Used correctly, Facebook can be a great tool for promoting your creative business. There’s a lot to consider — whether to launch advertisements, if you should watermark your work, even choosing the right resolutions and sizes for uploading. But today we’re going to look at something more fundamental: the distinction between profiles and pages on the social network.
Let’s zoom out and look at Facebook’s network broadly. It consists of two things: profiles, meant for people, and pages, meant for businesses. You, as an individual on Facebook, have a profile — it consists of your personal information, your friend connections, and anything you’ve elected to like and share. Brands like Coca-Cola (or Shutterstock) have a Facebook page.
Though the presentation is similar, Facebook pages don’t have friends. Instead, they accumulate likes from Facebook users. Once people like a page on Facebook, updates from that page will start to show up in their news feeds. Businesses can also advertise to reach the friends of people who have liked the page, or to get more distribution within the news feed.
For the majority of businesses, marketing on Facebook is straightforward: create a page, get people to like it, and start posting updates. But for photographers or other creative types, things aren’t so simple, particularly if you’re running your business as an individual. If I want to sell my services as a photographer, do I use my Dan Fletcher profile, or do I need to create a Dan Fletcher Facebook page? Let’s look at the benefits of each individually.
Facebook profiles used to be a poor solution for any sort of marketing — unless you were comfortable adding business leads as Facebook friends, there was no real way to connect with them. This changed with the launch of Facebook’s “Follow” functionality in the winter of 2011. People could now allow other users to follow their profile, which enabled them to see any public updates without needing to be their friend. (Learn how to turn on the follow functionality here.)
That’s a complicated sort of social relationship, so I’m going to pause on it for a second. In the early days, people on Facebook could only connect by becoming friends with each other, which required one person to send a friend request and the other person to accept. With Follow, Facebook gave a second option. Now people don’t need to become friends at all. If you want to connect with me, all you have to do is go to Facebook.com/DanFletcher and click on the “Follow” button. I won’t get any notification or anything to approve, but you’ll be subscribed to my updates.
This is slightly different than a friend connection. First, it’s a one-way street: You’ll see my updates, but I won’t see yours unless I subscribe to you in return. Second, you’ll only see updates that I post publicly. Whenever you post on Facebook, there’s an option to choose the audience. Something set to “Friends Only” just goes to people you’re Facebook friends with, not to subscribers. Updates that are set to “Public” are sent to everyone, subscribers included. (You can learn a bit more about setting the audience on your posts here.)
As an individual running a creative business, this can be a valuable marketing tool to enable. Facebook even includes a “Follow” button that you can embed on your personal homepage to help build your numbers. Marketing via your Facebook profile also lets you handle all your Facebook activity in a single place: there’s no additional property like a Page to manage or keep fresh.
But there are a few shortcomings to using a Facebook profile for marketing:
– Anything you post publicly is also visible to all your friends, as Facebook doesn’t include an audience setting for “Public minus your friends.” Consider whether it’ll be jarring for your friends to see your marketing messages popping up in their news feeds.
– There are limited tools for paid promotion. Unlike Pages, which can run ads to accumulate more likes, there is no ad unit to get more followers. You can pay to promote an individual post, which broadens your distribution in the news feed, but there also isn’t access to the fine-tuned targeting data that Pages have to manage ad campaigns. If you ever plan on dabbling in Facebook advertising, a profile isn’t the solution.
– There’s no ability to add additional administrators. Only you can run your Facebook profile, so if you have someone to help out with your marketing, there’s no way to give them access.
Facebook Pages solve for a lot of these problems. Unlike profiles, they’re backed by a robust advertising system, you can have multiple admins, they can be named anything you like, and they’re separated from your personal profile so you don’t have to worry about bugging any of your friends. And, just as with the follow functionality, Facebook lets you embed a “Like” button on your site to help convert website visitors into Facebook fans. But pages come with a few drawbacks as well:
– A page gives you a second thing to manage. Think of your Facebook page as a completely separate Facebook account. Nothing you do on your personal profile will be reflected automatically on your page, so you’ll need additional content to keep your page fresh and engaging or you’ll risk losing your audience.
– Though there are exceptions to this rule, it’s tougher for a branded page to be engaging on Facebook to the degree that a person can. If you opt to go the page route, keep in mind that your page needs some life to it, too. Your posts should seem like they’re coming from a person, rather than a brand page.
– They may be tougher to find in search. This is particularly true if you’re running your business as an individual. Someone’s first instinct will be to seek out your personal Facebook profile, not necessarily your page. It’s a good idea to include your page’s URL on your business cards and the Like button on your website to help people get to the right place. (Facebook helps with this too. You can choose a friendlier URL — something like Facebook.com/YourNameHere — through this link.)
Keep in mind that pages and profiles aren’t mutually exclusive — you can have a Facebook page and also enable followers on your profile, although you run the risk of redundancy and splitting your audience. But in general, marketing via a Facebook profile is a great solution for someone just starting out and wanting to share their work to a broader audience beyond their friends. As your business grows and becomes more robust, it’s a good idea to switch over to a Facebook page, giving you more tools and resources to help you grow.