however, your business wants a Facebook Page purely to expose your name to people on employee’s friends lists and will only ever update it with things that do not have honest and original responses in mind, then I do not think a Facebook page is for you.

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