By now it’s certainly no secret that Facebook has taken the cyber world by storm. Originally established as a place for people to connect with their friends online, the website has now evolved into a global network of over 750 million active users – made up of both individuals and businesses. Many veterinarians have joined these ranks as a way to connect with their clients, colleagues and potential clients on a more personal level than can be accomplished in the office. Yet we hear time and time again that getting started on Facebook can be confusing; specifically, understanding the difference between a personal profile and a fan page. We’d like to take a moment to clear things up.
What is Facebook and Why Should I Use It?
Facebook is basically an online network made up of people and businesses where one can connect, share things like updates, pictures and videos and interact with others. From a marketing standpoint, Facebook is a tremendous tool for businesses as it can result in mass communication and outreach with minimal effort.
Consider the fact that if one person becomes a fan of your veterinary page on Facebook, every single person that they are connected with will see this and may in turn also become fans. Businesses capitalize on this by posting interesting, fun or compelling content that they hope their followers will share with others, thereby instantly increasing their reach and brand recognition.
A good example of this from a veterinary standpoint would be ABC Vet Clinic posting a funny video involving an animal. Joe Smith who is a fan of ABC’s page shares this video with all of his friends (let’s say he has 150 connections). Several of his friends also watch the video, love it and ultimately decide to “like” ABC Vet’s page too. Multiply this by the number of fans ABC has and the subsequent number of their collective friends and you’ve got instant mass viral marketing – all by simply posting a funny video.
Do I need a Facebook fan page or a profile?
Understanding the benefits of Facebook for your practice is the easy part. Actually signing up and establishing yourself is a different story. It can be confusing to say the least. There are actually four basic options available to you when setting up a Facebook account for your practice:
- Personal Profile
- Business Profile
- Group Page
- Fan Page
Understanding the fundamental differences between each of these will help you to decide which is the best choice for your practice. That said, let’s take a look at each option.
Simply put, personal profiles are for individuals. They should be used by one person, who is setting up an account to share information about themselves and their personal life. It is against Facebook policy to open a personal profile for a business so if you’re setting up a page for your veterinary practice, make sure you don’t choose this option.
A business profile sounds like it would be the logical choice for your practice’s page, right? Not necessarily. Here’s where Facebook can get a bit confusing. Business profiles are designed for individuals who only want to use the site to administer Pages and their ad campaigns. The problem is that Facebook does not allow you to have both a business account and a personal profile. Additionally, business profiles have limited functionality in terms of interacting with other people on Facebook.
Group pages are simple extensions of an existing Facebook profile. Anyone can create a group and an unlimited number of others can join the group. These are typically created for short term purposes, such as to host a group discussion. Group pages are limited in terms of viral potential so they are not typically used for businesses.
Fan pages, like group pages, are established by someone who already has a Facebook profile. For instance, you can create a fan page for your practice if you have a personal profile already. Fan pages are much more versatile in terms of ability to interact and share content with others making them much more valuable from a marketing standpoint. Anyone can become a fan of your practice’s page by simply clicking “like” at the top of the page. You can share updates, pictures, videos as well as interact in two way communication with your fans by asking and answering questions, creating discussions, hosting contests and more. Better yet, you can customize your fan page to make it more personalized to your practice and foster better brand recognition.
With all the choices, it can be confusing to figure out which type of Facebook page or profile is right for you. While the choice is ultimately yours, for veterinary practices, we recommend using fan pages because they are much more valuable in terms of viral marketing potential. Regardless of the type of account you choose, however, actually participating on Facebook is no longer really a choice. If you are to successfully establish and benefit from an effective online presence, Facebook is a necessary tool to do so.