Facebook Fan Pages VS Group Sites - What's The Difference?

Today I got an interesting question about the difference between a "page" on Facebook and a "group".  So I thought I'd share my answer with you.

Facebook Fan Pages & Facebook GroupsLet's be clear about one thing from the beginning.  Everyone on Facebook has their own personal profile under their name.  Just like your tax file or social security number, it's unique and yours alone. When we talk about "pages" and "groups", these are totally separate from your personal profile.  However, you need a personal profile on Facebook to begin with and you must use that profile to create "pages" or "groups".

What Facebook has been doing is trying to make it's website look like the real world.  What I mean is, they have decided to give you the option to make "Fan Pages" as they felt it was more natural than joining a group.  For example, when you're talking to your friends over coffee, you wouldn't say that you're "a part of the 'Julia Roberts Group'" but you'd say: "Yeah, I'm a fan of Julia Roberts".  So that's why they let you create the fan pages. 

So what's the difference between the two? 

Basically, a fan page is a lot more open and offers a lot more 'accessibility'.  By that I mean, they make it easier for random people to see what's posted on a fan page than they do with a group.  With a group, you need to join and there's no "Like" button with a group. Whereas with a fan page, you can see everything on the page, even if you're not a member and even if you're not logged in to Facebook.

Groups are more designed for people who see themselves as being on the inside looking out and fan pages are more about people on the outside looking in - if that makes sense.  Also, with the fan page, it doesn't state who administers or controls it, so there's more of a sense of it belonging to the Facebook community whereas groups have a defined administration.

Facebook Fan Pages - Where are your market hanging out on Facebook?For most websites, you should definitely go with the fan page as your primary point of contact and information distribution on Facebook.  I think it's a good idea to still have the group there, just in case people are doing a specific "Group" search on Facebook or if some people have a preference for joining groups rather than fanpages, but I'd point all of that group traffic to the fan page.  As in, post a link on the group's wall that sends people to the fan page.

Facebook will post your comments under the fan page's name: "XYZ says...."  is because the fan page is created and/or run by someone who represents the business, product, celebrity, movie, etc... that the fan page supports.  This is the same as a press release from a company not listing the writer's name.  Basically you're making posts on behalf of the company, not making your own personal comments about the company.  As a spokeswoman for the company your role in Facebook's fan page system is to inform people of what the company is doing.This also helps you keep your promoting separate from your personal reasons for using the site.

Now, for smaller businesses this can seem like a small point, but it's pretty important because it can allow you to create a very strong air of professionalism and it also allows you to separate your personal profile from your business activities.  On the Fan Page, no one knows who the administrator is unless you specifically tell them in a post or email message. 

Which makes sense, imagine if Macquarie Bank had a fan page (don't ask me who would join it) and the posts all came from a guy named: "Chip Murphy" and his profile picture was goofy.  Of course, "Chip" has every right to be who he wants to be on Facebook as it's his private digital life, but a big company is very image conscious and can't take the risk of something like that happening, so this is another reason why Facebook created the fan page option.

Facebook Fan Pages - Promote Your Business!So, I know that's a pretty long explanation, but the reason I go a little "overkill" when explaining something is because I think that if I give you the history behind these things and the philosophy behind why Facebook created them that you'll have a more 'intuitive' or gut-level understanding of what's going on.  There is more technical detail and other differences, but once you've got an instinctive sense of why they're different and what they're used for, you can quickly absorb the other details as you use them or as they're explained or given to you.

The bottom line is, most of the time it's wise to make the fan page the core point of contact, feel free to have a group-site as it can catch traffic and you can send those people to the fan page.  If spend a lot of time developing both a fan page and a group site, then it'll take up twice as much time and potentially confuse and split your market as they're not sure which page/group to go to.  It's simpler for everyone involved, and will create a lot less clutter and work to just keep it on the fan page.  It's also what Facebook would want you to do and with big sites like Facebook, it's always easy to swim with the current than against it.

So are there any situation where a group is more appropriate?  Absolutely, the most common situation where a group would work better is if it's a group for people you know personally.  Like a club, a sporting team, your high school classmates and so on.  The other occasion is where you're posting material that you want to keep completely privte, like photos and private discussions.  The key concept is, if it's personal and you're not interested in telling people about it and you only want to share it with your friends, then use a group.

So, I truly hope this has helped clear up what the differences are and why they exist.

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